Gregory T. Wilkins
December 3, 2018 -- Count Down
My countdown to Portugal has begun. That feeling of closure started approximately 2 weeks ago. I do love planning for a trip-- books, forums, periodicals, travel blogs, etc. I started planning this trip later than some; I started in the summer. The more I read, the more I got excited.
Summer 2018, I was in Munich and Prague. I chatted with other travelers and about what I should do this winter. I was in Prague when I made my decision. The gentlemen that worked at the hostel said he lived there for a while with his girlfriend. He said if I liked Prague I would also love the country of Lisbon--rich in history, architecture, and art...and so the adventure began. The art and art history is going to particularly helpful in my work as an artist. Portugal as we know it started many millenia ago. It was fought over for centuries all the way to the prehistoric period. Moving into more modern times, it was a blood bath for Celtics, Romans, Visgoths, and Germanic people. Moors held tightly onto its grasp, as Christians fought to take control of the land in the 8th century. It was not until the the 15th and 16th century did it come into its empire status--military, economic, political. It was during the Age of Discovery that they sailed the globe and monopolized the spice trade. Their empire continued up until recent times when in 1999 they returned the Island of Macau to the Chinese--considered the longest lived empire on Earth. Today, it is considered the 4th most peaceful country on Earth according to the Global Peace Index.
I am excited to explore the countryside and cities--Lisbon, Sintra, Coimbra, Porto, etc. My month is going to fly away from me. Below is my itinerary.
Portugal December 7, 2018 to January 5, 2019 ITINERARY
December 7, 2018 MSP to Lisbon, Portugal Depart 10:04 a.m. Aer Lingus, Flight 5382 Minneapolis, MN (MSP) Terminal 2 I will fly from MSP to Boston to Dublin to Lisbon.
December 8, 2018 AV Lisbon: 10:05 a.m.
December 8 – 12 Lisbon (day trip to Evora & visit University of Lisbon) Be Lisbon Hostel Rua Pascoal de Melo, 127 B, 1º Esq, Lisbon 1000-232
December 12 – 16 Sintra Casa Azul Hostel Rua Capitão Mário Alberto Soares Pimentel December 16 – 18 Tomar Hostel 2300 Thomar Rua Serpa Pinto 43
December 18 - 22 Coimbra – visit University of Coimbra Serenata Hostel Largo da Se Velha 21
December 22 – 27 Porto – visit University of Porto (side trip to Braga and Mafra) BlueSock Hostel Rua de Sao Joao, 40 December 27 – January 4 Be Lisbon Hostel Rua Pascoal de Melo, 127 B, 1º Esq, Lisbon 1000-232
January 4, 2019 Depart 6:45 p.m.: Lisbon Airport Aer Lingus, Flight 487
January 5 Arrive MSP: 5:16 p.m. Aer Lingus, Flight 6325 3:50pm Sat Jan 5 , 2019 Chicago, IL (ORD) Terminal 1 5:16pm Sat Jan 5 , 2019 Minneapolis, MN (MSP) Terminal 1 Operated by: United
December 8, 2019
Lisbon is the capital and the largest city of Portugal, with an estimated population of 500,000+. Including its surrounding communities, the population is 3 million (27% of the country). It is the 11th most populous area in the EU. Lisbon is the political centre of the country and hosts the seat of government and Head of State. Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in the world, and one of the oldest in Western Europe, predating modern European capitals such as London, Paris, and Rome by centuries. Lisbon has always been a place I have wanted to visit--rich in history, culture, architecture, etc. It is one of those cities that I think the average American does not think much about when it comes to Europe. It gets overshadowed by Paris, London, and Rome. Most people have no idea what they are missing. It's a best kept secret--not forgetting of the course the fantastic climate. And in comparison to other European cities, it is affordable. I am staying at Be Lisbon Hostel for 4 nights. I will meet up with a former, international student from MSU, Mankato (Simon Thiele). Simon is from Germany. We had hoped to reconnect while I was visiting Munich this past summer. I was in Bavaria, and he lived too far away. Simon saw my Facebook posting that I was going to be in Portugal. He is studying in Spain at the university, and he will take a bus to Lisbon. He wanted to know if I wanted someone to travel with me. I told him I would enjoy the company. I sent him my itinerary. He is going to pal around with me for a week in Lisbon and Sintra before heading back to Germany. I usually travel solo, and it should be interesting to have a companion for a short bit (one week). Lucky for him too, Simon was able to get a room in the same hostels I am staying. Here's to an adventure!
****************************************** Last night I was sick...not just a little sick but super sick--barfing and diahhrea. It must have been food poisoning. I ate at the University Dining Center - Morooccan chicken, rice, and chickpeas. I had cantelope, ice cream, and a slice of cake with two glasses of Pepsi. All was well until mid-afternoon when my lower stomach did not feel one hundred and ten percent. By 6 p.m., I had my first bout of diahhrea, and it continued throughout the evening. At 6:30 p.m., I decided to go to bed and no sooner had I laid down did I feel like I was going to toss my cookies. Yep, up it came into the bathroom sink. My entire lunch filled the sink. I prayed that it would pass because I was going to be up by 3:15 a.m. so I could be out out the door by 4 a.m. This is no way to start a vacation, especially knowing that I was going to be on multiple airplanes. I packed an extra pair of undies in my backpack to be on the safe side. Going to Lisbon -- MSP to Boston to Dublin to Lisbon - left Mankato at 4 a.m. on 12/7/18 and arrived to Lisbon at 10 a.m. on 12/8/18. ****************************************
Pasteis de nata were created in the 17th century by Catholic monks at Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon, and they have been going strong ever sinnce. Originally based in France, the monks brought the recipe with them. In the ol' days, convents and monasteries used egg-whites for starching clothes, such as nuns' habits. It was common to use the leftover yolks to make cakes and pastries, resulting in the proliferation of sweet pastry recipes throughout the country.
Following the extinction of religious orders and in the face of the impending closure of many of the convents and monasteries in the aftermath of the Liberal Revolution on 1820, the monks started selling pastéis de nata at a nearby sugar refinery to bring in some revenue. In 1834, the monastery was closed and the recipe was sold to the sugar refinery, whose owners in 1837 opened the Fábrica de Pastéis de Belém, right outside Lisbon about 6 clicks. The descendants own the business to this day. The pastry can be found throughout the country in the Christmas season. It is tart made of custard and is browned on top. It is a perfect snack on a tea tray.
