Coimbra, located half way between Lisbon and Oporto in the north, served as Portugal’s capital in the Middle Ages, but is better known for its university, one of the oldest in Europe.
The city was invaded by Germanic tribes in 465 and then again three years later. Roman soldiers arrived in 586 and remained until 640. Later, Visigoths showed up, pillaging the city, followed by Moors in 711 who governed until 1064 at which time Ferdinand I of Leon vanquished them.
The university of Coimbra was relocated from Lisbon in 1308 and now occupies the top of the hill overshadowing the city.
In the first half of the 19th century Coimbra was invaded by French troops, but recovered its importance in the second half with improvements due to the arrival of telegraph, gas, electricity, and the railway connecting Lisbon with the north.
Located on the Mondego River, Coimbra is a typical medieval city laid out on the slopes of the mountain leading to the university where 20000individuals form Brazil, Mozambique, Angola, and other former colonies of Portugal are educated.
The university campus alone is worth a visit. Its library richly decorated with huge paintings of Portuguese rulers and captains who discovered many continents and regions all over the world, is a treasure trove of old books.
The old lecture and eating halls are worth a long visit to capture the atmosphere of old learning centres. The library has only a few computers and students are encouraged to consult books, unlike in North American universities.
The Old Cathedral (Se Velha), New Cathedral (Se Nova), Santa Clara-a-Velha Convent, Museum of Science, the Old quarters below the university, and Peuedo da Sandade’s beautiful gardens constitute the sightseeing of Coimbra.
The Medieval town with is narrow streets, small; typical Portuguese houses demonstrate how people lived centuries ago. Today the facades remain the same, but interiors contain indoor plumbing, modern kitchens, TV and every modern amenity imaginable.
Sitting on a park bench on the Mondego River on a sunny summer day is a pleasure that every tourist will enjoy.
Coimbra is easily accessible by express train from Lisbon or Oporto, by bus from either direction, or by car.
Many hotels offering different levels of comforts at reasonable prices are available.
If you happen to be visiting Lisbon or Oporto and can afford two days to visit Coimbra, take advantage of the opportunity. You are likely to enjoy a unique experience.
|Writer – Hrayr Berberoglu – E-mail – Read his books?
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