Coimbra, a city closely interwoven with its university - one of the oldest in Europe. The institute was founded in 1290, but only permanently established in Coimbra since the 16th century. Today, thousands of students come from all over the world to reside in this small town for one or more years. When we went there, the students had already headed home for summer and tourists were now climbing the steep stairs and winding alleys of the old town. However, even with the academic community absent, when wandering through the majestic buildings of the university, one cannot but feel the spirit of education and echo’s of a momentous history.
In the 11th century, Coimbra was a main point of contact between the country’s muslim south and christian north. Due to this juxtaposition, the city became home to an important Mozarabic community. Today, the observant wanderer can still catch a glimpse of Moorish influences in the architecture from that time.
At the foot of the old town flows the river Mondego, the most vibrant ‘green’ space in the city. From dusk until dawn, people come here to take off in elegant rowing boats or to work out on the riverbanks. We spent hours here, admiring the perfect synchronised movements of the rowing teams against the dramatic background of the medieval city, shining in the evening sun.