InterNations co-founder Malte Zeeck paid a visit to our Lisbon Community last week – here are some of his impressions from his trip:
25 degrees Celsius and brilliant sunshine are waiting for me when I leave the plane at Lisbon’s Portela Airport — quite a contrast to 4°C and overcast skies in Munich, where spring hasn’t quite arrived yet. The cab takes me in 15 minutes to the city centre, where I meet our Ambassador Edyta Serwicka from Poland for lunch at the Portugalia restaurant by the Tejo River.
Edyta, who works for the European Maritime Safety Agency, has been organizing events for our members in Lisbon since January 2010. We discuss the strategy for the future development of our Lisbon Expat Community over seafood and Portuguese sausages. I have had similar talks in other places such as Warsaw, Prague, or Amsterdam, but it’s really intriguing to see how individual each of the InterNations Communities is.
In the afternoon, I arrive at the Fontana Park Hotel, where Laura, the guest relations manager and an active member of InterNations, welcomes me. By now, the restaurant and bar at Fontana Park have become the “home base” for the Lisbon InterNations Community, and it’s easy to see why: situated in the business district of Saldanha, the location is one of the most impressive design hotels world-wide. For example, the bath tub in the living-room of my hotel suite is only one element which expresses the modern and whimsical approach of its designers. Not only is the entire hotel extremely stylish, but the staff members are very friendly and helpful, too. The owner of the hotel, Joaquim Justino, explains to me that this is due to the personal touch of his hotel – one of the biggest advantages that he has over the many business hotels managed by major international hotel chains.
On Fontana’s spacious patio, I meet up with Jose Matos, who has been the InterNations Ambassador in Lisbon from the very beginning. Working as a management consultant, Jose is also an alumnus of a famous MBA programme in Lisbon. His wide circle of friends, colleagues, and contacts partly explains the great mix of members that arrive this evening to the InterNations March Event in Lisbon. 115 people have signed up on the guest list, and it’s a very diverse selection. Members young and old (aged between 25 and 65), expats from 30 countries as well as global minds from Portugal mingle over a delicious hot buffet and Portuguese wine. The atmosphere is very open, and indeed “nobody stands alone”. Whenever someone arrives on their own, coming for the first time, they are directly approached and introduced by a few “veteran” members to help them feel welcome.
In the course of the evening, I get to talk to many interesting folks like Christophe from the UK, who is currently organizing a sailing trip around the world for people with disabilities; Carlos from Portugal, who develops apps for the iPhone; Birgit and Yvonne from Germany, Irina and Nadezda from Russia, and many others. Quite a few even tell me that they have already visited other InterNations events in cities like Moscow, Geneva, Mumbai, or New York. The global idea of InterNations brings together members on their travels, too!
On the weekend, I have the chance to visit Lisbon, which is such a beautiful city and a very lively place with residents from an array of different backgrounds – an InterNations metropolis indeed. After walking around the Praca do Comercio, I take one of the old yellow tramways to the fortress overlooking the city, and the huge elevator takes me to the bairro alto, the old town on one of Lisbon’s hills. Here I enjoy a coffee in the Café Brasileiro in Chiado, a sundowner on the terrace of the Bairro Alto Hotel, dinner in the Argentinian steak restaurant La Papparucha and a drink at Silk, a lounge bar with an amazing view. I can only recommend a long weekend in Lisbon to anyone who enjoys a city trip with a cosmopolitan atmosphere and fascinating heritage as well as a great hospitality industry and friendly people from many nations. It is with quite a heavy heart that I say “até a vista” to Europe’s westernmost (and sunniest!) capital…
(Pictures by Edyta Serwicka and José Matos. Thank you!)