The subway system known as the Metro connects throughout the city. The stations are each unique with art work and fancy tile designs. I rode the red line from the airport into the city. Walking up and into the light, one of the first observations is the graffiti covered walls and windows. Sadly, most of the street tags are bland at best. The state supported art in each of the subways is nice. There is a particular focus on the tiles--the most famous being the blue/white tiles. Modern work and relief sculpture is inspirational to me as an artist as I have much to learn about the process. The tile work reminds me sorta of my new paper pieces I made with paint and sewing thread as it tells a story. I look forward to discovering new pieces around the corner.
COSTS: Hostel for 4 nights - $73 USD (includes breakfast and internet) Hostel City tax $4E Metro card - 10E groceries - Baby Bell Cheese pack, prusuitto, pastry (chocolate croissant, pasteis de nata), chocolate bombom box - $7.50E
December 9 - 12, 2018 - Lisbon, the Journey Begins
I survived the Minnesota State Mankato stomach virus/food poisoning and all is now in order. When I arrived on December 8 to find Be Lisbon Hostel, I used their directions they sent but had little luck. I walked up one end and back the next trying to find the street they told me to turn down. I walked all the way to the end of the red line, turned back to my original starting point, went the other way, and then back again. I gave up on option #1. I then went with option #2, and it went well. The walking back and fourth put another 45 minutes onto my schedule, but I arrived intact, minus an emerging blister on my right foot where my wool sock slipped and rubbed my skin raw. Check-in was at 2 p.m. and so sat about for over an hour + reading email.
Be Lisbon Hostel is a couple of years old, and is clean, quiet, awesome bathrooms, great hot water in the showers with fantastic water pressure, has modern rooms with each bunk having a privacy curtain, bed light, and drawer that is electronic lock activated with your room key. Joy! I really lucked out. My research paid off--planning makes a difference. The one thing I have noticed is how much graffiti there is in Portugal...and it's not even good graffiti. It is tags of names and scribbles. It reminds me of a stray dog pissing on every wall and bush. It does not matter what the statement is; it's pure crap. Nothing artful or redeeming quality other than visual garbage that does nothing for the common good. I find this very tacky. Sadly, it is not in a place here and there. It is everywhere.
As an artist, I hope my work can be more involved and rich with texture. I want people to be pulled into it versus repulsed. With my current paintings, I use spray paint to build a quick layer of paint and build upon it as images develop and respond to the medium I am using. The graffiti here will definitely impact my work as an artist as I develop my ideas and give my own art structure.
The Jeronimos Monastery is a former monastery of the Order of Saint Jerome near the Tagus river in Belém, in the Lisbon. It was secularized on 28 December 1833 by state decree, and its ownership transferred to the charitable institution, Real Casa Pia de Lisboa The monastery's Portuguese late Gothic architecture sets the building apart. It was classified a UNESCO site in 1983. The famous explored Vasco Da Gama stayed here before venturing into the orient in the late 1490s.
The building began construction in 1501 and was completed one years later. The King taxed spices 5% to pay for the building. King Manuel I selected the religious order of Hieronymite monks to livein the monastery. It was the monks' responsibility to pray for the King's soul and to provide spiritual assistance to navigators and sailors who departed from the port of Restelo to discover lands around the world. This the monks did occupied the building for for over four centuries until 1833, when the Portugese religious orders were dissolved and the monastery was abandoned.
Simon and I had plans to visit the monastery and refrained, The line went on forever with too many tourists and selfie sticks to my liking. We opted for the free church that is a hop and skip away. Maybe when I return at the end of December I will visit? The church next to the monastery is free to enter and closes to tourists during mass. Inside the church Vasco da Gama is buried as well as 16th century poet Luis de Camoes. The architectural lines of the church's ceiling are impressive as well as the massive columns. Looking at the work, I hope that I can build upon my own skillset to create a work of art that resonates. One thing that comes to mind is my collaborative art piece I made this past summer at the Show Gallery in Lowertown St. Paul. It was an image of the Virgin Mary with her hands outstretched with her heart pouring out. I wouldn't mind exploring more liturgical art in my own work as I explore further.
In 1755, there was an earthquake that destroyed many buildings and infrastructure in Lisbon. The royal family was displaced and put into a wooden building where the current National Palace of Ajuda stands today. The new palace began construction in 1796 and was in and out of financial trouble from the time it started. The original plans had to be scaled down resulting in what we see today. War and political strife made the creation of the facade a challenge, even surving Napoleon's invasion in 1807. The palace was not completed until the late 19th century. It became the permanent residence for King Luis I and his wife, Maria Pia of Savoy. The queen was lovely and very charitable to the people--some calling her the Angel of Mercy or Mother of the Poor. When the treasury complained about her expenses it is reported she said, "if you want a queen, you have to pay for her". (Makes sense to me.) She left Portugal in exile in 1910 and returned back to Italy where she died at 63. A couple of rooms I was particularly impressed by was the dining room that sits 180 guests and is still used today for special state functions and the winter garden made of carrera marble. In the old days birds and butterflies would freely roam the garden space, drank from the marble fountain, and entertained the queen. The details of fabric, wood, and inlay as well as the value of light sings to me as an artist.
The Berardo Collection is a museum of modern art that holds Warhol, Hickney, Pollack, Appel ,etc works. The museum was initiated as the Foundation of Modern and Contemporary Art on August 9, 2006. It was inaugurated on June 25, 2007. The collection comprises over 1,000 works of art on permanent display and temporary exhibitions. The building is modern in structure and looks particularly good at night all lit up. The one part of the experience I found disturbing was how they hung the collection. For safety reasons they screwed the piece down along the sides of the pictures frames, This looks especially bad because it distracts the eye from the art. It reminds me of tiny ears sticking out of a head. This is on all the work, not just a few here and there. Whom ever curated the show should have done something more appealing to the eye. If it were my collection, I would insist upon it. **************** Museu Nacional de Arta Contemporanea do Chiado is a modern art museum with paintings and sculpture. When I visited there was a temporary exhibition of photography from the foremost Portugese photographer, Carlos Revlas. I saw an additional show about the future of Artificial Intelligence by Miguel Soares. Since 1911, the Chiado Museum has occupied part of a former Convent of Sao Francisco. Some exhibition rooms work around an old biscuit factory and their ovens. The brick work and ceiling is fabulous and wonderful to see a repurposed space. The building covers an entire city block and the hospital is across the street.
