video: elevador de santa justa

Yesterday I mentioned Lisbon’s elevators so I thought it would be fun to post a few little videos of the most famous, Elevador de Santa Justa, which connects Baixa to Largo do Carmo and the ruined convent on the square.  Built in 1902 by Raul Ponsard – an apprentice of Gustave Eiffel – the lift was originally powered by steam and converted to electricity only in 2002. There are easier ways to get up the hill – the mall next door has escalators and its own elevator, for one – but nothing compares to the intricate neo-Gothic  iron work or the views of Lisbon Castle, Rossio  Square and the Baixa neighborhood from the terrace on top. Play both videos at the same time for a fun perspective.

 

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funiculi, funicular

Lisbon is hilly. I mean really unexpectedly hilly. The central downtown valley of Baixa is relatively flat and plotted out along grid-lines. (Pretty much leveled by the great earthquake of 1755, the neighborhood was razed and subsequently planned.) Yet the surrounding neighborhoods of Barrio Alto, The Alfama, and Chiado – the areas that give this city so much of its vitality – spring up higgledy-piggledy on the surrounding hills.  Which means Lisbon, my friends, is not for the weak of leg. Fear not, however, the public transport is excellent:  a spacious and efficient subway is coupled with an extensive bus system.  As for navigating those pesky hills, you can take one of the vintage trolleys that slowly amble along crooked streets, ride one of the handful of turn of the century iron elevators that move people from plateau to plateau, or wait for the funicular, which will slowly ratchet you up a steep incline. Whatever you do, be sure to get the Lisboa Card, a magic wand that covers all your mass transit needs. Certainly you’ll want to be adventurous and do a little hill climbing at first but trust an inveterate hiker on this one: after a day lost in the labyrinth of The Alfama your bloody stumps will be begging you for mercy.

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