Coimbra, Portugal

My original plan was to spend two full days in Lisbon. Plans change. My Lonely Planet book raved about this small town almost halfway between Porto and Lisbon. A few other things I read said the same, so I figured since no one I had spoken with LOVED Lisbon, I would take detour to Coimbra.

Now if you are like me and have never heard of this city until I mentioned it, it is a University town–home to one of oldest universities in Europe. It is also the “birthplace” to the famous Portuguese Fado music.

I arrived in the town in the early afternoon and made my way to the university. Athens, you think we have hills… Come to Portugal. I had my luggage with me and lugging that around up the hills was a lot of fun. Oh well. Worse things in the world. I made it to the university and toured the library, chapel and other famous rooms. I wish I could take pictures. The library was GORGEOUS!!! It might give Harry Potter’s library a run for it’s money. To protect the historic books, the walls are thick and random fact of keeping the books safe from insects: they keep bats in the library! The librarian covers the historic tables each night to protect from droppings and uncovers the tables from the leather tablecloths each morning. Now who would have thought about solving a pest problem that way?

On my way down the hill, I stopped by an hr show of Fado music with a 10 minute Port Wine tasting in the middle. I might be in love. It was this mix of opera/gondola/ Spanish music. Amazing! The men wear black cloaks and the group usually contains a singer, guitar player and another player than plays this special Portuguese guitar-like instrument. You would never see this in the states! One of the things that is a must in traveling: experiencing what the area or people are known for!

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