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Evocative images depicting the count and the prostitute are commonplace throughout the city, especially in the bewildering alleys of the Alfama district. The count and the prostitute is a perfect metaphor for Lisbon itself; a down to earth woman from the lowly back streets confident and comfortable in the company of an aristocrat — a city of princes and paupers in all sorts of ways. And they ooze personality because of it.
These are neighbourhoods which have endured good times and bad, their story etched into the bricks, mortars and peeling paint. In most cities graffiti grates and jars.
I mean the illiterate swirls which deface buildings like a spray paint equivalent of a nail on a blackboard. In Lisbon for some reason it fits. In most cities bad graffiti looks like nothing more than the destructive vandalism it is. Once noble buildings scarred by the hand of the underclass, as though in an attempt to keep pomposity in check.
Like anywhere else, darkness brings a different life to the streets. It gives the area a kaleidoscopic multi-cultural richness. In many cities we might hesitate to wander up an alley such as that. Not in Lisbon.
Walking down a vertiginous Bairro Alto street we passed a young man perched on a stool outside his apartment block engrossed in a book; next door up a bushy haired man strummed easily at a guitar. Opposite, an old woman appeared from a house that might have also been a bar with a just-knitted sweater which she handed to a young woman sitting on the kerb drinking Super Bock with her friends. In one urban scene there was literature, music and cottage industry.