Even if I was tired as hell after the long day, I could not fall asleep in a bus even for a moment. Two hours and a half were slowly passing by watching through the window straight at the night till I finally reached student city Coimbra – around 200 km North of Lisbon and 120 South of Porto.
When I step out from the bus, it was around 3 a.m. – the best time to join very big students’ party in the University, where I was invited. Before getting there I needed to cross some part of the city. And my first impression was – what a hilly place! You were going down, then up, again down and again up. Not very bicycle-friendly city, I should say. And the final chord before reaching university building with a party – 150 stairs to climb. And I did it. Actually, despite one uncomfortability that they are so steep, stairs by itself are very beautiful, colourful and a real symbol of the academic community. You will be definitely climbing them if you will decide to reach the university area from the side of Praça da República.
Next day I woke up in the morning very early, probably there was not more than 4 hours of sleep. Instead of forcing myself to lay down a little bit more, I decided not to waste time and to see how the city looks like in the daylight.
I went out from the apartment and was so happy, because the road to my direction was going only downhill. On my way I accidently hit the park Jardim da Sereia, which entrance was really amazing. Then I was walking circles everywhere around, trying not to touch the centre, which I had on my plans later in the day. My attention was mainly attracted by conic roofs, what gave me very strange, unexplainable fairytale-feeling.
Later I had lunch in one vegetarian restaurant after which – once again climbing those 150 stairs up to the university area. But it was worth, because in the daylight everything was looking different. University of Coimbra is one of the oldest universities in the world, established in the end of 13 century. This place seemed a little bit magic for me, again, like from fairytale: very old architecture of buildings, spacious squares, a lot of students going around. I was just thinking, how many secrets from all the centuries these walls are hiding… The same feeling I had when I was walking around in the morning and watching all the conic roofs. When I was told that J.K.Rowling was inspired by Coimbra to take some ideas for her fantasy stories about Harry Potter from this city, all the parts of the puzzle in my head started to look like they fit. And this impression became even stronger, when later I visited Coimbra for my second time.
If you are very familiar with books, you just cannot miss the opportunity to visit the Biblioteca Joanina library, which is considered as one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. It is located in the same university area in Coimbra.
Next spot – art museum Museu Nacional de Machado de Castro. After some time passed, I can remember only its dark and cold basement floors, full of roman ruins by the way, which was like a fresh oasis in such a hot day.
I was again happy that after the museum we were continuing going downhill. This time our destination – downtown, so called Low city or Baixa de Coimbra. Very narrow streets, stairways, medieval arches, courtyards, small shops selling tiles azulejo, bars… I am a big lover of tiny streets so with each step I was amazed more and more. And yes, to have a seat in outdoor cafe while tasting a local pastry is a must.
After walking around we finally reached our energy limit and started moving back home. Unfortunately – uphill. But we refused to take any busses and did that on foot. It was just a great exercising before some surfing which was waiting next day.
When summing everything up from my first visit there, I just can point out a few things:
• Coimbra is a great city, so in my opinion really could be added as a must visit point while travelling in Portugal. Of course, if such key words like medieval downtown, hundreds of years old university, one of the most beautiful libraries in the world gives you any emotions.
• In Coimbra all the main things can be reached within walking distance. And going on foot is the best opportunity, because riding with car can create you parking problems due to lack of space, buses are … just boring, and going with a bicycle… No, it is just not possible in this city. Trust your feet, they are the best!
Read more: Portugal V: my first surfing experience