A Hospital for Dolls

Earlier this month, I was in Lisbon for a conference but managed to squeeze in a few days to get to know the charming city. Although my time was short, I tried to explore as many of the must-see spots as possible but also made sure to get off the beaten path to get to know the “quirkier” side of the city.

One such spot was the Hospital de Bonecas (or Doll Hospital): a hauntingly, enchanting collector’s toy store and doll repair shop located on the busy Praça da Figueira square.

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Once upon a time there was an old lady who long ago, when still there weren’t cars in the streets, used to sit at the entrance door of a herbs shop making cloth dolls. That shop stood near a market. At that time, children always accompanied their parents or grandparents when they needed to go to the market. If was an amusing activity, as much as it is nowadays to go to a shopping centre or, perhaps, even more.

There were ducks, rabbits, chicken, pigeons, colourful fish, fruit, flowers. All these products made a dramatic mixture of sounds and smells together with bunches of carrots and smelly cabbages. Children were not afraid of getting lost. Everybody knew each other by their names and Lisbon seemed to be a small town.

So, now and then, mornings were spent near miss Carlota, looking at the dolls she used to make. Sometimes, people referred to the “illnesses” of their own dolls and the old lady had always a word which might “treat” them. This was, i think, the very beginning of The Doll Hospital.

Years went by and the market moved away. Children became adults – mums and grannies – who, by their turn, told their children about a small shop where time seemed to stop and children, without being hurried, could roleplay whenever they liked. We are still doing the same even today.

Source: Hospital de Bonecas

When you first walk into the “hospital”, it’s not much of a hospital-hospital. It’s more like a collector’s toy store featuring more trinkets for a doll house than most people have in their actual homes. All carefully prepared and detailed to the micro-brush stroke. It’s hard not to appreciate the artistry behind it.

But I was not there to meet the healthy, shiny dolls: they would find welcoming homes soon. I was there to visit the “patients”, those in need of some extra TLC and those the world may have forgotten. Those once loved, but still lovable.

A small entrance fee of 2€ and into this world I entered:

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The resident “surgeon” at work.

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Carefully-labeled: each doll comes with a story and history.

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Religious figures have their own shelf and tend to have broken hands for some odd reason.

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The operating table.
Getting repaired in time for  the Christmas season.
Getting repaired in time for the Christmas season.
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Looking at the outside world in a land where time stands still.
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Extra parts for surgery.
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Some of the dolls being treated are far from their original home.

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The oldest doll in their collection made of painted paper mâché (it has cracked off with the passage of time).

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DollHospital-1183* Thank you to the guide who patiently waited as I took all these shots during my visit.

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One thought on “A Hospital for Dolls

  1. What a fascinating/creepy place. It reminds me of the restorer in Toy Story 2. We once found a huge stuffed bear outside that we wanted to adopt but it was dirty so we brought it to a dry-cleaner. However, they said they didn’t do things that big, so with much sadness, we put him back on the garbage pile.

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