Trip Start Aug 06, 2011
144Trip End Oct 06, 2013
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To call Coimbra a university town is to do it a significant disservice- learning/teaching activities have been taking place here since the Late Middle Ages- with its decline as the political centre of the Kingdom of Portugal, Coimbra began to evolve into a major cultural centre, helped by the university formally established here in 1537. The University of Coimbra, the oldest in Portugal, and one of the oldest in Europe, attracts many European and international students (10% of the students are international)
Not everything is a testament to a higher intellect. In days gone by the Mosteiro De Santa Clara-A-Velha was built on the banks of the river – a river that was prone to flooding, so this magnificent gothic place of worship and study had to be abandoned after damage caused by, surprise, surprise, repeated floods. In a lesser version of “what-were-they-thinking” the townsfolk recently constructed a pedestrian bridge with a slightly odd art deco style. Good idea and great way to cross the river except that the coloured Plexiglas is easily damaged and smashed by the drunken morons that are, unfortunately, a part of every urban landscape particularly university towns
The rest of the town was a walk through history and, like Porto, crossing the river resulted in some amazing cityscapes. As early as the Middle Ages, Coimbra was divided into an upper city, where the aristocracy and the clergy lived, and the low city by the Mondego River, where most commercial activities took place. The city was encircled by a fortified wall, of which some remnants are still visible. The core of the old town was a series of interconnected pedestrian-only cobblestone streets which made for a very enjoyable visit. Getting dinner was a bit of a challenge given that the restaurants didn’t even open until a time at which DH (where the D stands for Do Not Disturb) likes to be dreaming about her former crime-fighting days- not sure we’ll ever get used to eating as late as most Euro’s do.