My middle stop in Portugal was a day in Coimbra, a “college town” best known for the Universidad de Coimbra, one of the oldest universities in Europe. The Universidad was built in an old royal palace, gifted from the King in order to create a world-class university. It stands on top of a hill overlooking the city, clearly separating the students from the population, and was connected only by the Stairway of Minerva (in Greek, the goddess Athena, goddess of wisdom). Founded in 1290, it certainly has its fair share of interesting traditions. “Republicas” function as fraternity houses, doctorate students wear vampire-esque robes (which are never to be washed in their 4 years of daily wear – eww – symbolizing the accumulation of knowledge) and a year-end burning of the year’s course materials. But they don’t have a Rock or Lakefill!
One of the highlights is the Biblioteca Joanina – recently selected as one of the 25 Most Beautiful Libraries in the world. Bats are housed in the library to prevent paper-eating insects from feasting on this centuries-old collection, which can still be accessed by researchers. Since photos are prohibited inside the library, I offer you Google Images here, here, and here.
Next stop, Lisbon!