********************** Se de Lisboa is one of Lisbon's icons built in 1150 on the site of a former mosque. It is also known as Santa Maria de Lisboa or the patriarchal cathedral of St. Mary Major. It is the oldest church in the city and Roman Catholic. The one blessing is the church has survived many earthquakes over the centuries. One after another, the walls still stand. During the 14th and 16th centuries there were several of them, but the worst of all was the 1755 quake which destroyed the Gothic main chapel along with the royal pantheon. The cloisters and many chapels were also ruined by the quake and the fire that followed. The cathedral was partially rebuilt and, in the beginning of the 20th century, was given the appearance that it has today after a profound renovation. Since 1910 it has been labeled a national monument.
Trying to find the cathedral was a bit tricky as it is tucked within a neighborhood. The tram 28 runs close by, but I decided to hoof it and experience the neighborhood. The trick is to keep walking up the hill along the coast. you can't miss it. Around the corner from the Se Cathedral is the Museum of Decorative Art. It is quiet and does have the rush of the tourist madness. I was one of less than a handful of people there. The collection is housed in a 17th century former palace known as the Azurara Palace (more house than palace) which houses amazing azulojos, frescoes, and collections of fine antiquities and is reflection of the 18th and 19th artistocracy. The building was brought by Ricardo Espirito Santo, a millionaire banker who bequeathed his collection to Portugal.Indo-Portugese csilver and furniture fills the rooms with an amazing collection of silver and Chinese porcelain as well as tapestries from the 16th and 18th centuries. The musuem trains artisans in the art of furniture making with workshops next door with many items for sale-- furniture and porcelain. As an artist I truly appreciate their attention to detail and skill. I can only hope that in time my work will continue to be as detailed as what I saw here in this collection. ************************ Sao Roque Church was built in the 16th century and is radiant with gilded gold altars, marble galore with highly inlaid artistry that climbs the wall, and semi precious stones of amethyst and lapis lazuli with azulejos lining the walls. It is Roman Catholic. The front facade is quite dull. As the ol' adage goes, "don't judge a book by its cover" because inside it is glorious.
Sao Roque is the earliest Jesuit church in the Portuguese world, and one of the first Jesuit churches on Earth. The building served as the Society’s home church in Portugal for over 200 years before the Jesuits were expelled from the country in 1759.
The Igreja de São Roque was one of the few buildings in Lisbon to survive the earthquake relatively unscathed. When built in the 16th century it was the first Jesuit church designed in the “auditorium-church” style specifically for preaching. It contains a number of chapels, most in the Baroque style of the early 17th century. The most notable chapel is the 18th-century Chapel of St. John the Baptist. It was constructed in Rome of many precious stones and disassembled, shipped, and reconstructed in São Roque; at the time it was reportedly the most expensive chapel in Europe. Before getting to Sao Roque there are two other smaller churches next to the Metro that are across the street from one another. They are not always open, but if they are, pop in as the space is lovely. The one has a particularly impressive painted ceiling. (Painted ceilings....wow. Will I ever have an opportunity like this?)
Words: Exit = Saida Man = Voce Woman = Muhler Church = Igreja Museum = Museu Money = Dinheiro Welcome - Bem vinda Costs:
1.00 - Ajuda National Gardens 2.50 - Ajuda National Palace 15.00 - charge Metro card 4.24 - grocery... 4 rolls, grapes, bre cheese 1.85 - roll of cookies with chocolate filling 2.00 - decorative art musuem 1.36 - four Pastel Natel
December 12 - 16, 2018 - Sintra and Queluz
Simon and I took the train from Lisbon to Sintra in the late morning and arrived into Sintra within 45 minutes. (The ticket cost $2.45 Euro.) The directions to Casa Azul were easy to follow--right at the train station, follow the road straight, above a Chinese restaurant, and across from the Sintra Modern Art Museum. Anthony greeted us at the door and swept us into the house quickly. No sooner had we gotten into the space did Simon and I sweep ourselves out the door and into the historical center. Our first stop was to the National Palace of Sintra with its famous two chimney conicals reaching toward the heavens. I was particularly impressed by the Moorish influence in the architecture with its arabesque courtyard, 15th and 16th century azelojos (which are some of the oldest in the country). The palace is the heart of old town. It is the best preserved medieval royal residence in Portugal, being inhabited in since the early 15th century to the late 19th century and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Two rooms in particular that I found amusing were the Swam Room and Magpie Room. Some say the king was found kissing one of the queen's handmaids and the king proclaimed that it was a common kiss and for the good of the nation. He then commissioned one magpie to be painted on the ceiling for every handmaid the queen had in her entourage--27 in total. The room that I was truly impressed by was the Blazon Room which depicted the royal coat of arms of every family in the 16th century--72 in total--as well as the azulejos. It rises rich in color and makes the eye wonder upward. The palace became a national monument in 1910. Meandering our way up the road, we walked to Quinta da Regaleria. This house and gardens are AMAZING! It too is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The property consists of a palace and chapel, and an amazing park that features lakes, grottoes, water wells, ornate benches, fountains, and small ponds. The palace is also known as "The Palace of Monteiro the Millionaire", which is based on the nickname of its best known former owner, Antonio Augusto Carvalho Monteiro--aka Moneybags Monteiro.
