Coimbra, Portugal

The old city of Coimbra is built on a hill, with the University of Coimbra at the top.  You can see the back of the Joanine Library at the top right.  It’s interesting how virtually every usable inch of the hill has been used.  An interesting ride is to take the small electric bus from the University and ride down the narrow, winding little lanes to the bottom.  It’s almost as good as a roller coaster.

There’s a lot that I like about this picture.  I like the bright colors of the buildings and sky.  I like the clothes hung out to dry on the yellow building.  People actually live here.  I like the rough stone wall in the bottom center, topped with a precarious looking staircase.  And I like the graffiti at the bottom right of the photo.

The building in the bottom left is also interesting to me.  I like the way the window arches seem to point up to the top of the hill.  The statue on the top corner of the building is enigmatic.  Is it just there for art’s sake or does it symbolize something?

Coimbra is a fascinating city.

Old Town

Branches

Another example of how you can find beautiful things anywhere.  We have a tendency to see things at eye level.  Sometimes just changing your viewpoint can result in a rewarding photograph.  Looking up through the branches of the trees gave me this interesting view of a small piece of the world.

Old Tree

Solarization

This photo was a happy accident.  I have hundreds of photos, many of which are nothing special.  I was experimenting with this using Color Efex Pro 4, a part of the NIK Collection, a series of plugins for Photoshop.  I usually just use the plugins to clean up and enhance photos; it’s rare that I radically change a photo.  In this case, though, I was able to take an ordinary photo and turn it into something much more dramatic.

Solarized Cabin

Slave Quarters, Stagville Plantation

Stagville Plantation, in North Carolina, was one of the largest plantations in the south.  By 1860 the plantation held close to 30,000 acres and nearly 900 slaves.  These cabins are original structures and housed several dozen slave families.  The cabins were very basic- one large space with no heat, no beds, no privacy.

After the Civil War, many of the slaves stayed at Stagville as sharecroppers.  Their descendants are still residents of Durham County.

Stagville Slave Cabins

Fado ao Centro, Coimbra Portugal, March 2018

Fado is the national music of Portugal and our first experience with the music was in a small cultural center just a stone’s throw from  the Torre da Almedina, at the base of the stairs known as “the Backbreaker,” Rua Quebra Costa.

Fado ao Centro is dedicated to promoting the Coimbra style of Fado.  Coimbra Fado came about when male students at the University would stand in the narrow lanes of the city and serenade their sweethearts, who would listen from the window above.  This tradition has influenced the Coimbra style of Fado in several ways.

First, unlike the Lisbon version, only men can sing Coimbra Fado, and they should be students or former students of the University.  The performers wear the students’ traditional black suit and cape.  Second, the singer is accompanied by a Portuguese guitar and, sometimes, a classical, or Spanish guitar.  In the much more liberal Lisbon style the music is sometimes accompanied by piano, drums and other instruments.

Coimbra Fado’s songs are usually love songs, though occasionally a political protest song makes its way into the play list.  Finally, because of the intimacy between the singer and his beloved in the window above, clapping is not the way to show appreciation.  The proper way is to clear your throat, as if trying to get someone’s attention, kind of like the young girl’s father might do when discretely telling the gentleman caller to move along.  The girl would show her appreciation by turning her lights on and off several times.

The performance was wonderful.  The musicians were top notch and the music is moving.  There is a narrator who explains a little of the history of the music and what each song is about, and the room is full of photos and posters celebrating the artists who made Coimbra Fado famous.  For those interested, you can pick up CDs recorded by Fado ao Centro as well.

 

Graffiti, Aveiro, Portugal

There’s street art, with varying degrees of sophistication, all over Portugal.  It seems that wherever there’s a flat surface someone will mark it.  I saw this wall while walking back from a visit to Aveiro’s old train station.  I find the face intriguing and just a little creepy.  I don’t know the significance of the face, but it’s interesting.

Aveiro 2

Boats, Tarpon Springs, Florida

I like the rusted colors on the boats.  They’re obviously not pleasure boats, but real working vessels.    I also like the booms and lines contrasting against the blue sky.

Boats

Surf Monument, Nazaré, Portugal

There are statues and monuments all over Portugal.  Most of them memorialize people and events from Portugal’s history.  The statue in Nazaré, on the road to the Fortaleza, is probably one of the strangest monuments in Portugal.

The statue, named Veado and created by Portuguese sculptor Adália Alberto, was placed in 2016 and honors the legend of Nazaré as well as the town’s legendary status as the home to some of the best surfing and biggest waves in the world.

Veado

First, the legend.  In the fifth century, a monk named Ciriaco returned from Nazareth to the monastery of Cauliniana with a small wooden statue of Mary with the Infant Jesus which, by oral tradition, is said to have been carved by Mary’s husband, Joseph, the carpenter.  The icon remained at the monastery until 711, when invading Moorish armies defeated Christian forces.

Roderic, the defeated king, fled to the coast, accompanied by a monk, Romano, who carried the icon with him when the men fled.  When the two men reached the Atlantic, they separated, with Frei Romano living out his days, still in possession of the statue,  in a cliff-side cave overlooking what is now Nazaré.

Fast forward a few hundred years, to an early morning when a knight, Dom Fuas Roupinho, was hunting on the cliff overlooking the ocean.  The knight was in pursuit of a deer when a heavy fog suddenly descended.  The deer, blinded by the fog, ran over the edge of the cliff.  Dom Roupinho, realizing that he was very close to the grotto where the icon still remained, prayed to Our Lady to save him from certain death.  His horse, though blinded by the fog, miraculously stopped at the edge of the cliff, saving the knight from death.

So that’s the legend of Nazaré, and where the deer head comes from.  Now for the surfing.  Nazaré’s North Beach is legendary for the giant waves that come out of the Atlantic and provide some of the best big wave surfiing in the world.  In 2011, American Garrett McNamara set the world record by surfing a 78-foot wave at North Beach.  Two years later he shattered his own record by surfing a giant 100-foot wave at the same beach.

So now you know the two legends that inspired Veado, the statue overlooking Praia do Norte, in Nazaré.