Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Finally, Iberia!

I had never been to any part of the Iberian peninsula before today.  I am in Portugal this week to observe a Canadian/NATO exercise: Trident Juncture.  Tis the largest NATO exercise in quite some time--36k NATO troops/sailors/airfolk* are participating.  What does it mean to observe?  Damned if I know.  The last time I observed was the airshow in Bagotville, Quebec, and it was pretty much like any other airshow except I got to talk to pilots the day before.  And since they had just returned from the first rotation of pilots flying over/dropping bombs on Libya, it was pretty handy for the book--helped chapter eight to nearly write itself.

Anyhow, I will be able to say more tomorrow about what observing an exercise entails.  What I can say is that Lisbon is a beautiful city, and I am learning much.

For instance, I have learned that the various cashier types hate being given a 20 euro bill for charges between 3-10 Euro.  I have no idea why, but it meant that one pastry shop would not sell me anything, and that the Military Museum people were less than thrilled with me (more on that in a moment).

The first new experience was the bus from the airport to downtown: heaps more singing than I expected.  It might not be normal, but these folks (see pic to the right) really seemed to be enjoying themselves as they prepared to go to some sports event (just a guess).  Otherwise, the driving/roads were pretty ordinary--not the dangerous chaos I have expected out of southern Europe (ok, Italy).

The second thing that startled me was a heap of hammer/sickle posters.  Turns out that the Portuguese Communist Party was part of a Democratic Unity Coalition (CDU but unlike any CDU I ever heard of--not Christian Democrats) that got 8% of the vote in the recent election, and the Commies (sorry, can't help myself) like the old and classic symbols. 

The hills that are Lisbon do increase the workload for tourists who like to walk to see a city.  However, given all of the narrow, twisting roads with only some signage, the hills were handy as I could tell which direction I was going in (uphill or downhill) and find my way around, more or less.

Biggest scale I have seen--
for making artillery?
I did go to the Portuguese Military Museum because I was curious about what would be in such a place, given Portugal's lack of much military history of late.  I learned that Portugal was involved in World War I, on the side of the French and the British, coming in later than those countries but earlier than the US.  They lost more than 7000 soldiers in that war, not as bad as most but still not good.  Otherwise, the museum had some stuff from the 1600s and then lots of helmets and swords and guns from the 1800s and lots of cannons since I guess this used to be the Museum of Artillery.  The striking omission was anything post WWI.  Not a single exhibit unless I missed something--which is quite possible.

Finally, to get back to the hotel, I took the metro which, like pretty much any other subway system, put the DC Metro to shame.  Fast, frequently, easy to figure out.  I was amused to see that the word used to describe the pink line from downtown to the airport is called Vermelha. 

Anyhow, more about CAF/NATO exercises tomorrow.

*  Soldiers and sailors are gender neutral terms, but airmen is not.  What is a good term fo rhose folks employed by air forces that is not male?  And pilots will not do since there are plenty of people in air forces that do not pilot aircraft.


Mrs. Spew said...

You call them air fighters, and the pilots you call pilots. But right now, I think they're just using airmen and airwomen because brain farts.

Ubique said...

Airmen and women.

Ubique said...

Also in Canada, always sailors, soldiers and airmen and women in that order.

Steve Saideman said...

Airmen and women is too long. We need a shorter term.

SamStanton said...

Good question Steve, when I served everyone (pilots, mechanics, cooks, etc.) was called an airman regardless of gender. I never thought of it as being gender specified as mankind does not mean only the male of the species, but all of us regardless of gender. Airperson seems dumb, airmen and airwomen too long.