@ Adrian Tritschler · Tuesday, Sep 22, 1998 · 6 minute read · Update at Sep 22, 1998 ·

dst. (km)
Today 6.4
Trip 8.3

At some strange time in the morning I was flying over Romania — I think. An hour in Frankfurt and then breakfast on the flight. Somewhere out over the Black Sea there was a magnificent thunderstorm to watch, all the lightning playing around below the plane.

Singapore airport seemed huge, we all had to walk for miles to get from the Qantas flight to the check-in counter, then almost all the way back to get to the departure lounge for the Lufthansa flight. My seat was well back behind the wing, and the engines, and fairly noisy. On the plus side, the seat next to me was broken. After trying to fix it and seat three different passengers there, eventually the cabin staff gave up and left it vacant, leaving only two of us in a block of three — almost roomy for the economy cabin.

As a reminder not to prejudge people into racial stereotypes I’ll only have to think of the first couple I sat next to. Since it’s a German airline, I had thought that the guy sitting next to me looked to be a fairly typical, large, florid-faced German. Then he turned to me and opened his mouth “Gidday, me name’s Bruce, this is my wife Kathleen. How are ya?” — I nearly burst out laughing.

In Singapore we had to go through the metal detectors and security gates again. I placed my pocket knife and bike tools in the tray instead of leaving them inside my bag. One of the guards then spent several minutes looking puzzled while he examined the allen keys and discussed them in great detail with the other guards — maybe worried that I’d start dismantling the aircraft. Eventually he handed them back and sent me on my way.

A couple of minutes later there was an announcement over the PA system calling me over to the desk. I’ve no idea what it was all about, without a word to me they took my boarding pass off me, tore it up, printed out a new one and handed it to me — re-arranging the seating I guess. When I sat back down all the people around me wanted to know what it was all about — shame I didn’t know!

Flying over Saudi Arabia — at least I think that’s where it was — some of the cities and patterns of lights looked amazingly beautiful and peaceful. The air was very clear and the looked like patterns of lace against the ground.

I hadn’t realised that there was an hour or so of sitting around in Frankfurt between my flights — I’ll have to start reading itineraries more carefully in future. There was nowhere much to sit and absolutely everyone in Germany seemed to be smoking. I spent the time watching people; business people travelling, families on holidays, attractive young girls on backpacking trips….

Once I got to Lisbon it took a little while to find my bike, since it was a large item, it was one of the last things off the aircraft. No problems at all, no damage to the bike — and I didn’t even have to show my passport to get out through customs! It was hot, overcast, and very humid so I fiddled about getting changed and setting up my bike, then loaded up the panniers and headed out the door into Lisbon. By the time I left the terminal, the customs people had left, it felt strange just walking past their empty desks, I kept thinking that someone would run out of a back room and demand to see passport or visa.

Straight out of the airport, remember to ride on the right-hand-side of the road, then the roundabout from hell! I’d been warned about it sometime previously, and it lived up to the warnings. Four lanes wide, cobble-stone surface, traffic lights on all six roads, no visible road laws and a set of tram lines through the middle! It was with a mighty grin and a great sense of achievement that I successfully navigated my way around and headed on down towards the city.

Four kilometres down the road and the third remaining burst! Again I thought it was on one of the spoke nipples. Punctures on a loaded touring bike are an order of magnitude more annoyance than on an everyday ride. I sat down under a tree, unpacked everything, changed the rear tube, repacked the bike and rode off, all the while watched by four silent old men who sat on a bench nearby.

I saw only one other bike on the road and I think it too belonged to a tourist, it surprised me since I thought that with the economy and history, there would have been people on bikes everywhere. As it turned out, I saw very few bikes in the whole country.

My first impressions of Lisbon were that the semi-cobbled streets were absolutely packed with tiny European cars, mostly FIATs and SEATs. Four or five story buildings on either side, tiny footpaths, not a sign of anything green or a tree or a park anywhere. The cobblestones are laid in geometric patterns of white limestone and black basalt, sunglasses are a necessity!

Accommodation is at a premium — probably because of the World Expo. — the cheapest I can find is apparently $7000 for a room in a Pensâo! Not quite what the guidebooks had implied, this is almost double what I was expecting. The reality of not being able to speak Portuguese sunk in and I started to feel very vulnerable in my hunting around for a room.

I found a place for $6000, chickening out of speaking Portuguese, I first asked in English and was relieved when I was understood. Spent the rest of the afternoon having an afternoon nap while my body thought about timezones and then headed out about seven for an exploratory walk.

A very hilly place, the cable-car trams run up some of the hills, and the maps are nearly useless. I wandered about Bairro Alto then down to the river — the Rio Tejo — and back through the Baixa district. By then I was so hungry that I had the courage to try for dinner — again the staff spoke English so I managed to avoid Portuguese, but my proposed budget is taking a beating!

After dinner I walked around the Castle and Castelo district, then down through the twisty lanes of Alfama before heading back again through Baixa and home to bed at eleven.



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