The Museu Nacional Machado de Castro here in Coimbra has an interesting location in two ways: It is situated on a hill overlooking the river and it sits over top the ruins of a Roman forum. The old compound has a semicircular structure on one end and horse stables on the other, and can be accessed through basement of the museum. The view of the city scape of Coimbra is built like an edge pool, with a central courtyard with arches opens to the town below, the dome of the cathedral rising in the distance.
After walking through the city yesterday, today we visited the museum, and looked at many of its sculptural exhibits. The staff were exceedingly helpful, perhaps because of the nature of the building straddling the ruins splitting up the display space.
Many of the buildings here are built up onto the hill. The local cathedral for example, is half way up from one a major walking artery and the museum.
Just further up the hill is the University of Coimbra, which is one of the longest continuously open universities. Of particular note is the chapel, which was built in the 1500’s, and covered in beautiful painted tiles. They give the room a cool aura as the heat outside from direct sun beat down on the university square. Another was the old library, the Biblioteca Joanina. You always hear urban legends about university libraries, but this one is of legend: It was built in the 1700’s, constructed specifically to hold books, with special wooden shelves that discourage insects and thick walls to support the shelves from earthquakes. The basement of the library has an Academic Prison, used to discipline students who disrupted class or disrespected professors or books. I’m sure some professors would love that for current millennial generation students.
The Alfa Pendular service 127 from Coimbra to Porto was few minutes late coming into the station tonight. The station here is a little unusual for one serving high speed rail: You have to be walk over tracks to get to your platform. Not only your own train passes through the crossing but also through traffic freight. The Alfa is a derivative of the FIAT ETR480 Pendolino from Italy and it tilts, carving it’s way through the Portuguese landscape.
Tonight we have made it to Porto, our last stop in Portugal for a few days before heading to Frankfurt. As we walked through this quiet Sunday evening, I looked down a street and saw the sun descending back down into horizon and the outline of church towers set against the warm sky.