We decided to hop on the “hop on-hop off” Red Bus tour in Lisbon. With Ginger’s bargaining skills, we were able to get our tickets validated for 3 days, quite helpful. Oddly enough, we had the same bus driver and salesman each time we hopped on, in much different parts of he city. They seemed as surprised as us to keep seeing each other!
The first time we got on, we quickly got off; it was just after “New Avenues”, a wide boulevard with many well known shops. I love that something named ‘New’ was built in the 19th century.
The Red Bus tour was telling us about Portuguese bull fighting, and we were passing the stadium, Campo Pequeno. It’s an Arabic style building where most of the action happens.
What the Red Bus was was telling us was that in Portuguese bull fighting, men wrestle the bull and they do not kill him. We asked the driver to let us off and successfully bought a couple nose bleed seats. Without the Red Bus tour, we would have completely missed out on this opportunity.
This was also the evening we first tasted green wine with our fabulous casual dinner across from the stadium. Green wine is delicious. It is dry, light, crisp, refreshing and lightly sparkling. Green wine is more aptly translated to ‘young’ as it has been bottled within a year or less. Why are people so obsessed with aged wine? After drinking the obligatory post-meal espresso, we rushed to get to our seats.
The view was great. Even though our seats were high up, we could see everything. The performers come out to greet the audience.
While all the performers were on the field, the horses and their riders, cavaleiros, demonstrated dressage, horse dancing. After this grand entrance the real show began.
I was not prepared. I spent more than half my life as a vegetarian and I do not like cruelty against animals. The Red Bus told me they don’t kill the bulls! The bus didn’t tell me that the bulls would still bleed from the cavaleiros’ javelins. It was pretty horrific and all set to live music from a band. The band did an awesome job, mirroring their music to the rising and falling action.
Most impressive was the horses. The fact that they didn’t freak out, but calmly and repeatedly ran towards the bulls and then successfully escaped them as well.
Once all the javelins are in the bull, the forcados enter the ring. These are the eight men that the Red Bus told us about. The audience goes totally hush. The first forcado in line moves forward, no weapon, no cape, then he claps and calls out to the bull, instigating the bull to run at the line of men. Once the bull is subdued, a bunch of brown cows are marched out, with bells on, and these help herd the bull off the field.
The ending was definitely the best part. Discussing it later with some Portuguese guys, they told me that these bulls live totally relaxed, free range lives for 4-6 years before entering the ring. Cattle are about 2 years old before slaughter. You cannot train a bull to fight, because then it learns strategy. Despite my shock, I’m glad I went.