Advantages Not a great deal of information available
Disadvantages Imposing and atmospheric
|Is it worth visiting?|
When I read in my guidebook that an eerie nineteenth century reservoir lay hidden beneath on of Lisbon's main squares, I was immediately intrigued and determined to visit. I love the idea of hidden and atmospheric places and this one sounded as if it was off the usual sightseeing itinerary.Finding the Museum
We wandered around the square for some time, looking for a notice - and eventually spotted some very functional looking black railings just by the fountain. Walking down these inconspicuous steps, we found ourselves in the tiny museum reception area, where a friendly curator sold us our tickets.History
Buying our tickets from the tiny kiosk, we walked down the steps into the echoing reservoir, and found that we were the only visitors. Initially I was thrilled by the enormous stone columns, the mysterious tunnels and the sound of dripping water.
The size of the reservoir takes your breath away; the stone arches that support the roof of the reservoir rest on thirty one imposing grey columns, each 9.25 metres high.The reservoir consists of three galleries, the first is three meters deep, the second is below that and the third is very far down and cannot be accessed. The bottom gallery is illuminated by floor lights so that you can see the thin sheen of water that covers the ancient stone. The two top galleries are accessed by a series of iron stairs and walkways. As we walked around the galleries we could see the occasional small tunnel stretching back into the darkness, some of these were filled with water and some of them were dry. Ambient music playing in the background added to the sense of mystery.
In the middle some remnants of Victorian engineering remained, in particular a large and well preserved steam engine that was used to provide electricity.The walkways are often used to house cultural and artistic exhibitions, and when we visited we were able to view a photographic exhibition on Lisbon life as we walked around.
Although I was pleased to have seen this rather mysterious and hidden museum, I did feel ultimately a bit disappointed by my visit. This could have been due to the complete lack of information about the place; I was not clear what the galleries used to do and where the tunnels led. We were not offered information in any language when we arrived and there were no information signs around the museum.
This was however only one part of the entire Water Museum - a fact that I did not realise at the time. The Water Museum consists of four different sites that formed the core of the Lisbon water supply network, itself some 60 km long. The sites are: the Barbadinhos Steam Pump Station; two storage reservoirs (one of which is this reservoir); and the Águas Livres Aqueduct. Perhaps if I had realised this, or had the time to visit all the parts of the site, I would have got a little more out of the experience.Prices and Opening Hours
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