Lisboa, Not Lisbon – City of Romance and Luxury

 I don’t know why we refer to cities differently from the names the residents refer to them as. English is a fucked up language. Anyway, the residents here call it Lisboa not Lisbon and so I think we should do the same.

Whilst modern methods often unravel true history, the magnetic attraction of mythology is rarely undone.

We find this in the story of the birth of Lisbon. Despite the almost undisputable fact that it was the Phoenetians who were the first people of Lisbon, the legend of Ulysses refuses to die.

Ulysses was the Latin name for Odysseus. Odysseus was the great hero of Homers Odyssey. Born of the King of Ithaca, Odysseus was once a suitor to the most beautiful woman in the world (Helen of Troy). Though he was not chosen by her to be her husband, he made a show of loyalty to her and made all her suitors promise to protect her.

However when she was captured by Troy, Odysseus did not want to go to battle and pretended instead that he was mad! Soon however, he made good on his original promise and became the man behind the idea of the Trojan Horse. He was a great warrior of the mind, skilled in strategy – cool, calm and collected. His loyalties were governed by intellect and therefore they could change according to the politics of the situation.

For this reason Odysseus was also known for his lies but the lies stemmed from a believe that he was serving a greater good and that was always to protect his homeland. He married the lovely Penelope who stayed faithful to him even during the 10 long years it took for him to return from Troy. It was during this tempestuous journey that Odysseus founded Lisbon. He had battled sea monsters, giants and all manner of strange things but one day a bolt of lightning appeared and exploded into flame in an unknown land. It is said that when Odysseus reached the source he was instructed to build a city on the point of impact and this was the beginnings of Lisbon.

He followed what was likely to be the instruction of Zeus (for he was the great God of Thunder and Lightning) and named his city Ulisaypo or Olissopo. Olissopo became Alisubbo (meaning friendly bay) to the Phoenicians. Later this changed with the coming of the Moors to Al Aschbuna. This then merged to become Lissabona which is the forerunner to what we know today as Lisboa.

Today Odysseus is still remembered within Lisbon as he has a tower named after his Latin counterpart in the Castelo de Sao Jorge. It is perhaps very fitting that the Tower of Ulysses houses the Camara Escura (Camera Obscura). Invented by Leonardo Da Vinci this optical ssytem projects a 360 degree view of the city. It is as though Ulysses is everywhere the eye can see. He was brave, loyal, cunning, wise and tenacious – qualities that are found in abundance when we look to the history of Lisbon. Remember, as you look out from the battlements of the Castelo, it rose from the ruins of the great earthquake to be the beautiful place we know today. ~from


Instantly I’m in love with this place. No garbage, they wash the sidewalks at night, not uptight about smoking but not as much smoking indoors as in Spain, the food is decent, the prices aren’t bad, the people are friendly, and there seems to be just about everything a person could want.

Last night I arrived with some American friends I met on the bus from Sevilla and we got a late night bite to eat after checking into a cheap hostel that outstripped everything in Morocco I’ve experienced, but by Euro standards wasn’t really up to snuff. The Golden Residence.

Leaving there this morning I set out on a journey that took me to my first choice Royal Lisbon Hostel where they had no beds left but I really liked it…enough that I booked a bed for tomorrow…and then to the Lisbon Chillout Hostel, which was cool and had a space left, just long enough for me to get comfortable before the desk clerk realized that the two girls checking in had booked in advance…or were better looking than me. Either way, it was a nice place and the clerk helped me find another bed at the Travelers House Hostel which is even better, funky, cool, and very central. Not to mention I got a free breakfast out of his mistake so no complaints here even if I was booted for some booty (it is a pirate city after all!)

Isaac is here to serve you at the Living Lounge!

And when I arrived here to check in, who did I find but my American friends from the night before, just checking in too.

I split and headed towards the water while they checked their email. I found a really bitchin’ sunday antiques market where I found the swiss army knife of my dreams for 10 euros.

The cousin of the Golden Gate Bridge is here…San Francisco of Europe…and more affordable!

I climbed to the Castelo de Sao Jorge and toured around there. It is yet another beautiful landmark left behind by the Moors. In the tower of Ullysses is a camera obscura that gives a remarkable 360 view of the city, the device was invented by Da Vinci and is the only one of its kind in this country. Remarkable.

Ah yes, Portugal…I’m into it, for sure.

(Originally published 6 April 2009)

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Damitio  (@vagodamitio) is the Editor-in-Chief for Vagobond. Life is good. You can also find him on Google+ and at Facebook