Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Pessoa Pilgrimage

We'd overstayed our welcome at Prazeres Cemetery. As my companion and I began walking back toward the gates, a guard came hurrying down the path, gesturing toward his wrist with the universal "we're closing" gesture. The guard directed us to go wait at the gates for him, then hurried on his rounds. We found our way back to some very tall, black iron gates, with a very thick chain locked around them. I tried not to think of what would have happened to us if the guard had not found us. The graves at Prazares (which, strangely, means "pleasures" in Portuguese) are, for the most part, above ground, sepulchers hold the coffins and urns of the dead. We had just been peering in on the poet Fernando Pessoa and his family, who seemed closer than was comfortable. I was relieved when the guard reappeared to let us out; I had to suppress the impulse to sprint through the opened gates.

"At least we found Pessoa," I said to my companion as we left. It hadn't been easy. We'd gotten the address at his house museum--that's right, the graves have addresses. In fact, walking through Prazeres Cemetery was like walking through a miniature city. Almost all the bodies were housed in impressive mausoleums adorned with weeping statues.

Outside the cemetery we boarded the old yellow 28 tram to take us back to the city center. Our legs could not sustain anymore of Lisbon's hills--seven to be exact, Pessoa himself tells us in the opening sentence of a guidebook the poet wrote of his city: "Over seven hills, which are as many points of observation whence the most magnificent panoramas may be enjoyed, the vast irregular and many-colored mass of houses that constitute Lisbon is scattered."

Read more about our Pessoa pilgrimage on our blog at globecorner.com.

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