Lisbon’s steampunk elevator

Elevator a la Eiffel.

We took our first trip on one of the cute little Lisbon trams this morning. The fact there are some modern trams running on the lines just serves to highlight the look of the traditional trams. They are small and seem to balance precariously on a tiny little set of central wheels.

The trip turned out to be a mild disaster because we’ve managed to get ourselves out of our normal routine. Arriving here on Sunday, instead of our usual Saturday travelling day, meant we forgot that today was Monday. And on Monday most tourist attractions in Europe shut down. So we had a nice tram ride to Belem only to find the monastery and museum which were our destinations firmly closed.

Elevator detail.

We made the best of things with a walk back along the waterfront. While not entirely picturesque, it’s an interesting walk. Lisbon has something of the feeling of Sydney about it, partly because of the harbour setting but also something about the way people dress and act.

A fact Jennifer and I both noticed is that this is the only place in Europe where men seem to wear business suits as you see in London or Sydney. We can think of no explanation for this sartorial similarity. Another strange, albeit completely unrelated, fact which attracted us is that they have police on Segways here.

Damage from the Great Earthquake.

This afternoon we walked round to the Santa Justa Elevator. The old centre of Lisbon is in a valley with steep sides. In order to facilitate access to the areas up the valley sides there are trams, funiculars and elevators. The Santa Justa Elevator is run by Lisbon’s public transport system but is primarily a tourist attraction (there are other elevators which are more purely functional). The Santa Justa Elevator was built around the turn of the last century by one of Gustav Eiffel’s students and is a great cast-iron construction complete with wonderfully  unnecessary decoration. It was originally steam-powered and even in today’s electric environment it retains some sense of the great age of steam.

The elevator rises up 45 metres to give a great view of the city, as well as access to a bridge leading past a church deliberately left damaged after the Great Earthquake to give some idea of the way the city looked in its aftermath.

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