It’s an overused phrase. Old World Charm. Ever watch House Hunters International where the people who are searching for a new home in a new country want that “old world charm.” Make no mistake, there is something to be said for it. A Paris apartment in the typical Haussmann style. A pre-war London flat. Who wants modern in the old country? Maybe when you’re on the 6th floor and really wish you didn’t have to climb those stairs.
Which brings me to Lisbon. While some places promote “old world” a part of a touristic lure, Lisbon is truly Old World, well, because they don’t have the money to keep upgrading. One of the so-called PIIGS nations, Portugal has major economic woes. According to the guide of the walking tour I took (maybe the best of the free walking tours I’ve done during this trip), the unemployment rate between those between 25 and 35 is about 35%. The rate is dropping but, according to our guide, that’s because Portugal’s president has been recommending the younger people leave the country to find jobs so the unemployment rate goes down.
Because of this, many of the buildings remain as they have for decades, even centuries. True, there are many abandoned buildings but that adds to the charm of the city. Lisbon is hilly. Lisbon has many narrow streets with many gems – tiny bars, restaurants, shops. The best thing to do is to meander and get lost. Eventually, you find a way back. But when you can buy a shot homemade cherry liqueur from a woman out of the window to her home for a euro in the Alfama section, you know this place is special. The people are friendly, the food is amazing, the prices are right, and the experience is delightful. Lisbon has become one of my favorite destinations ever.