Every photo has a story....even the above photo of a map that appears to be just another map of the world. It is hard to tell from the photograph but this map can actually be walked on. It is also a very special map in that it did not come from the place where it is currently at. The above map is located in Lisbon, Portugal. It was a gift from South Africa in 1960 and it shows the world with the routes of various Portuguese explorers. The year 1960 is an important year because it marked the 500th anniversary of Prince Henry the Navigator. The world map spreads out in front of another monument called the Monument to the Discoveries which celebrates the Portuguese Age of Exploration during the 15th and 16th centuries.
The monument and map sit along the Tagus River which was an important trade route in Lisbon's history. The map is made up of different types of marble while the Monument to the Discoveries is made up of cement, rose-tinted stone and limestone. The Monument is flanked by statues including Henry the Navigator, Vasco da Gama and many other important figures from history.
I visited Lisbon on my honeymoon at the end of May 2010. We were on a bus tour of Spain and Portugal and we were only in Lisbon for 2 nights. In total, I've taken three separate bus tours in Europe. There are both positives and negatives about these types of tours. Bus tours are great when viewing monuments and tourist "hot spots". With the Monument to the Discoveries, our bus was able to pull right up to the monument area. It was easy for us tour-goers to hop on and off the bus at each tourist stop. A negative to the bus tour idea would be that we were exactly that, tourists. While on the bus, we never got a feeling of being fully immersed in the culture. However, we did have free time that allowed us to get more into the "local" scene, especially at night. Almost every night, we had some kind of free time to go out and enjoy the culture. We enjoyed the nightlife within limits though because very early every morning our bus was ready to take us to the next destination.