An hour north of Fátima is
the university city of Coimbra. Fortified on its hill, overlooking the Mondego River,
in its medieval heyday, this was Portugal’s
leading city. In the Middle Ages, when Muslim
Moors controlled Portugal, this was the dominant city, and then, for an entire century,
it was the country’s capital. Only later, when Portugal was
becoming a maritime power, did the port cities
of Lisbon and Porto become more influential
than Coimbra. The city was established
by the ancient Romans at a strategic bridge that crossed the Mondego River
at this point. Today’s bridge leads
to the main square, a great place to begin
your Coimbra visit. Coimbra is a delight on foot. The pedestrian-only main drag
is perfectly straight, an indication that it survives
from ancient Roman times. It ends at another
people-friendly square facing the church of Santa Cruz. To be sure I get the most
out of my travels here, I am joined by my friend
and fellow tour guide, Cristina Duarte. Wherever you’re traveling,
you can find private guides listed online
and in guidebooks. It seems like I’ve got friends
all over Europe, doesn’t it? But, you know, I’m paying them
to be my sidekick, and you can, too. I find hiring a private guide
to be money very well spent. Okay, so, the gate is
just this way, isn’t it? -And this is the gate
of the old city. -Of the old city.
What was the name? -Medina.
Arco de Almedina. -“Medina” is an Arabic word. -Is an Arabic word
and reminds us that we were ruled
by the Moors for a couple of centuries.
-Okay. -And defense was very important. -So —
-That’s why the street, you see, it’s not straight. It forms an angle. -Oh, okay.
-And if you look up, you have mata-caes…
-Mata-caes. -…meaning “kill the dogs,” because it was meant to throw
the stones to the enemies. -Oh, no!
-Yeah. -“Kill the dogs.”
I don’t want to be here. -[ Laughs ] -What’s this? -This is the Old Cathedral. -How do you say
that in Portuguese? -Sé Velha.
-Sé Velha. -It’s a 12th-century
cathedral, Romanesque. -So — ’cause you’ve got
the round arches. -That’s true.
-Now, it also looks like a fortress. Look at the crenellations
up there. -We were on the times
of the Moors and Christians fighting for
the same territories. -So they were still worried
about the Moors? -Oh, yes. They were.
They were. -So this is kind of
a double building — a church and a fortress? -Yes.