Portugal/Switzerland: Wanderings 1971 (Continued…)

Portugal (Continued…)

        Let’s skip a few centuries to World War II when Europe was being ravaged by war. Portugal maintained its neutrality throughout and Lisbon became a sanctuary and point of departure for displaced persons from other countries.

        The city has a number of tourist attractions, including parks, monuments and museums.A must on every visitor’s list is theAlfama, the oldest area of Lisbon, where the Moorish influence on architecture is still strong. One of the most interesting sites in theAlfama is the Castle of St. George, which dates back to the Middle Ages. The famous SantaMaria De Belem, a suburb in the western part of Lisbon, is another must-see. Here is where you’ll find the Tower of Belem, (Torre de Belem), one of Lisbon’s most noted places of interest. It was built in the 16th century at the entrance of the Tagus River to guard against invaders. Another historic building is the Jeronimos Monastery (A1oistero do fer6nimes ), honoring Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama’s discovery of a water route to India in 1498. Da Gama’s tomb is contained in the 16th century monument. Americans, of course, also know Da Gama as the man who first sighted the Pacific Ocean. The Pajio de Belem, official residence of the president of Portugal, is also a highlight for visitors who come to Lisbon from near and far.

        “But days of sightseeing were not on our itinerary this time around,” Laura said. “We were in Lisbon strictly for business. After checking into the hotel, we raced out to keep the appointment with our friends at their home. John carefully examined the premium tourmaline gem rough, which he knew would cut into beautiful large stones. After intense scrutiny with his gem lamp, he selected the finest pieces and the deal was made. We could now put business transactions behind us and have some fun.”

        Our friends graciously drove us on a quick tour of Lisbon, a city with expansive vistas and shimmering waters dotted with ships and boats. We stayed together for an early supper and talked about their life in Mozambique and their quest for gem rough. Coal is the most abundant natural resource in this mineral-rich land on the Indian Ocean, but our interests went deeper than that. In addition to its wonderful tourmaline, which can range in color from rose to cranberry to mint green and blue green, Mozambique was known for fine garnets, as well as other lovely gemstones. The political upheaval that divided the country, severely restricted the goods coming from this region. Never again would Mozambique offer the profusion of gem material that marked the 1950s and 1960s.

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