Doces and Emocoes, the cafe in my neighborhood, translated in English as Sweets and Emotions, opens their doors early. Fifteen minuters after they opened, I was sitting at a corner table inside. The six outdoor tables were already taken with Lisboans smoking, drinking beer, gulping espresso, chatting, and looking out at the square.
Life seems to pass slowly in Lisbon; it’s not a lethargic quiet, but one filled with a seeming contentment. The economic crisis doesn’t seem to have etched itself on anyone’s faces. There’s a vitality among the locals, though their pace compares with that of turtles. Urgency comes only from speech, with even minor things given a special emphasis.
Could their languor be from the heat, the alcohol, the crash after a sugar rush, the ease of knowing one’s place in this world?
The cafe faces a square, which is packed with old men playing dominoes and cards– many with canes, many with straw hats. In front of the square, a white truck sells churros and pink cotton candy. The impression I get here is that one can never have too many sweets, beers, cigarettes, savoury pastries, cups of coffee, or time to sit and do what appears to an outsider as nothing.
Unemployment is high, so Lisbon hardly seems the ideal place to job hunt, but it is ideal for one’s euros and ideas to stretch. Though, I don’t need to decompress, Lisbon’s a great place for someone to take the load off their shoulders– even when one hasn’t realized the load was there. It’s ideal for one who thinks that beauty is life, as the buildings are tiled in blue intricate patterns; facades are covered in murals; the people are diverse; water is always on the horizon, and every road’s a hill.
Did you know that Lisbon is one of the European cities that is said to be built on seven hills? Rome also claims this title, as well as a few other cities in Europe and the Middle East, but Lisbon’s the oldest in Europe. I know you know that every peak has a corresponding depression, so doesn’t that make Lisbon a perfect metaphor for life?
On my street in Dusseldorf, there were two restaurants, one bakery, one pharmacy, and one supermarket. On my street here, there are multiples of everything. It’s interesting to be confronted with all this multiplicity: this time, these thoughts, these hills. Can reality be more fulfilling than a dream? Tell me.
Tomorrow is a beach day; but for now, it’s time to walk more, which only means walking uphill.