The house is spectacular. The gardens are fabulous, and I call them the Gardens of Serendipity because there is a surprise around every corner. For example, you may see an outcropping of rocks with an entrance. It may appear dull and boring. Go further because the space opens up in a spiral of stairs and openings that venture 9 stories below into the earth and pop out to a twist and turns of caves and passages that outpour into a lagoon with stepping stones and waterfall. It is pure magic! I can so see this imagery in my future art production. The land that is now Quinta da Regaleira originally belonged to the Viscountess of Regaleira, a family of wealthy merchants from Porto. She sold in 1892 to Mr. Monteiro for 25,000 reis. 1904 construction began to what we see today and completed by 1910. I can only imagine how many people it must have taken to build this space within 6 years because the place is expansive and magnificent. Different people owned it after Monteiro with the last sale being a Japanese businessman who closed it to the public for 10 years. It was not until 1998 that it was reopened and became an interest to the state to keep it open for all. The wood work and tile work in the palace is fantastic. This is echoed in the chapel that is on the property and seen from the house. It is small in stature but stands tall in decoration and splendor. ********************** The palace that gets the majority of attention in Sintra is Pena which stands on the top of the mountain and across from the Castelo dos Mouros. It soars 412 meters above the sea and a steep hike. I took the bus up and hiked back down.If the weather is in your favor in Lisboa you can see it from the city. The palace is a UNESCO (1995) site and quite impressive. It served first as a monastery in the 16th century, and when the 1755 earthquake hit the place was a total wreck. It remained in disarray for decades until Ferdinand (then a prince) took it under his wing to rehabilitate the place. In 1838, as King Consort acquired the monastery, all of the surrounding lands, the nearby Castelos dos Mouros. King Ferdinand transformed the remains of the monastery into a palace that served as a summer residence for the Portuguese royal family. The construction took place between 1842 and 1854. After the King's death it passed into the possession of his second wife, Elisa Hensler, Countess of Edla. She later sold the palace to King Luis. In 1889 it was purchased by the Portuguese State, and after the 1910 revolution, it was classified as a national monument and transformed into a museum. Over the decades, the castle lost its color and turned gray, In the late 1990s, the palace was repainted its original colors during the King's reign. The tiles on the castle are magnificent in contrast to the red and yellow fortress walls. (When I think of the walls, color theory pulsates into my brain.) A small drawbridge permits you to enter with a massive giant lurking over the entrance window and has two tails. The wind sweeps you through the country onward, and inside you can hear it twisting and turning through the corridors below. It must be remember that this was a summer palace which made a difference in the decor and furnishings.
The surrounding park is a vast forested area completely surrounding the Pena Palace. The forest and parkland spreads over 200 hectares of terrain with massive rocks and trees. The one bad thing about the park is it is infested with ivy. It is invasive and covers everything. Simon and I hiked to the cross on the highest point of the mountain and scaled the boulders to the top. The lower parklands have lakes and small houses for ducks and swans. Paths meander in and out through the woods with hits of Moorish and Arabic influences on the tiles and fountains. (The natural twists and turns remind me of my art with needle and thread as I pull images and concepts together.)
*********************************** Hiking to the Monserrate Palace and gardens, Simon and I made the journey down the road as it twisted and turned. It took approximately one hour to get there. Arriving, you cannot see the house from road as it is tucked down the hill. The place is lovely. Monserrate seamlessly blends Arabic, Gothic, and Indian architectural styles to create a summer house that is surrounded by beautiful gardens. The Arabic style hallway on the main floor is quite impressive with a water fountain in the middle. The furnishings, paintings, and library books were sold when the place went into disarray during the war. The house was in its heyday during the 1850s when a rich, English businessman Francis Cook rented the property and later purchased it in 1863. The war did not do well for the Cook family or his multiple marriages (7) because he sold the majority of his furnishings and paintings. He returned to the U.K. and the house began to fall apart. In the 1949 the state purchased the home, and in 1995 it was classified as UNESCO site. Vast restoration has occurred on the home from the kitchen to the rooms and plaster. Reviewing the old photos and the grandeur of the place made you think about to a more simpler time (or not) and the mega wealth it took to run the estate. The gardens employed 25 people and the interior 7. It takes an hour to hike here from the old town. It goes past Quinta de Regeliera and the road twists around bends with lovely estates along the way. There are steep hills but slow and steady wins the race. One advantage too about going to Monserrate is that the place is relatively empty of tourists as they are at Pena.
Looking at the old pictures on the wall of the recent family that owned the house, the works of art were impressive. I am told when the house was place on the auction block. Masters were sold for pennies. Oh to be rich and fabulous. I wonder if my own art will ever be collected in this manner.
************************* Simon and I had originally planned to hike 2 hours to see the Capucho Convent ruins outside the city. Walking half way up the hill toward Pena Palace, I had second thoughts. Did I truly want to see a pile of rocks and falling apart buildings--especially 2 hours there, 2 hours back with the possibility of rain? I opted to suggest a better idea....the palace of Queluz. The palace was built in the 18th century and reflects the tastes of royalty of the time -- Rococo, Baroque, Neoclassism. 1690 was the gold rush for Portugal, and the royal family had dollars to blow--time for another palace. The palace is one of the finest examples of Rococo in Europe and some call it the Versaille of Portugal. Built in 1947 by the future King Pedro III, the consort of Queen Maris I, it originally was a hunting lodge but quickly became the preferred place for leisure and entertainment. The family eventually move there permanently in 1794. When the Ajuda Palace in Lisbon was destroyed by fire, Queluz became the royal family's home until their departure in 1807 to Brazil when Portugal was invaded by France. It is said that that Queen Maria went bonkers in the palace, and her insanity stayed behind the walls when her son died in 1786. Madness or grief, the palace is a pretty sweet place to while away the huors--crazy or not.
COSTS: 5.04 - grocery...bread, grapes, bree cheese 10.00 - Sintra Palace admissiojn 4.00 - Quinta da Regaleira (professor rate) 3.60 - bree cheese and bread 1.20 - Queijadas da Sapa pastry 2.90 - bus to Pena Palace (hiked down afterward) 8.0 - Montserrat Palace & Garden 4.4 - Quezul Palace round trip from Sintra plus card 10 - Queluz Palace & garden 2 - chicken sandwich 56 - Casa Azul Hostel for 4 nights with breakfast WORDS: Closed = Fechadas Christmas = Natal New Year = Ano Novo wine = Vinho God = Deus
December 16 - 18, 2018 - Tomar, Portugal
Arriving by train from Lisbon, it took two hours and was at the end of the line. The countryside was filled with farms and the occasional factory. Life is definitely simpler here. This is particularly evident in the farm houses that skirt the railroad tracks with low roofs and simple lines w/o embellishment. From time to time you will see tile work honoring a saint, a pictorial scene, or the image of Christ.
