My enduring memory of Coimbra (pronounced Quee-eem-bra), where I’ve stayed two days to experience this ancient city whose roots go back nearly two thousand years and to rest my sore feet, include listening to Fado concerts twice at à Capella – a restaurant and miniature concert venue located inside a former 13th century church – and once at Casa de Fado. I’ve fallen in love with Fado.

Fado is the signature music of Portugal – a form of music sung and played by male students to serenade their girlfriends. The Fado from Coimbra is distinctively different from the Fado of Lisbon, but they share similar roots. The Fado of Coimbra is strongly attached to the university, where students create new songs each year. Fado involves one or more male singers, a guitarist who plays what is essentially the Spanish guitar, and another who plays the Portuguese Fado guitar, which has 12 strings.

The other highlight of yesterday morning was attending Mass at the Santa Cruz Church, which dates to the 12th century. It’s amazing to worship with the locals in a church that has served the community for over 800 years, which is more than three times the age of our country. There is a real sense of holiness to be found in this church. I later explored the cloister and other parts of this church where St. Antony of Padua, who grew up in Portugal, studied to become a priest.

There’s much to be seen and enjoyed in Coimbra. If you’re coming to Portugal, add it to your list of places to visit. Be prepared to climb some steep streets.

With love and prayers from Portugal,
Marek