Starting a New Year in Coimbra

Coimbra, Portugal

Wishing everyone the best in 2017!!

Last night was New Year’s Eve, and there was a band playing down by the main square with fireworks at midnight. They also closed the bridge and street in front. Lots of people eating candy floss and popcorn, but the stands for beer and wine were hopping. They were also selling whole bottles of champagne along with the glow sticks.

Coimbra. Here we go again, another lovely town of windy cobbled streets, hills and vistas…
And though similar to Lisbon, I found it’s smaller size meant I could occasionally say “I know where I am” after a day!

Coimbra had it’s time with the Moors, was the capital, but know is mainly defined by it’s university which brings in 25,000 students. And what a university! Founded in 1290, it dominates the town from it’s hilltop. If you look at the pictures, it’s bell tower is the tallest structure you will see.

Buildings have been added and changed over the years, but the main sites to see are the library, Grand Hall and St Micheal’s Chapel which are all located on the Old University Courtyard which has a great view of the city.

King John’s Library or Biblioteca Joanina (from King Joao ‘John’) is breathtaking. 30,000 books from before 1755 in Europe’s best surviving Baroque libraries – just google it to see the gold, wood, painted ceilings. The also keep resident bats to eat insects that might harm the books…

The Grand Hall is where the major ceremonies like graduations are held. Next door there is a former stateroom where oral exams are held while surrounded by paintings of past university rectors. Not intimidating!

St Micheal’s Chapel is rich and opulent with more gold. This gold was all from Brazil, which was a Portuguese colony for years. The exotic wood tables in the library were also made from South American woods. There have been constant reminders of exploiting colonies throughout Spain and Portugal during their ’empire’ building…

Fado is a soulful, blues type of singing that is usually done by women in Portugal while the men are accompanying. (like Spain has it’s Flamenco). The university was originally only men, so a different type of Fado developed here where they would serenade and woo the women of town. I went to a performance at a centre of university alumni and students, who work hard to keep the tradition alive. Very haunting and operatic, with unique guitars.

Off to Porto tomorrow.

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