I am staying in a former royal residence in Tomar that is now converted into a modern hostel called Hostel Tomar 2300 -- $30 Euro for 2 nights with breakfast. It is a good value and is in the heart of the historic center, around the corner from the main church and square, and a short hike up the hill to the Convento de Cristo.
Tomar is history filled with the Moors and Knights Templar of the 12th and 13th century.Approximately 20,000 people live here today, and back in the 12th century, it was the place to be with the Knights Templar reigning supreme. The original town began behind the walls of the Convento de Cristo that was built by the orders of Gualdim de Pais, the fourth grand master of the Knights of Templar.
This land is full of past deeds. Under the city is the former Roman city of Sellium. The Moors were conquered, and the Knights took over. The Templars ruled from Tomar and pledged to defend from Moorish attacks and raids. What I did not know is that women were also admitted to the Order, although they did not fight.
The Jews of Spain were exiled in 1492, and the Tomar increased with the Jewish refugees pouring into the country. The very large Jewish minority had a significant impact on the city with new trades and skills. Their experience was vital in the success of the new trade routes with Africa. (The original synagogue that was bult in 1430 still remains.)
The Jews fled Portugal when they were cast out by the King in 1496. The synagogue became a prison, later a barn, and storage space. During World War II, a Polish man and his family had begun excavating the synagogue and was granted citizenship when they gave the space to the government. This saved them from dying in the concentration camps.
Rich in history and conquest, the Templars gained wealth in property and gifts to the church. The Templars took vows of poverty and chastity, however gifts of treasure and land in the name of the church was acceptable. They grew richer than the King and became bankers to nobles. The King would not have it. In the 14th century the King dissolved all religious orders (March 1319). The Templars became outcasts in Portugal only to be renamed Knights of the Order of Christ and falling to the King's rule.This resulted in the Convent of Cristo taking on new growth and building as well as a new architectural style.
Perhaps one of the most fantastical sights to see is the Romanesque round church that was built in the 12th century. From the outside, the church is a 16-side polygonal structure, with strong buttresses, round windows and a bell-tower. Inside, the round church has a central, octagonal structure, connected by arches to a surrounding gallery aka an ambulatory. The general shape of the church is modeled after similar round structures in Jerusalem, the Mosque of Omar and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The interior of the round church is magnificently decorated with late gothic/manueline sculpture and paintings, added during a renovation sponsored by King Manuel I starting in 1499. The pillars of the central octagon and the walls of the ambulatory have polychrome statues of saints and angels under exuberant Gothic canopies, while the walls and ceilings of the ambulatory are painted with Gothic patterns and panels depicting the life of Christ. The church has seen better days. Fortunately, it has been in renovations since the 1983 when the entire convent received UNESCO status. There is still considerable work to be done. Nonetheless, it is still a spectacle to behold as it visually captivating. (The love of primary colors is wove through the work. In my own art, color plays a significant role. I thought I would get tired of the primary colors but that has not occurred. This is something I need to continue to think about in my own art making.)
Scattered in the town below the convent are cobbled streets that fan out from the river. Museums and smaller churches and chapels weave in and out of the historical center. The convent dominates the tourist trade here, and I wonder what would come of Tomar if this vast structure was not here...most likely fade into the distance like so many other towns and villages. The land surrounding this region is rich and fertile. the Nabao River cuts through it, though the water is not as clean as it once was. Gazing up into the hills toward the Convento de Cristo you might see the ancient aqueduct called Pegoes. Built in the 16th century and 17th century to bring water to the convent of Christ in Tomar under command of king Philip I, It's a monument that reaches 6 kilometers, and in places it reaches a height of 30 meters. The construction started in 1593 and finished in 1614, and it is the biggest and most important construction of the Philip I kingdom in Portugal. An event I would love to see one day is Festa dos Tabuleiros. It is the most important festival celebrated in the city and is held every four years, the last being held in June and July 2015. The local population parades in pairs with the girls carrying tabuleiros on their heads. The tabuleiro is made of 30 stacked pieces of bread, either in 6 rows of 5 or 5 rows of 6, decorated with flowers. At the top of the tabuleiro is a crown which normally contains either a white dove, symbolizing the Holy Spirit, or the esfera armilar, a symbol of the historical Portuguese maritime expansion. The main street is strewn with flowers and garlands. Women/girls wear white dresses with ruffles with the tabuleiros balanced on the head with the hands and arms upraised. The event looks amazing with music, blessings, horses and carriages, and all the finest festivities showcasing the city. From images I have seen, it reminds me a bit of Easter festivities in Antigua, Guatemala but without the Virgin Mary being paraded in the streets.
2.25 - Sintra train to Lisbon 9.80 - Lisbon train to Tomar .50 - cupcake to support Tomar Boy Scouts coming to USA for Jamboree in Virginia 1.29 - roll of cookies from market 30.00 - Hostel Tomar 2300 - 2 nights with breakfast 3.0 - Convento de Cristo 2.37 - 2 bread rolls, prussuito, 2 Chrstmas pastries 9.06 - Tomar train to Comibra
strange - estranho
window - janela
rain - chuva
umbrella - guarda-chuva
snow - neve
cloudy - numblado
December 18 - 22, 2018 - Coimbra, Portugal They say Hogwarts would not be Hogwarts if J, K. Rowling had not visited University of Coimbra. Students of the school wear traditional uniforms to attend classes that cost $320 Euro. It is a suit with a black cape and hood. I am going to see if they only sell the cape. Depending on the price, quality of the fabric, and if they would only sell the cape, I may purchase one as a souvenir. There is only one place in town that sells them, and it is called Toga (can you believe it...toga?). Here's to happy hunting! I learned that toga also means dress. The shop (A Toga) only sells academic regalia. Students and faculty attend classes in full regalia. The uniform creates an equal playing field for all students as they all look the same and secular dress is not permitted. The capes are made of wool. The simple ones cost 40 Euro and the best are 55. I bought the best one. It hands all the way to my feet, buttons down the front, and has two other wool smaller capes that hang from it. The collar is large and can stand up to keep the winter and wind away. It also has pockets on either side of the cape that lie under the wool smaller cape. I have no idea how I am going to get it home at present, but I am already concerned that it may not fit into my duffle. First World problems... *******************************
Coimbra has approximately 150,000 people living there and including the surrounding communities roughly 500,000. It is the 4th largest urban city in Portugal. The city's history goes way back to the Roman period, and it still hosts aqueducts from this period. Coimbra was first a fortified Muslim town in 711-1130. At one time, Coimbra was the capitol of Portugal (1131 to 1255). The University of Coimbra shaped the city intellectually and artistically with people coming from around the world to study and teach here since its inception. The university began in 1290 and is the oldest Portugese university on Earth. King Denis I founded the school originally in Lisbon and moved it to Coimbra in 1308. King Alfonso IV moved it back again to Lisbon in 1338. By 1537 the ping pong match ended with it returning back to Coimbra. Today, the university has 20,000 students coming from 70 countries of which 10% are international. Coimbra is also the place where the oldest and biggest university students' union of Portugal was founded – the Academic Association of Coimbra, established in 1887.
