Coimbra University Highlights
The Oldies are gasping at the grandeur of the medieval centre of Coimbra. They are also gasping after climbing up the hill to get there. This is one steep city! Ancient history is just oozing out of the stonework wherever you go. The narrow streets were clearly not designed with modern traffic in mind. It is hard to believe that cars actually drive up this road!
I am gasping at the fact that this relatively small city boasts not one, but two cathedrals. I had to laugh when I heard that the Sé Nova, New Cathedral, is actually over 400 years old. Somebody wasn’t looking too far into the future when they came up with that title! The décor is phenomenal. I’ve rarely seen such ornate carvings and so much gold leaf. I’ll bring sunglasses next time! I think I prefer the less opulent Sé Velha or Old Cathedral though. This one does live up to its name, as it dates back to the 12th century, and the attached cloister is a peaceful oasis in the old town centre.
I really liked this chap who was guarding a tomb there. I think he’s trying his best to look scary but he only manages to look cute and cuddly.
Good old King Dinis, we meet again! It was he who built the city wall in Lisbon, the remnant of which we saw when we visited the Money Museum (http://www.gullibletravels.net/2018/01/20/money-money-money/ ). I now learn that he also founded the University of Coimbra way back in 1290, making it one of the oldest universities in the world, and he generously gave up his royal palace to house it. It certainly is palatial. No wonder it has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Talk about studying in style! This student is waiting outside a lecture theatre. It must be hard to keep your head in the books when you are surrounded by such grandeur.
At this stage I have grown accustomed to graffiti wherever we go but I was rather shocked to see that it is as common here in Coimbra as elsewhere in Portugal. I would have thought that in a town full of well-educated humans there would be less of that sort of thing. I hope at least they get the spelling and grammar right!
Hmmm… perhaps not.
The Ceremonial Hall, where important university functions take place, is stunning. Apparently PhD oral exams are still conducted here. Gosh! Bad enough for the nerves having the portraits of the former kings of Portugal staring down at you, but having to perform in front of a panel of examiners dressed up in their academic regalia while being watched by an audience in the gallery must be quite an intimidating experience!
This lot of graduates looked most relieved to have made the grade. Don’t they look smart? Their long black cloaks have a long tradition in Coimbra. They kind of remind me of giant bats.
Speaking of which, there are plenty of bats in this college. Not only in the belfry, but, believe it or not, in the magnificent baroque Joanine Library, which houses tens of thousands of volumes from the 16th to 18th centuries. Apart from the 2.11 metre thick walls and the teak doors which help maintain a regular temperature inside the library, the oak wood of the bookcases which emits an odour which helps repel paper-eating insects, the colony of bats also play a role in protecting the books by eating any remaining insects that might otherwise eat the books. There you go. Once again, winged wildlife proves itself invaluable to you humans!
The Oldies had a whale of a time in the Science Museum, but I didn’t feel too comfortable in the old Zoology Department surrounded by all those stuffed animals. The poor things! The rooms with displays of scientific instruments from the 18th and 19th centuries were fascinating, however. The ingenuity of the human mind is, well, mind-blowing.
One thing I’ve learned in this seat of learning is: there sure is a lot to learn in Coimbra.