It’s the first day starting with sunshine – good for visiting two world culture heritage places: the Jerónimos Monastery (pt. Mosteiro dos Jeronimos) and the tower of Belém (pt. Torre des Belém). Both buildings had survived the big earthquake of 1755. Nevertheless the fortified lighthouse is only a replica build in 1846 as the original was destroyed by Napoleon’s invasion.
With tram no. 15 we go from Praça da Figueira to Belém during a good half hour. But we are not alone. The tram looks like a tight packed sardine tin and in front of the monastery there is a long line. So we only take a look from the outside. Our son is impressed and asks how many artists did the beautiful stone carvings and how long it took them.
Afterwards we go through the Imperial park (pt. Praça do Império) to the bank of the Tagus river (pt. Tejo) where the Monument to the Discoveries (pt. Padrão dos Descobrimentos) stands which was built for the Portuguise World Fair in 1940 as a temporary construction and was torn down again later. The building has the shape of a caravel. At first we believe the statue at the front to be Vasco da Gama (*1469, + 1524, who discovered the seaway to Asia around Africa in 1497/98). But have to learn it is Henry the Navigator (pt. Infante Dom Henrique des Avis, *1394, + 1460) who never did any exploration himself but initiated and sponsored many explorations and expansions. It was the time that is now known as the Age of Discovery. To mark his 500th death day the building was rebuild as a permanent construction. It is 56 meters high and houses some exhibition rooms, a look-out at the top and an auditorium. Here is also a long crowd.
While observing the building we notice that there is sailing regatta going on and that this ist he place where the boats have to change sails in order to make the necessary turn.
Having seen enough we walk down the water front to the tower of Belém where also lots of tourists try to enter and queue long before. But waiting in a queue seems to be for the children not worth the trouble so we decide to visit the National Coach Museum (pt. Museu Nacional dos Coches) nearby.
Since 2015 this muesum consists of two buildings facing each other. We start in the original older part, the Royal Riding Hall which is richly decorated in the inside with mosaics and paintings. The inner arena in which horses were trained is 17m wide and 50m long. On the balconies the royal family could watch the training – back then they had no TV afterall. The hall was used from 1787 until 1905 when Queen Amélia ordered it to be a museum instead. Today there are several old carriage, livrees and weapons to be seen.
Another section houses some pieces from the history of firefighters in Lissabon as the firefighter museum was closed. So sad that the 600 year old tradition of firefighting has no museum of ist own. The old tools are very interesting especially as we see the modern ones each day driving around here. After the big earthquake in 1755 it became even an obligation for every palace to have its own little firebrigade as big industrial plants or airports today. Interesting!
Having seen the old building we cross the street to the new futuristic building. Having believed that we have seen already the prettiest fariy tale coaches we are disabused. What unbelievable splender we know see here! Dozens of carriages from the late 16th through the 19th centuries show the development of carriages made in Italy, Portugal, France, Germany, Spain, Austria and England. Carriages that were used by nobility for different purposes: for travelling, for ceremonies, for children, for hunting, for transporting relics, sedan chairs, litters, post chaises and even one oft he first modern cars as well as livrees, harnesses, saddles, suitcases, weapons – so much to explore and see.
And the history behind the old carriages and in the rich paintings and exuberant gilt woodwork is fascinating. For example: the oldest piece in the exhibition is the traveling coach used by King Philipp II of Portugal (who was no. III of Spain also) when he came to Portugal in 1619. The carriage has glas panels that can be taken off and a toilet hidden in the back seat as well a tool box. Very modern indeed!
Such an impressing museum which is with ist 400.000 visitors per year the most beloved in Lissabon. And who is now hooked can see all pieces and their history on the homepage oft he museum.
Of course there is also a temporary exhibition, which is actually the 100th anniversary of Citroën showing the development of the car models. In the timeline there is for every type there a little play car. Oh, the cars very so unique until the 1970ies. Especially the 2CV which has a place of honour.
Finally we have seen everything and are exhausted. So we need a gratification in form of some icecream by Santini which is in fact the best icecream ever. Full of flavour and the fruity ones are even without additional sugar! It is so good that we take a second helping as we have seen two museums.