I found out quickly that Coimbra is an easy city to enjoy. It is small and manageable, plus the people are friendly and helpful. My main objective was to visit Coimbra University, the oldest and most prestigious university in Portugal. On the way I found a hidden geometric treasure. On the map it was merely labeled as a fountain. Since I’m a fan of fountains, I made sure I walked by. The structure was small, hidden between other buildings. I instantly knew this would be perfect for the students to work with during the 3-D unit. It had pure forms of cylinders, prisms and cones, lovely for surface area formulas. Plus with the fountains in the middle and along the sides it would be great for calculating volume. Don and I spent a long time in this area taking measurements, videos and photos. Another great find that I stumbled upon!
We then hiked up a very large hill to search for the university. We first found an enormous cathedral with a constant flow of brides and grooms. We continued on to look for a view of the city but instead found a museum that looked interesting. It was a two story structure the Roman’s had built in this extremely steep area to provide a flat area for a meeting place. It was really amazing to walk through it and imagine how it had been used so long ago.
From here we finally made it to the Coimbra University, the oldest and most prestigious in Portugal. We toured the chapel, library, and other meeting rooms. I was especially impressed by the library. It was beautifully decorated and the books were so old! They only open the doors every 10 minutes, which keeps the humidity level low and protects the aging books.
After a hike back down to the rest of the town and eating a local specialty for lunch, goat stew (yum!), it was time for a break. Later that evening we went out to see a Fado performance. Fado is the traditional music of Portugal. As our singer that night put it, ‘Fado is sad music, sung by happy people.’ It usually consists of a few string instruments including the Portuguese guitar, and one or two singers. We lucked out because our singer not only had an amazing voice, but he also explained the style of music and meaning of each song. He sat with us during the intermission and we chatted for quite a while. He talked about his love for Portugal and his deep sadness about their economic difficulties. He was so warm and open, a joy to talk to.