University students in the USA complain about exams; they have no idea how good they have it. In Portugal, all exams are handwritten. There are no fill in the bubbles. They each last 1 hour and 40 minutes with none of them on-line. To top it off, exams do not only happen within one week. They can last a month! It is not uncommon for a professor to give an exam the day after New Years, January 1. so next time you hear moans and groans remind students that the grass is always greener. As for parking... forget about it! The university sits on top of a large hill with narrow, cobblestone lanes. There is not even enough parking for faculty...and students? No way Jose. It's a hike up a steep hill that will get your cardio going. They call these hills backbreakers for a reason.
Coimbra is also known for its university students' festivals. Two are held every year. The first one, Latada or Festas das Latas ("The Tin Can Parade") is a parade that occurs at the beginning of the academic year, and is a welcome to the new university students (Caloiros). It's like Welcome Week and Homecoming thrown in all together. Festa das Latas goes back to the 19th century when students felt the need to express their joy at finishing the school year in as loud a way as possible, using everything at their disposal that would make noise, namely tin cans. The highlight of this festival, which now takes place at the beginning of the academic year (November) is the special parade known as the Latada. After marching through the streets of the city the new students are "baptized" in the Mondego River thus entering into the Coimbra academic fraternity. The students from the penultimate year, normally the 3rd year's students, are awarded their Grelos (a small ribbon). The Grelo is a small, woolen ribbon with the color(s) of the student's faculty that is attached to a student's briefcase. In the morning before festivities go into action, tradition expects undergraduates to visit the Dom Pedro V market where they purchase a turnip to sustain the Caloiros during the day's festivities. Besides the tin cans they have tied to their legs, the new students wear all kinds of costumes made up according to the creativity and imagination of their godmothers or godfathers who are older students. They also carry signs and posters which criticize specific professors, the educational system, national events, and prominent leaders.
The second tradition is Queima das Fitas ("The Burning of the Ribbons") which takes place at the end of the second semester (usually in the beginning of May), and it is one of the biggest student parties in all Europe. It is organized by the student union. It lasts for 8 days, one for each University of Coimbra's Faculty: Letras (Humanities), Direito (Law), Medicina (Medicine), Ciências e Tecnologia (Sciences and Technology), Farmácia (Pharmacy), Economia (Economics), Psicologia e Ciências da Educação (Psychology and Education Sciences) and Ciências do Desporto e Educação Física (Sports Sciences and Physical Education). Parties go into the wee hours of the day. Everyone is invited to attend the festivities -- university students, tourists, and students from other schools.There are bands, drinking, and revelry.
***************************************** The University science museum dates back to the 18th century. The Jesuits were instrumental in science education and the exploration of foreign lands as they spread Christianity. Most of the collections date back to the reform of the University promoted by the Marquis of Pombal in 1772. The work constitutes the most important science collection in Portugal and one of the most important ones in Europe. While visiting, I spoke to one of the museum attendants about the fire in Brazil and the loss of the majority of their collection. She stated that lessons were not learned because the collection here in Portugal is under funded and the museum has not adequately planned for fire. She even pointed out to me that there may be fire extinguishers on the walls, some are past their prime, and do not meet code. She also shared with me that while the museum is monitored with cameras and alarms, artifacts in the collection have also been stolen. She said that a rhinosaurus horn was taken from a locked cabinet at night and nothing was seen from the cameras and no alarms went off. The horn has never been discovered and no arrests made.
I am staying at Serenata Hostel. It dates from the early 20th century and was once the Bissaya Barreto’s maternity and subsequently the Music Conservatory of Coimbra. The building has been renovated from top to bottom with modern showers and washroom facilities. A grand staircase escorts you upward with the history of the place painted on the walls. My room is on the 2nd floor, room 204. Natural lights fills the space as it is on the corner with light pouring in with a magnificent view of Se Vehla, in the heart of the city, and a five minute jaunt up the hill to the university. An old fireplace sits on one wall with a group of furnishings in the middle of the room create a small living room with the bunkbeds lining the walls. It is perfection. What makes me even more fortunate is that last night I was the only one in my 6 person dorm room (update, I have had the entire room to myself for 2 nights, and 2 nights with one other person). In fact, I am not sure how I got the space. Online it is for 99 Euro a night with all the beds and is not a choice to only get one bed. It is choice however on Expedia. I have the entire space to myself. WINNING! When I sent the hostel an email about how to get to the place, they advised that I take a taxi for 5 Euro. I Google mapped and it looks like it was about 12 minutes away. What I did not plan for was the hike up the hill and over cobbled stones. What an adventure. Winded and out of breathe, I made it to the top. What a trip. Good thing is going down to the city center will take much less time as it will be down hill. I have no idea how old folks manage it.
