The nearly 25-year-old Uber driver in Lisbon told me that his granddad had left Sicily years ago to move to Brazil. He returned after two years of living in Brazil to pick up his childhood sweetheart. That is the Uber driver’s grandmother. He grew up in Brazil just like his parents. He understands Italian but doesn’t speak it very well. He left Brazil a year ago after he received an Italian passport and has been living in Lisbon ever since.
I’ve visited Lisbon countless times. It is an exciting city, it takes a lot of time to discover it, if you want to do it properly. I was there before the economic crisis in 2008, I was there during the economic crisis and I’ve been again just now. The spirit of the city has stayed the same. The people are friendly and open just like I’ve gotten to know them. The feeling of being welcome is also still there. Also, I have felt that the crisis is now over. It is like a shift. There is a lot of confidence. The houses have been redone, a lot of the graffiti is gone but unfortunately there still is some here and there.
I was on an Uber trip. It costs pretty much nothing in Lisbon. I ate in local restaurants. That too costs pretty much nothing. I chatted to everyone who could understand me (That’s why I travel by Uber, because most of the drivers speak a bit of English. Apart from when it’s in the USA where it is likely that the Uber driver doesn’t speak English and tries to cope by using Google Translate). From these conversations I’ve gathered, that the people are feeling better and that they are feeling good, that they are creating plans and have positive expectations for the future.
I love to travel through the mountainous city in the screeching old, yellow trams (but careful about pickpockets especially in tram 28E), I enjoy visiting the prosperous, posh churches (but after the third one I’ve normally had enough of the pomp), I cherish strolling along the coast with a continuous breeze on my face. The colours of the facades and the flowers, the inexhaustible friendliness, the unmistakable ‘Fado’ singing, the unique atmosphere of Porto and the very special sweet taste of fresh juice that only exists here, all of this is Lisbon to me.
As I was strolling through this unique city, I had to think about the fact that it isn’t that long ago since the city has been immeasurably rich. You can see it from the buildings, the churches and palaces. At the time a lot of riches came from the colonies. Then there was a period where the Portuguese left the country in search for work and you could for instance also meet them in Switzerland in the service and cleaning industry. Today I met a lot of Brazilians that have European ancestry, and now try to settle into Portugal just as the Portuguese tried to do so in Switzerland. I also have family members that left Switzerland for Brazil after the Second World War and who stayed there, in the hope of a better future. Somehow history always repeats itself. But in this corner of the world the history of migration is particularly noticeable.
Who knows from where to where the next mass migration in the hope of a better future will be?