"Queima das Fitas" (burning of the ribbons)
The first Thursday of May marks the beginning of the University of Coimbra's "Queima das Fitas" (burning of the ribbons) celebration, and it lasts until the following Thursday. There's a variety of concerts, a ball, and a parade. Whoever wins the concerts sponsored by each faculty is awarded with a briefcase full of ribbons.
The students wear the traditional black suit, white shirt, and cape.
It is tradition to cut slits at the bottom of the finalists' capes and they must sew it up with the proper faculty color thread.
A similar ceremony exists for students graduating. These students burn narrow ribbons in chamber pots of the color corresponding to their faculty, and they exchange them for wider ones.
"Sempre em frente"
As a foreigner, I've experienced a lot of troubles with directions when living in Portugal. I doubt this is a local's way of saying "I don't know," but every time I asked walking directions to any location, they would respond with "sempre em frente." Now that loosely translates to keep going straight or just ahead. I know that most places I was trying to find weren't just straight ahead. If someone doesn't know names of streets for you to turn on, they will simply point in the general direction of where you are trying to get to and throw you a vague "sempre em frente"....Thank them graciously for their ambiguous help.
The Capela de São Miguel (Saint Michael's Chapel), part of the University of Coimbra campus, is a popular place to hold weddings. The ceremonies here are notoriously colorful and full of tradition.
The wedding guests lay out black cloaks on the ground for the newly wed couple to walk upon when they exit the chapel.....The lovely ladies line up on one side of the church entrance. They're anticipating the exit of the bride and groom. On such a scorching summer day, everyone is sweating underneath the hot Iberian sun. The couple seems to be taking their time, so everyone is dripping in perspiration by this point.
Not only flower-girls get to throw petals on the floor. After the ceremony, everyone is waiting to throw these fresh rose petals onto the black cloaks and onto the newly wedded couple.
And the lovely newlyweds finally appear in the church entrance. Everyone's burning under the sun at this point, so they're all excited that the couple has finally exited the church. The crowd cheers in excitement while the the two duck because rice and rose petals are being pelted at their heads.
Now the chanting begins. The cloaks are hoisted up into the air repeatedly, some unfamiliar (to me) songs/chants are sung, and the couple laughs as party goes about doing so. Then the couple is whisked away in their car to their reception...and the story continues on...
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Although Portugal's economy is not as strong as other Western European countries, it is far from being classified as a developing country. I was rather shocked to see the amount of people bathing in the Mondego River. I'm talking about a full-scrub, not just swimming around. It was interesting to notice the underlying poverty even in such a charming city like Coimbra.
The student robes.
At the university of Coimbra the graduate students wear the traditional kinda robes that you see in many universities around the world.
In Coimbra they have a tradition though that they get little emblems to sow on their robes.
They will typically have one from their home town, one from their school, one from their best friend, one from their parents, etc.
And when they graduate then they cut the robe to pieces, so at graduation time in the spring you will see many pieces of black clothing lying around Coimbra, especially around the university and that is because the students just graduated.
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I thought this was a student town?
While walking around Coimbra, we saw more elderly people than young people. This lady was standing there talking to her friend for about ten minutes. She would wave her hands around and gesture and the basket never budged!
Queima das Fitas
The first Thursday in May marks the beginning of the Burning of the Ribbons festival, which is a student led celebration of the end of the academic year. There are concerts and parades and more importantly, beer drinking to rival Munich's Oktoberfest.
NEVER, but really NEVER...
NEVER, but really NEVER, applaud when listening to Fado de Coimbra (typical portuguese type of music). People will be offended if you do so. Instead, if you really like what you are listening just give a slight cough on the end of each song.
Sometimes, groups of universitary students join on the street, at night, and sing fado for a couple of hours... believe me, it's worth to watch/ listen to.
QUEIMA DAS FITAS
This is a great party where people enjoy with music, drinks and food during near a week in June. I'm waiting my sister send me a photo of this cultural event. It takes place around all the cuty, and all is sound, colour and beer!!
People strongly condemn the objectives behind the building of a theme park named "Portugal dos Pequeninos" - propaganda to the nationalist regime of Salazar.
Several decades later the park remains, its political purposes are gone (most young people don't even understand how it worked) but the park keeps being attractive to children, and a nice instrument for any adult to identify the architectural difference from north to south Portugal, and even in some places where Portuguese have been and let their signs.
...And also to understand how education may be manipulated to build convictions and illusions.
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People in Coimbra treat the river with love, even forgiving its occasional excesses. That's why the river is locally called "O bazófias", which means the brag.
As a matter of fact flooding is not serious in Coimbra, but the same may not be said about the planes from the city to Figueira da Foz. A small weir is closed almost all year, giving the river a look that risks to make visitors think that its nickname is unfair.
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Long term lodging
"Republicas" is the name given in Coimbra for collective lodging managed by the students.
You have the contacts of all the known republicas in:
Many students do also rent a room, alone or with some friends. It's common to have advertising in the universities in September.
The students association - http://www.academica.pt/Default4.aspx?tabId=1865 is also a good place to search.
Both pages are only in Portuguese, but... with not start to learn right now?
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One of the most interesting traditions in Portugal is Praxa, which is basically the traditional hazing of freshman in the universities by the older students. Widely spread throughout Portugal, it was highly evident in the town that housed the oldest university (700 years).
We saw lots of silly things (such as a sort of elephant chain of 30 freshman walking in the middle of campus) and heard lots of singing which I am sure would have been hilarious if our knowledge of the language had allowed us to understand.
As with any other tradition, there are of course people who take things to far, but it seemed to be more or less enjoyed by all. Very interesting to see. This was the end of September so I imagine thats the best time to experience it.
Also, there is Quiema das Fitas (burning of the ribbons) at theend of the school year.
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Still in Piodão, in any of the shops, you can buy the traditional honey and aguardente de medronho (it's an arbutus berry brandy) - hot- and some cool craftwork.
Portugal's favorite decorative expression is the azulejo and you can see many great examples around Coimbra.
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