Camino Portugues Portugal

Day 10: Coimbra to Sernadelo

I had a lie in until 8 o’clock showered and packed my stuff before an OK breakfast. Today’s stage to Sernadelo was relatively short, 26kms. The stages after Lisbon haven’t been great, not particularly scenic, partly because of the time of year where there is little life in the fields, so everything is a bit grey, and partly because they aren’t particularly scenic. At breakfast I contemplated whether I should visit the world famous University and it’s library in Coimbra, or walk. I went for the University, and depending on when I finish the visit, I can walk or take a train.

I checked out and the hotel was OK to look after my bag and I set off up the steep hill towards the University and it’s library. A dog walker passed by getting a lot of attention from the few people around and about.

I visited the old cathedral ass I climbed towards the University.

Coimbra University was established in 1290 and thereby one of the oldest universities in the world and the only university in the Portuguese speaking world until 1911. I found the library, passing a number of the different faculties on the campus.

I passed Porta Ferrea, the main entrance and the insignia of the University representing the Roman goddess of wisdom.

I walked to the library, but tickets were sold at another spot on the campus, a few hundred meters away. I passed the exterior of the Royal Palace and Bell Tower from 1733. My ticket to the library was for 11.20, and included visits to the Chemistry lab (not super interesting), the Royal Palace and St. Michaels Chapel.

The old library was commissioned in 1717 and originally known as the Book House and today has over 60.000 books, most of which are written in Latin. The library consists of three floors. The ground floor is called the prison because students served time here for petty crimes. The middle floor contained books where a restricted group of staff have access, whilst the top floor contained academic books in three rooms and on 72 shelves. The room has beautiful ceilings. Bats used to protect the books from all kinds of insects. I had taken a couple of pictures before I realised that photography was forbidden.

From the library I visited the 15th century St. Michael’s Chapel, dedicated to students and with a beautiful organ.

Finally I visited the Royal Palace with its Ceremonial Hall with its amazing ceiling, and the examination room.

After seeing the Royal Palace, I walked through the University campus passing different faculties (art and sciences below) and down towards an aqueduct and the botanical gardens.

There was not a lot in bloom bloom, but it was a peaceful stroll and I even got to taste pineapple sage.

I walked back into town down the steep hills, bought a sandwich and water for lunch and picked up my stuff from the hotel. It was almost 2pm, so it was too late to start walking as the 26km would take ca. 5 hours, so I decided to take the train to Mealhada and walk the last few kilometers to Sernadelo. The ticket for the 40 minute ride to Mealhada cost less the 3 €.

At Mealhada I walked the 3 kilometers to the hotel I was staying, along a main road with lots of traffic, especially big lorries, but passing an art deco theatre and an old font dedicated to the area and not least the roast suckling pig that the area is famous for. 

I checked in and walked across the yard to the howls of a very noisy cat and shown to my room, after promising that in the morning I would leave the key in the room.

I decided to walk to the big supermarket I had passed, but sat down in the yard to write a few words to my wife. And who came in on his bicycle, the Belgian guy I had met on Saturday. We had a long chat about what had happened to him since Saturday, not least him not being allowed to sleep for free in a monastery – the one place on the Camino that this should be possible. We also had our doubts about him being allowed to sleep in this Albergue for free, as this was private. I told him to try, and if as expected the answer was negative, I’d pay. It was negative.

The area is famous for roast suckling pig, so I had it for dinner – the first time I’d eaten it since working in Madrid in the 80’s. There was a Michelin recommended restaurant across the street, perhaps I should have eaten there, as mine was OK, but not as good as I’d expected.

I went to the supermarket and bought some nuts and dried fruits to have with me, and bought a salad for my Belgium friend, so he both had somewhere to sleep and something to eat.

I went back to my room – that reminded me of a cheap 90’s motel room in the US, but for 20€ what does one expect. I got a good nights sleep.

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