Biblioteca Joanina is a treasure! The entrance is if the former academic prison where students were locked up who did not follow the rules and were disobedient. In fact, the university had its own court system that was not regulated by the City of Coimbra. They had their own penalties and forms of retribution. In 1843, after the liberal revolution, the prison was used as a safe deposit for religious manuscripts from convents and monastarys. Upstairs is the magnificent library. Joanina Library was a gift from King Joa V in the 18th century. 60,000 ancient books make-up the collection from law, theology, and philosophy.there is a 18th century painting of him at the end of the library paying tribute to his generosity. 72 shelves line the upper and lower floors with hidden staircases to the balcony. Bats protect the collection and sleep in the massive room. They feed on moths and insects that would destroy the books. Around corner of the library is the chapel, Capela de Sao Miguel, which stills holds weekly Sunday services. Baroque in style and very ornate, the church drips in grandeur. The massive organ that is in the room was originally in another church until it was brought here. It was built in 1517 and complter in 1522. It is suggested that King Manuel commissioned it because of of his royal coat of arms that is in the middle of the chapel. Originally the university was a royal palace. As mentioned earlier, the university bounced back and fourth from Lisbon to Coimbra. It wad erected in the 10th century. In 1131, King Afonso Henriques chose it for his residence becoming the first royal residence in Portugal. I walked over to see the university's botanical garden. It was founded in 1772 and was integrated with the Natural History Museum. The location for the Hortus Botanicus--part of the farm of S. Bento's College in the Ursulinas Valley--was chosen by the vice-chancellor of the University of Coimbra. Today, the space could use some TLC. It is run down, trees need pruning, gardens need weeding, and a total facelift should be in order. To have such an amazing space and to let it waste away is a travesty. At one time in history, the garden used to one of the most beautiful in Europe. Her beauty needs rejuvenation.
This trip to Portugal is going to connect to my won art work in so many ways -- texture, color, iconography, history. I look forward to getting back home to explore.
COSTS: 9.06 - Tomar train to Coimbra 3.95 - bacon & cheese sandwich with chips and homemade lemonade 12.00 - Coimbra University admission to see the library, chapel, thesis room, and Science musuem 55.00 - wool cape (40 for the cheap one; I bought the best one they had) 68.00 - 4 nights with breakfast at Serenata Hostel 1.00 - local beer on tap .85 - pastry wiyh cream 2.0 - 2 small bags of chocolate varieties filled with cream 3.95 - Caco sandwich (bacon w/cheese), chips and squeezed lemonade 1 - beer at hostel 3 - Santa Cruz Monastery
WORDS: push - empurrar ceiling - teto floor - chao (with a trill over the a) trust - confiar em cartoon - desenho animado newspaper - jornal journal - diario (accent on the a to the right) heaven - ceu (with an accent on e to the right) December 22 - 27, 2018 - Porto and Braga, Portugal I meandered my way down the twisting streets and staircases of the medieval part of the Coimbra toward the train station. I was up and ready earlier than I had anticipated. It all fell into place nicely b/c I was able to catch an earlier train. No sooner had I paid for my ticket, I was on the train and off--less than 10 minutes. I couldn't have planned it any better. The ride from Coimbra to Porto with train change took about 2 1/2 hours. The train for the first part was basically empty, but the trip to Porto was packed with holiday travelers. I was fortunate that I caught it at the beginning of the line b/c I was able to get a seat. People who got on later during the excursion had to stand. I felt a bit like a space hog with my rolling duffel and backpack, but the train did not have luggage storage. I kept my things as tightly confined as possible. The train station in Porto is lovely, Porto Sao Bento. The station was built in the late 19th century and opened in 1864. The site originally had a convent--Convent of Sao Bento da Ave Maria. King Manuel ordered the station to be built in 1518. The monastery that was here burned in a fire in 1783 and later rebuilt, though it was in a state of disrepair by the end of the 19th century. The rail station is built in granite and is in the historic center of Porto. It is at a crossroad with churches flanking it on two hills and another across the street. The vestibule of the station is framed by pilasters, covered in azulejo tiles. They are brilliant and cover the walls from floor to ceiling. Near the ceiling, is a blue and gold frieze decorated with stylized flowers, and below them is a polychromatic frieze, evocative of the history of the road in Portugal. Below the friezes are large azulejo "paintings" representing historical events in Portuguese history. The azulejo are integrated into the architecture by frames in granite which decorate the lines of the atrium. There are approximately 20,000 tiles in the space and is a spectacle to behold. Porto is the 2nd largest city in Portugal. The city center has approximately 250,000 with the surrounding burbs brings the population to 2 million. It sits next to the fast moving Douro River. The city received UNESCO recognition in 1996. At one point in history Porto was a Roman outpost not to be overshadowed by the world famous port wine which is exported across the globe. It is a city that sits on seven hills which is evident as soon as you exit the rail station and begin your steep climb to city sites, monuments, and my hostel (Blue Socks). Trying to find the hostel at first was a pain. I am never very good at reading a map. I knew it was close to the river, but you could not see it from station. I went up the hill when I should have gone down (no duh, water flows downhill). Once I got settled, everything came into view. Blue Socks was constructed in November 11, 2016. It is a block from the river. The hostel is modern with clean lines inside and keeping the original stone walls of the fade as well as the blue tiles. There are lounge areas scattered throughout the space on different levels with the lowest one being a bar and breakfast area plus shared refrigerator and microwave. It has a very cool vibe. The hostel rooms are clean lined with white bunks that are firm and do not sway when someone gets in, and they have privacy curtains. Drawers correspond with the bunk numbers below each bed and are lockable. A room reservation comes with breakfast. Access to rooms and elevators require an electronic key. The shared bathrooms are down the hall with separate ones for men and women. The showers are almost too hot, and to conserve water you have to push the handle button again and again for the water to flow. They are well maintained and impeccable. Excellent value for $13.86 Euro/nite. When visiting Porto, the best suggestion I have is to follow the church steeples if that is your fancy. If you see one, go in that direction. If you are fortunate, the church will be open. Some may require you to pay a small fee, which I am not a fan of doing. I have done it though. I am now more at peace with it. I am rethinking this in my head with churches more like museums and the cost for admission. It rests my soul better, though I think the big J.C. would have a hissy at the thought that the church was making money on his space. Well, someone has to pay for the general upkeep of these massive structures. (I say that in a good way.)
I would say one of my best experiences in Porto, if not all of Portugal, has been the Serralves Modern Art museum. My experience was exceptional. I never would have imagined coming to Portugal to see the art of Joan Miro, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Anish Kapoor in one place. I was particularly impressed with the care and thoughtful approach to the lighting of the space and how the work was presented. The gardens too are lovely, but I must admit the eucalpytus trees (weeds and not indigenous) are bad for the land, are a fire hazzard, and filthy. With so much focus on the art, I wish they would also spend time to showcase indigenous plants and trees.
