With TEOLINDA GERSÃO
Your name: Teolinda Gersão
Current city or town: Lisboa (Lisbon)
How long have you lived here: since 1965
Three words to describe the climate: sunny, mild, pleasant
Best time of year to visit? spring and autumn, but you can come any time
1. The most striking physical features of this city/town are…Lisbon is a harbor, on the estuary of the Tagus River. It is built on several valleys and hills and has beautiful landscapes from viewpoints and belvederes. The sea and beaches start about five kilometers away, along a 39KM waterfront road. There are interesting things to discover around every corner.
2. The stereotype of the people who live here and what this stereotype misses…People may think the Portuguese are old fashioned and melancholic, but this is not true. Or, at least there is another side of the coin.
3. Historical context in broad strokes and the moments in which you feel this history…According to a legend of Greek origin but spread by the Romans, Lisbon was founded by Ulysses, who got lost on his way back home from the Trojan war and by mistake entered the Atlantic through Gibraltar. Founded by a man who never existed but is the most celebrated character of Greek literature and culture, Lisbon is ab initio connected to literature and myth.
And its real (not imaginary) history is over 2000 years old. Lisbon has a stunning history, and yet it is a very modern city. Strolling about the streets you bump into history all the time, from Roman ruins to Arabic tiles, from Medieval streets to Renaissance and Baroque monuments and churches, nineteenth century palaces and gardens and twenty-first century architecture. Listening to Fado lyrics and guitars is a must.
4. Common jobs and industries and the effect on the town/city’s personality…You’ll still find handicrafts and lovely old shops with Portuguese shoes, cork handbags, wallets, umbrellas, etc. There is not much industry in the outskirts. In the city, cars are increasingly being moved by electricity or natural gas, and the level of pollution is low.
5. Local/regional vocabulary or food? We are food experts. Michelin star posh restaurants are available, but you can also get very good food in nice restaurants at reasonable or low prices. We specialize in meat, fish, seafood, vegetables and fruits, and vintage wines.
6. Local politics and debates frequently seem to center on…Home, European, and world politics, global heat, haves and have-nots, injustice and the malfunction of society, you name it.
Teolinda Gersão is the author of seventeen books (novels and short-stories), translated in fourteen countries. She was a writer-in-residence at Berkeley University in 2004.
Photo by Onésimo Almeida.