Lisbon: Navigating the Old and the New


Portuguese Republic

May 13, 2013 

Bom dia! 

Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, is the oldest city in Western Europe.  Lisbon predates London, and Paris, and Rome by hundreds of years. 

Even earlier, there is evidence of Neolithic settlement, Pre-Celts, Celts and Phoenicians. 

The Romans ventured to Portugal.  They were followed by Germanic tribes from Europe, Moors from North Africa, Crusaders from Britannia and the Spanish from over the mountains. 

Lisbon lies along the sheltered harbor of the broad Tagus River.  The Tagus and the other rivers in Portugal that flow from east to west into the Atlantic provided the embarkation points of adventure, trade, discovery, conquest and colonization.  

Sintra: Palace and Castle



May 17, 2013


My cousin Ofer Lauer told me that always he reads my travel letters, but only “if they are short.”

So my dear cousin, here’s a short one:

From Lisbon, it’s an easy daytrip to Sintra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

I wandered the narrow and hilly streets of this medieval town.

I lingered in the courtyard of the Sintra Palace. 

Óbidos: Castles




May 18, 2013 

I’ll never forget the exact moment.  Noon, July 5, 2000. 

My first solo adventure.  Central Europe.  Slovakia.  From Košice to Spiš.  I was driving north through the countryside. 

And then, there it was!  To my right, on a hilltop brooding over the landscape.  Enormous.  Imposing.  Inspiring.  The nine hundred year old ruins.  Spišský hrad.  Spiš Castle. 

Out loud I spoke, “This is why I travel.  This is what I came to Europe to see!” * 

Evora: My Lucky Day



May 20, 2013

                                 My Lucky Day

 ... So after an unusual breakfast (you can squeeze your own fresh orange juice), I leave my freezing cold hotel room. (Last week it was quite warm but now the temperature has dropped and the hotel already adjusted the HVAC system for summer so there’s no heat from the damned vents.).

I dodge morning traffic across a busy avenue and walk through the stone gate in the protective medieval walls into the old section of town.  I stroll down a main road, and then, as is my custom, to a colorful side street (flower pots and laundry) Then, impulsively, I turn down a side street off the side street (maybe I’ll get lost, but who cares?) always trying to keep my sense of direction so I will arrive at the Praça do Giraldo, the cathedral and the Roman ruins on the hilltop up there, somewhere.

But then, hold the phone … stand by …wait just a minute … I stop dead in my tracks!

Belmonte: The Secret Jews

Belmonte: The Secret Jews, Portugal and the State of Israel

Bangkok, Thailand

July 21, 2013

“Without Portugal, the State of Israel would not exist.”

So declared an Israeli diplomat at the Shabbat dinner we both attended here in Bangkok, 

“Without Portugal, the State of Israel would not exist.”

Are you surprised to hear this statement?  I was.

The Alentejo: A Trio of Castles

The Alentejo


May 23, 2013

A Trio of Castles

The Alentejo Region in central Portugal is the largest region in the country.   It stretches from the Atlantic coast to the Spanish border.  As a result of its history and strategic location, the Alentejo is dotted with medieval castles.

I drove through the central and eastern areas of Alentejo, across plains and over hills, to cities, towns and villages.  The country roads and the modern highways are all excellent and mostly empty of traffic.

I visited three castles.