During my summer break I had the fortunate blessing of being able to travel to Lisbon, Portugal for four days. Typically, an avid planner in all arenas of my life, I tend to make extensive lists of museums, restaurants, unique cafes, and local areas that are must visits when traveling to a new city or country. However, starting the Duquesne University MBA Sustainable Business Practices program, my time was limited prior to the trip, and I pretty much jumped onto a flight early in the morning after finals were completed.
In this pattern of unpredictability of the journey, right before getting onto the flight to Lisbon, the news was covering the current heat wave that had just hit the region. Many regions of Portugal (which is a fairly small country) were experiencing record breaking temperatures since 32 years of above 115 Fahrenheit due to intense heat traveling from the Sahara desert.
So, as I stepped off that flight into what felt like the desert, my mouth immediately quenching with thirst due to the placebo effect of the situation, a part of me was boiling with heated excitement to experience this new country while it endured its own historic moment. In the morning on the first day of exploring Lisbon, the temperature was at 111 Fahrenheit before noon. Whenever stepping outside of the car it felt like opening a fiery oven right onto my face. I was consuming water as if I had transformed into an immensely parched cow, but it was one of the most magical country’s I have ever visited.
Throughout the entire trip, with the given extremity of the heat, I assumed locals would be agitated when dealing with tourists because of the given level of discomfort. However, they welcomed us with genuine warmth, no pun intended, and I found myself becoming a part of Lisbon’s culture. The city was a colorful tiled museum with churches that had an element of romanticism, baroque period, and gothic influence. The country seemed to wear its mistakes openly. I found an authentic respect and historic connection to Portugal because of the history the nation shared with India. Growing up my grandmother used to tell me vibrant stories about rajahs and ranis having palaces filled with gold. Since Portuguese explorer, Vasco da Gama, discovered the sea route to India, it created a business relationship between the nations during the time of kings, traveling on elephants, and being drenched in gold. It was fascinating to witness the influence of this history on the country.
I also found myself finding many connections to Pittsburgh. Much like Pittsburgh, Lisbon is a hidden gem in Europe. Many people tend to travel to Italy, France, or the United Kingdom, similar to how many people tend to visit New York, Los Angeles, or Miami in the United States. It was one of the least touristy European cities I have ever visited (and I am sure the heat dissolved the number of travelers). It had a rich charm that was alive in the people, the architecture and the culture. The cost of living is slowly rising in Lisbon, similar to Pittsburgh because of the opportunities it continues to bring. The Portuguese people have the same internal hardworking mentality that many yinzers carry due to its given history. It is sufficient to say that I am enamored by Portugal. – Ranbir Gill