Day 8 – The Christ Statue
Monday, 26th June
yesterday at breakfast there were two Hungarians sitting at the next table, Boglárka and Balázs. Balázs, the man, arrived about half an hour before Boglarka, the woman, and took one plate after another from the buffet. He obviously wanted to try every dish on the buffet. He carefully arranged each one on a new plate so that two dishes did not mix. The task he had set himself was not easy. Fitting everything onto the small table that the waiter had assigned to him required some skill. Balázs had been inspired by Lisbon's architectural concept and was not afraid to create a second and third level for the many plates. A marvellous feat of architecture.
Boglárka appeared when Balázs had already finished his meal. He had probably sent her a quick message. She wasn't so meticulous in her choice of food as to try everything. She finished her buffet courses as soon as she had finished the first level.
They could have both eaten at the same time if the waiter had given them a larger table. But the last time they were here at the hotel, there had been a shortage of plates. All the available plates had been used on the table top, which was bending dangerously. A queue had formed at the buffet and a guest had led the manager by the tie into the breakfast room to alert him to the problem. Nothing was left to chance that morning. A waiter kept watch at Balázs' table and cleared every empty plate immediately. As a crisis was also looming today, a second waiter took his place at the table as soon as the first ran into the kitchen.
I was so distracted by the hustle and bustle at the next table that I forgot to try the houmous. This turned out to be a mistake when we visited the statue of Christ in Almada. What a crowd!
Almada is on the other side of the Tagus. Since 1966, there have been two ways to cross the Tagus. Before that, there was only the ferry. President Salazar inaugurated a bridge in his honour and logically named it after himself. His fellow dictator and successor Marcelo Caetano was overthrown by the Carnation Revolution on 25 April 1974. Since then, the bridge has borne this date in its name. It can only be used by motor vehicles and trains. Pedestrians still use the boat from the early days of the ferry service.
The statue of Christ stands in the scorching sun on a tower on a hill. There is a pedestal at all four corners. One for each evangelist. John and Matthew had descended from their pedestals. The fact that there were only two left made me wonder. With three I would have assumed they were playing skat, with four I would have guessed Bavarian Schafkopf or Doppelkopf. The number two allowed only one conclusion: Lukas and Markus had cheated last time, were no longer allowed to play and therefore had to wait in the sun.
On the return journey, crammed into the overcrowded ferry, I was comforted by the thought that the houmous from the hotel kitchen probably wouldn't have been enough. There are scented candles everywhere in the hotel. A guest with garlic vapours would destroy the fragrance concept. The hotel manager fears for his tie and has issued precise guidelines for the use of garlic. The gardemanger, the chef responsible for the cold dishes, is only allowed to hang one clove of garlic around his neck when preparing the houmous. As soon as he has finished, he must place it in an odour-proof garlic safe so that the strong flavour does not mask everything else.
On the way to the hotel, I went to a local supermarket and bought a year's supply of garlic. It was just one bulb. Tomorrow morning I'll play it safe. Then I'll pimp up the houmous and create my own space.