by Lennie Araujo.
Ler Devagar bookstore, LX Factory, Lisbon. Photo by Lennie Araujo. May 2012.
One of the reasons this city stimulates me is how easy it is to move around. Not just the ability to move freely, but the capacity to be moved through different mixing social groups.
Lisbon has a good public transportation network including those very charming trams a landmark of this city (“Electricos”) and funicular trams, yet I love the freedom of walking everywhere -and despite its terrain this city is very walk-able. Rome is surrounded by seven hills; Lisbon was built on seven hills. And while not apparent, there is an energy to this city that you can sense when you hear about former bankers or lawyers starting small, idiosyncratic enterprises, chic apartment hotels and bars in former hostels. Repeatedly stumbled-upon, clever projects. A response to the financial crisis? There´s stuff to do, move on! There’s always time to stop and smell the coffee. Or to stop at that cozy bar or art show.
The 28 Tram from the author´s balcony, Rua da Prata, Lisbon. Photo by Lennie Araujo. 2010.
Elevador da Bica here takes you down to the riverfront at the bottom of this steep hill. Photo: Lennie Araujo, 2010.
In Lisbon it seems our favorite places are simply those in which our expectations are routinely exceeded, doesn’t matter which lane or alley we take. It leads somewhere we’re happy to be. The city’s layout gives you clear, tidy options; whether in old Alfama, in downtown or at one of the “miradouros” (viewpoints) from which to contemplate the beauty of the city – at the highest points of each hill-; one can meet a friend, have coffee, a glass of wine or beer and enjoy a wonderful view of the city or the sunset over the river below. It seems to always welcome you. Re- energized you.
Change and mobility seems to be everywhere, recently, Lisbon´s Municipality (Cámara) unveiled a campaign, “Lisbon Ideas“: “If you have ideas to improve sustainable mobility in Lisbon, go to MUDE! “
MuDE façade mural. Photo by Lennie Araujo, May 2012.
MUDE, short for Museum of Design and Fashion (fittingly, also spells the Portuguese word Change!). The idea was that Portuguese citizens had the opportunity to write “post-it” proposals, including those related to sustainable mobility, the best ideas competing for a prize.
Suddenly – in true Lisbon fashion- Bike riding is cool. It’s even chic! Last May, Lisbon hosted the “2nd Cycle Chic”, the main activity of which is a tour through downtown, with a markedly non-sporting nature, showcasing a valid means of transport.
The newly introduced “Tuk-Tuk” motorcycle-taxis in a mobile city. Photo: Lennie Araujo, May 2012.
By any means, mobility allows us to create better conditions of urban harmony. Lisbon’s layout gives us options. From the relatively flat downtown with its grand squares hosting every sort of popular and political gatherings- one can choose to ascend into the scruffy past on one side or into the stylish present on the other. “Two different hills. Two different sets of experiences” wrote a New York Times journalist.
In Lisbon you can wander aimlessly, go from one milieu to another; something occurs, and you are welcome to be part of it. You interact, circulate, no one interferes with your experiencing the city. Lisbon lets you in.
Perhaps that’s the charm of Lisbon; you have many mobility choices, changeable in appearance, mood, or purpose- none imposed.