Saturday, November 21, 1998

On the train to Lisbon, seated directly across the aisle were two U.S. college girls from GWU in Washington, D.C. They were studying in Madrid and just traveling to Lisbon for the weekend. They befriended three Angolan/Portuguese "businessmen" (diamond smugglers) and we all drank beers, laughed it up, and eventually tried to get some sleep. Unfortunately, all the sleeping accommodations in the luggage racks had been taken, so we had to try to sleep in our seats.

The girls headed off with the guys from the train, and I collected cards from assailants offering pensoas. I selected one which seemed closest (hadn't had much sleep and needed it) and noted that it is a Let's Go pick (Pension Beira-Mar). Pretty good room for the money (2,500 esq), and I slept a couple hours.

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A view of Lisbon from the hilltop

I got up to roam the city about noon. Wandered through the Alfama barrio, past the cathedral, grabbed a bite and snapped some photos. I wandered on and ended up at the flea market. How cool! Portuguese junk! More "real" stuff than Tennessee fleas, but just as much useless crap. Lisbon lacks sights, per se, (due to natural disasters) so this was just awesome for me.

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Another view of Lisbon

I found my way to the Rossio just about dark after walking the river front, which looks more like the oceanfront. Ate another meal. Dining in Portugal is cheaper than Spain, but too much seafood! Did some serious wine tasting in a liquor store (Napoleao) before heading back for a break. I had intended to read for a while then go out drinking later, but that's not what happened.

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Entering the Rossio just before dusk

I had just bought a Coke and was less than two blocks from my pensao when I noticed four kids about age 20. One slowed down to ask the time, unusual since there were clearly visible clocks in most of the windows of the storefronts. He and his friends then turned into an alley just up the street. A woman was exiting the alley just as they entered, and the kids greeted her with verbal abuse. That's when I got nervous. I gripped my full, unopened can of Coke, thinking I may have to use it as a weapon.

They let the woman pass, and just before I reached my pensao door, the one who asked the time blocked my path and held a knife toward my chin, though he was still a couple feet away. Another grabbed my left arm and the last two were closing in. Then the bottom of my Coke can connected with the head of the guy holding my arm. I startled the bunch enough to make my escape. Coke can in hand, I began yelling and ran up the street to where people were. After catching my breath, I flagged down a police car. I was in luck because they spoke a little English. I told them what happened and they escorted me to my hotel. Just as I got out, one of the kids peeked out of the alley. The cops were after them in a heartbeat. My guess is they caught at least one of them, maybe two.

Consequently, I experienced a little less of Lisbon night life than I had hoped. When something like that happens to you, you suddenly become less enthusiastic about a place. I stayed in and read for a while, then went to sleep hoping for a better day tomorrow.

Continue to day 6.

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