On our way to Lisbon from Porto, we stopped by Coimbra for the day. After a while of wandering around by bus looking for our hostel, we finally made it up to Grand Hostel Coimbra. With only a full day to visit the city, we were lucky to have a helpful staff member hand us a map and circle all the main spots. We were really impressed with the hostel we chose for our one night. It was cheap and included breakfast (a choice of cereal or toast), and the staff was accommodating and friendly.
Coimbra is a beautiful city known for its scholastic life with their university being a main attraction. What might not be known is that the whole city consists of steep hills and stairs—meaning that there’s a lot of climbing! So this is a heads up, bring a good pair of running shoes.
One of the main monuments to visit is the university that dates back to 1290. This includes, among other things, Joanina library, the Great Hall of Acts, and the S. Miguel Chapel. The maintance of the library books is the same as it was centuries ago. This means that behind the bookshelves live bats that eat the insects that might consume the pages of the old volumes.
Before arriving to Coimbra, my grandfather (who always needs to give his opinion on where to travel in Portugal) insisted I visit Fonte dos Amores (Fountain of Love). Luckily we had time to cross the bridge from the city centre to the outskirts and find the gardens of Quinta das Lágrimas (Estate of Tears) who homes the this magical foutain. My family summarized the tales of the estate for me before I arrived to Coimbra. Surprisingly, this story is not a legend, but is actually part of Portuguese history dating to the medieval ages. During the reign of King Alfonso IV there was Prince Pedro. This prince fell in love with his bride’s lady-in-coming, Ines de Castro. The two had an affair until the king ordered his men to murder her, disapproving of the relationship. When Prince Pedro was king, and his wife died in childbirth, he ordered the men who killed his lover to unearth her body so that he can properly marry her to make her his queen. The story does not end there, no, Prince Pedro demanded the men to place his queen on the throne next to him. He them promptly told them to kneel before her, and kiss his new bride’s hand out of respect. When this was done, he ordered for the murderers to be executed.
It is said that if you drink from the fountain you will have luck in some aspect of love (being it that you’ll get married, buy a house with your significant other, or the basics: to find romance). Whether it works or not, I can’t tell you yet, but it’s worth a try–at least just to say you did it. As for whether the water is potable or not, well, neither my sister or I was sick, so I’ll say it’s safe to taste!
On our way to the gardens we found the ruins of a monastery that stood in the middle ages. This area isn’t very touristic so we were lucky to not have a horde of people around us. The Mosteiro de Santa Clara a Velha was abandoned in the 17th century, about 300 years after it was built, due to the frequent floods. Today all that remain are the ruins, which are open to the public.
(The history of the Fonte dos Amores was told to me by some family memebers. But I did have to refresh my memory on certain details with the help of Wikipedia)