Favorite thing: The funniest thing about this steep and narrow coblestone street is its name - backbones bracker. It's easy to understand why. Hidden below heavy construction, it has a long history, serving as the main passage from the high to the low city, in the students' acess to the university.
the love story of D. Pedro and Dª Inês is the most romantic episode of the portuguese history and some of it took place in Coimbra. I'll try to resume it:
Prince Pedro of Portugal was about to marry Princess Constanza of Spain.When Constanza arrived in Portugal, Inês de Castro, the daughter of a Castilian landed aristocrat accompanied her as her lady-in-waiting. Pedro fell in love with Inês very quickly and the two conducted an affair until Constanza's death in 1345. The scandal of this affair caused King Afonso(Pedro's father) to banish Inês from court, but this did not end the relationship since the two began living together in secret. This period was when Pedro began giving Inês' brothers important positions at court. This behavior alarmed King Afonso and made him believe that upon his death the Portuguese throne would fall to Castilians. This is the official motive behind Afonso's next actions: he sent three men to find Inês and murder her in 1355. Pedro's rage at the murder of his love is what supposedly sparked his desire to revolt against his father. This revolt lasted from 1355 until 1356 when Afonso defeated his son. One year later, in 1357, Afonso died and Pedro succeeded the throne.
The three men who killed Inês had escaped to Castile, but Pedro arranged for them to be exchanged with Castilian fugitives residing in Portugal. One man escaped, but the other two were brought to justice, and is said that Pedro ripped their hearts out with his own bare hands.
Legend holds that Pedro later had Inês' body exhumed and placed on a throne, dressed in rich robes and jewels, and required all of his vassals to kiss the hand of the deceased "queen". This has never been proven, but what is known is that Pedro did have Inês' body exhumed from her resting place in Coimbra and taken to Alcobaça where her body was laid to rest in the monastery. Pedro had two tombs commissioned for the monastery, one for each of them. The tombs still exist today; they are images of Pedro and Inês facing each other, and inscribed on the marble is "Até o fim do mundo..." or "Until the end of the world..."
D. Pedro and Dª Inês used to get together in the "quinta das lágrimas" garden and it was there that the three men killed Dª Inês. where they used to meet is now the "Fonte dos amores" (Love funtain) and where she was killed is now the "Fonte das lágrimas" (tears fountain). It reaaly deserves a visit.
Largo da Portagem
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There is another at the University (Praça da Porta Ferrea)
The Largo da Portagem seems to be the hub of the old city and from it you have easy access to the main pedestrian way, the little mini-buses that circle the old city, taxis one of the Tourist Information offices. The TI is just on the corner to the right as you face the Largo with your back to the river. They are very helpful and have excellent maps of Coimbra.
Fondest memory: Standing tall over the square is a statue of a 19th century prime minister who shut down the cities convents and monasteries and was given the title of "friar killer."
I could have put this as a warning but it is not dangerous. I do not recommend trying to drive in Coimbra. For one thing, the streets are narrow and twisty and very difficult to find your way around. For another the streets do not all have large lovely signs like the one in my photo. In fact, if you get away from the old center it appears that some have no signs at all. Even if they do, they are too small to read especially in a moving car and it is worse at night. To illustrate my point, one night we set out in the car as my wife had a broken toe and we weren't sure how far our chosen restaurant was. I got lost very quickly, then got in the wrong lane which put me on a freeway crossing the river out of town. Once across the river I took the first exit thinking I could find a way to reverse direction. For the next hour and a half we wandered the dark, narrow, hilly, twisting streets of suburban Coimbra before finding my way back to the hotel. We gave up the restaurant that night but I scouted it out the next day and we walked to it from our hotel - about a 10 minute stroll! The old city is really easy to navigate on foot and there are alternatives to climbing the steep hills but an automobile is not a good on
Fondest memory: Probably our most enjoyable evening was at the restaurant I mentioned above, the Diligencia with it wonderful Fado singers. On the streets and at the TI you will be given fliers concerning Fado at "a Capella" which is a 14th Century chapel that has been turned into a piano bar. We did not go here but a couple at our hotel said it was very good.
This is really information rather than a tourist tip but I thought I'd include it anyway.
In 1917, Lucia de Jesus dos Santos, was one of 3 children who claimed to see the Virgin at Fatima. The children claimed to have seen 3 prophecies about key 20th Century events. The first was a vision of hell, the second was World War 2 but the third was kept a secret until May 2000.
The third and final vision was interpretted as the assasination attempt on the Pope in 1981. The Vatican only revealed their interpretation of the vision after gaining permission from Dos Santos. She was, at the time, the only surviving member of the 3 children who saw the vision in 1917, the other 2 died of influenza in 1919 and 1920.
Dos Santos was nun at Carmelite Convent and died on 12th February 2005 at the age of 97.
the narrow streets of Coimbra provide for a great place to take interesting photographs using shadows/light reflections/whatnot.
Wander around with your camera and get lost in the labyrinth of streets.
Favorite thing: I appreciate the fact that this city has maken the most of its space. I love strange-shaped buildings. You know, triangle, obliques, etc. Coimbra is full of many buildings built to fit corners. Skinny, tall, square, small, Sara loves them all!
Favorite thing: I know I complained about the lack of people in Coimbra in August in my introduction, but I would like to modify that statement just a bit. Sure, the city dies down because a huge majority of the population (aka students) are on vacation. The streets are still full of locals, and I found these old-timers to be very intriguing. I encountered many old women who have lived in Coimbra their entire lives, and they were friendly and helpful. They were great conversationalists.
Favorite thing: Wander around the hilly streets of Coimbra. After hours of climbing up and down stairs you will be exhausted. There's many interesting shops lining the narrow stone streets. There's also plenty of opportunities to trip and fall down some of these treacherous stairs!
The main entrance to Coimbra (Largo da Portagem) is situated at the bottom of a large hill. To reach the botanical gardens or the University, you have to hike up the steep hill. It's a bit of a workout, but it's good for you (as long as it's not 35 C outside and you feel like you're going to collapse from heat stroke)
Wear sturdy walking shoes.
Fondest memory: Walking through the University of Coimbra campus, you will encounter typical "student graffiti." I've noticed this at any Portuguese campus, and I find the petty crime rather entertaining. These graffiti works are far from pleasant looking; they are not the aesthetically pleasing works that one would hope. This student graffiti always has themes of revolution (against the institution and society), of racism, of lies, of yearnings for reform. Although sometimes a bit tactless, I find them interesting to read.
Favorite thing: All over the country you'll find wonderfull tiles, some of them very old. Coimbra is no exception, sou you'll find them all over the city. The tiles i show in my pictures belong to the XVIII century and are quite well preserved.
Favorite thing: Coimbra is famous above all for its ancient university: one of the world's first. Coimbra consists of an upper and lower town. The bridge, Ponte de Santa Clara, crosses the Mondego River and leads onto the main square, Largo da Portagem, at its north-east bank. From here the lower town spreads out principally along the busy and happening Rua Ferreira Borges to the next main square, Praca do Comercio.
Favorite thing: It is because of its imperfections why I love this country so much. Because not everything is new and shining; because its apparent ugliness does nothing but enhance its evident beauty. Coimbra is a remarkable example of this symbiosis between the old and the new. Just take a little time to look around you; Portugal is a country that rarely disappoints to those who know how to look at it.