Most Non-Triumphant: Three Traffic Stories from Lisbon

While in Lisbon we stayed for most of our visit in an airbnb apartment in the Medieval Alfama district, which was so lovely, but also not the most convenient because we had to rely on the famous and crowded 28 tram as our only means of getting up the steep hill to our apartment. Now, Rome tests your patience when it comes to traffic and public transit. They’re both terrible. So imagine my surprise when Lisbon, a smaller city in an economically worse-off country, actually had significantly better public transit. Except for three instances, which will be recounted here below.

Tram 19 Pile Up Lisbon
Those are four individual trams not a little train of tram cars

1. The 28 tram wasn’t coming. We waited we waited we waited, well ok, I guess we’ve passed the threshold of waiting reasonableness, time to walk. Wow, the steep, curvy road up the hill is totally backed up with cars and trams and minibusses. Holy crap there are 4 trams right in a row all stopped! What is going on?? We walked a bit more… up the hill around the corner and this:

Collapsing Building Lisbon
Yes, this building was in the process of FALLING DOWN

Traffic was completely stopped both directions (and you can see our tram stop at the far right of this photo) because this building was collapsing. They had been working on it through our entire visit, but something must’ve gone wrong, because bits of it were falling into the street.

Ha. Excellent.

The one good thing about this was that it forced us to find a random route back to our apartment through the maze-like Alfama.

2. (Unfortunately I don’t have photos of this one): Again, the 28 tram wasn’t coming. We were hot, tired, had been sightseeing all day and just did not want to climb that damn hill. We were over in the Baixa-Chiado area waiting and waiting. A lot of people were waiting with us. After over half-an-hour one of the spectacularly chic saleswomen from the adjacent Hermès store came out and told us that around the corner (at the front of the store) there had been an accident with the tram and it wasn’t going to come. Ouf. So we wander around the corner and what do we see? The 28 tram had gotten in an accident with a very shiny, very new looking Porsche. The Porsche driver (I kid you not his collar was popped) was gesticulating madly at the tram driver, the tram passengers were cheering on the suggestion that the tram ram the Porsche out of the way (I understand that cars of that caliber cannot be moved if something goes wrong and a tow truck is the only means of moving them at that point) and the rest of the traffic was crawling by at an absolute snails pace. Especially when a huge truck decided to try to inch around the whole scene, which was in no way possible and it ended up having to do a million-point turn to turn around.

Ha. Excellent.

3. At this point in our stay we had pretty much given up on the 28 tram. We didn’t really even bother waiting for it anymore. So instead we took a minibus. It would get us at least halfway up the hill a little past the lovely cathedral:

Look at how blue the sky is!
Look at how blue the sky is!

But I couldn’t remember which was the best stop for us, because this was the minibus that went all the way up to the Castle of São Jorge, so we needed to get off before the bus turned to go even further up the hill. When I thought we were close we took the next stop. Thank god for that. Because shortly thereafter traffic came to a stand-still. We quickly passed the minibus as we walked and traffic didn’t move. And it didn’t move. And it didn’t move. What is going on now?? We wondered. Is another building collapsing? But no, as we trudged further up the hill and rounded a few corners it became apparent: an ambulance had parked in such a way as to block ALL traffic in the street.

Ha. Excellent.

Lisbon your traffic is bogus, heinous, most non-triumphant. Never change.


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