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Night Train to Lisbon

November 27, 2008 by · 2 comments

Eva Stelmach

I sent my application form to the hospital in Lisbon, but I had no hope of approval. I was a medical student and I wanted to have my summer internship there. I knew this could be an unforgettable experience. It turned out that in June, I would spend 3 months in Portugal – the country that was absolutely undiscovered for me. And now? It is much closer to my soul than another country I have visited in my life.

While flying to Lisbon, I had so many fears that I couldn’t relax, even for a minute. I did not know what to expect and how this country would accept me. But in fact, I spent the most amazing 90 days ever.

I didn’t know the Portuguese people were so helpful! In the Santa Maria Hospital – the biggest in Portugal – the doctors were amazing people and medical professionals, with generous advice and angelic patience for me. They wanted to share their knowledge with me, and I am so thankful for that.

Portuguese people are quite melancholic as well. You should know that one of the most magic Portuguese words is “fado”(melancholic songs sung in dusky and smoky clubs) and “saudade”(which means the feeling of melancholy and positive contemplation of passing).

My first weeks there I concentrated on sightseeing. Since I was interested in photography, I had many objects to immortalize with my camera. I fell in love with the oldest district in Lisbon – Alfama. It’s a great place if you like walking around the streets with no destination, just to get a feel for the city.

I had a favorite square – Rossio Square. One day I discovered the most interesting club in town – an old house adapted as a club, with graffiti on the walls. You could eat and drink there, you could have long conversations with your friends while sitting on the couches, and you could listen to alternative music, as well. Near the club, I found quite a funny shop – all clothes and accessories were hand-made. It was also possible to buy LP-records or pictures, or to get your hair cut.

I met a great number of people in Bairro Alto – the best place for parties. It was hard to imagine a weekend in Lisbon without an expedition to Bairro in the evening. And it was hard to imagine a Saturday without having dinner and a glass of Portuguese wine with your friends.

One of my favorite places in Lisbon was Belem with Jerónimos Monastery with its huge line of people waiting to buy Pasteis de Belem – the most popular cakes in town.

The “modern” Lisbon is represented by the Expo Area with Oceanarium. Have you ever seen a fish that weighs 2 tons? If not, you should go there and see Mola mola.

I miss the Portuguese mornings when I was going to the hospital and I could stop in the cafeteria to drink espresso.

I spent 3 months in Lisbon. For me, it was a quite short period of time, but on the other hand, I gained so many experiences that it is unbelievable. The first thing I did after coming back home was to buy the new book by Pascal Mercier, “Night Train to Lisbon.” Just to recollect memories and compare impressions…

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