Portugal is well known by its tiles. They originally come from the Arabs or Moors but they were not allowed to show images, they were specialised in Mosaic paintings. The Portuguese developed later their own styles, you can find a lot of Christian themes, Art Nouveau or ‘simple’ images of normal life. Although they use the old Arabic Mosaic ones still on their houses.
I often walk from Graça via Miradouro da Senhora de Monte to the market of the neighbourhood of Arroios which is called ‘Mercado do Forno do Tijolo. There is also a Lidl supermarket. This is a time travelling because when you take the steps down to the city centre there are tiles on the walls with images of street sellers from the beginning of 1800.They bring you back in another time and when I was reading about that period, I realised how much the city changed in only 200 years.
At first sight you see the romantic surface. But when you begin reading about that time, you start realizing how hard life was in that period. It was 50 years after the big Earth Quake from 1755 when the whole centre of Lisbon was destroyed. Napoleon just left the country and they lost their colony Brazil. The sanitary conditions were very bad like in other European cities, where modern urbanisation developed very fast, without that the hygiene was modernised.
There was no streaming water in the houses and there were only a few public wells. Bathing was not common or was not done at all. There were public toilets; you can better call it beer pools or cesspits, mostly only 6 for around 50 houses. The people threw their human waste out of the windows in the streets or in the backyard.
The streets had mostly not efficient pavement and was also full of faeces or excreta from the animals used for the transportation of humans and goods. The pipes were very bad and often the dirt of the streets and beer pools got in the wells.
In the night came the cleaners to empty the beer pools and streets, to throw the dirt in the river. The people used a lot of time the water from the river to cook or clean the houses or themselves. In short, these were different times. There were a lot of diseases and epidemics, like cholera and Typhus.
This you don’t see on this tiles which give a good impression of the things you could buy on the streets in that times. Like Bob Dylan so nice sings, ‘Times, they are changing.’ In this case not for bad I think!
At least we don’t have to walk with a shit umbrella, when someone is screaming out the window ‘Agua Vai’ and throws the dirt out of the window, although it was forbidden and there were fines for it. Although there were controllers in the streets, in that Lisbon didn’t really change.
They didn’t listen to these rules and the penalties didn’t work.