I decided to venture to Braga on the 23rd because I heard that the railroad workers were going to be on strike on the 24th and 25th. I got up first thing and walked up the steep hill to the Porto Sao Bento station. The place was relatively quiet with the majority of the city still being in bed. Reading ahead of time, I was informed that the Braga experience would take most of the day. I was also hoping to get into some of the churches because of Sunday services. My greatest interest was visiting Bom Jesus do Monte just outside the city center. Braga has approximately 200,000 people living here. The historical center has a compact feel and very walkable. (In less than twenty minute driving time, you are in the countryside. I k ow b/c when I took the bus back from Bom Jesus, I stayed on too long; fortunately, the driver took pity on me and let me ride for free back into town.) Braga is a very old place with pre-history settlements as well as Roman and Moor influence. Bom Jesus do Monte is a short bus ride out of town and drops you to the bottom of the steps. You can walk all the way up or pay for a funicular to take you up the hill. Being crunched for time, I decided to take the lazy way up. This site is a Christian pilgrimage with the hyper-faithful paying penance and doing the journey all the way up on their knees. There are 6 smaller chapels up the staircase that tell the story the passion story of Jesus. The top of the hill is the large sanctuary (Temple of God) that was originally built in 1722 and later demolished with the new one that is currently there built in 1784. When I visited, it was being renovated with a large screen/curtain protecting the altar. Zigzag stairways with landings that hold fountains provide pilgrims a resting point as they venture upward. The stairways pay tribute to faith, hope, and charity. ********************** Christmas in Portugal is celebrated on December 24 with most of the commercial businesses closing shop early to prepare for festivities. People open gifts on this day and eat a large, traditional feast with their friends and family. The one thing that surprised me was how basic church services are that lead up to Christmas. There is not a special Christmas eve service. I decide to attend mass on the 25th at the Ingreja de Saint Nicholas. It was purely accidental as the doors were open and have been closed since I arrived to Porto. It just happened to be St. Nicholas. The one difference at this mass compared to the others was that the priest took the baby Jesus out of the creche and raised him up for the congregation to see. Church members than walked down the aisle, kissed the baby Jesus statue, the priest wiped offf the kiss with a white linen napkin, and the next person then kissed the doll. --Interesting.
Costs: 3 - Santa Cruz Monastery admission in Coimbra 1 - beer at hostel 8.85 Coimbra to Porto by train 79.30 - 5 nights at Blue Socks Hostel 10 - city tax for hostel in Porto for 5 nights 3.95 - box of chocolates and roll of cookies 1.70 - ice cream cone and slice of apple pie 3.44 - bottle of sparkling wine w/sandwich 2 - train round trip from Porto to Braga 1.65 - bus to Bom Jesus 2 - funicular round trip to Bom Jesus 1.65 - return bus ticket from Bom Jesus to Braga 10.25 - grocery - 2 rolls, prusiutto, baby bell chhese, roll of cookies, bag of praline chocolates, bottle of sparkling wine 7.50 - Serralves Contemporary Art Musem admission (prof. rate) 1.80 - subway to Serralves museum 1.95 - bus from Serralves museum to metro 1.25 - cider w/2 rolls December 28, 2018 - Mafra, Portugal When I was reading about famous libraries in the world, there were two in Portugal that I definitely did not want to be missed -- the university library in Coimbra and the Mafra library at the palace. The larger building too is impressive with a palace of 1200 rooms, bascilica, infermary, etc. The palace was built in the 18th century by orders of King Joao V because of a vow he made when he married Maria Ana of Austria. He said if he was blessed with an heir (a girl nonetheless) he would build something in the queen's honor. The rest is history.
It is felt by some that the royal convent and palace is the most important monument in Portugal. It is made from limestone and marble sourced locally and covers 4 hectares of land. While there are lots of rooms to be had, you ought to count the doors and windows--4700 in total. There are 156 stairways and 29 inner courtyards. When visiting the palace, the visitors only sees a small fraction of the space--upper rooms of the royal family, small dining areas, hunting room, nursery, library, chapels, and the church. One of the reasons for such splendor and wow factor is the fact that Brazilian gold paved the way for grandeur which provided the King an opportunity to support the arts and strengthen his hold across Earth.
Mafra Palace was built in 1717 and completed in 1755. It took over 45,000 people to create the palace. Just less then 1400 died making the building--no wonder the palace also had an infirmary. King Joao's art support for example gave way for the King to bring sculptures and paintings by Italian and Portugese masters, as well as church vestments, highly embroidered altar clothes, and special religious gold and silver from France and Italy. When his son took the reigns, a new former of sculpture was created which is seen in the many altar pieces in the bascilica. The paintings in the bascilica represent some of Portugal's most valuable 18th century work in the country. The sculpture collection contains works by almost every major Roman sculptor from the first half of the 18th century. At that time, it represented the biggest single order done by a foreign power in Rome and still is amongst one of the biggest collections in existence.
King Joao VI, was particularly found of this palace. He commissioned paintings and a significant 6 organs for the bascilica that are highly decorated and impressive as well as two carrilions of 98 bells, I can only imagine the sound they must make when they are all going full force. I have never seen anything like it in my life. Sadly, many royals did not stay at the palace for long as the felt the space was gloomy and lifeless. Not to be overshadowed by the glitz, the palace library is world famous for its 36,000 volumes of encyclopedias that synthesize knowledge dating from 14th to 19th century. The library is a massive hallway like structure with balcony. The color is basically shades of white and creme with a hint of rose from the floor to the ceiling and books bindings. Rocco in style it is simple yet refined. One blessing of not being in Lisbon, the palace is more-or-less quiet of tourists. It will take 1 hour via bus to get there via the Campo Grande Metro station. COSTS: 24.70 - Porto train to Lisbon Oriente station 7 - hostel city tax 145 - 8 nights at Be Lisbon Hostel with daily breakfast 4.29 - baby bell cheese, 2 rolls, roll of cookies, and prusitto 7.75 - Mafra Palace by bus (rounf=d trip) 3 - Mafra Place admission (educator cost, 6 normally) 5.36 - 3 chocolate bars and a bottle of sparkling wine 9,99 - tshirt from Zaras (on sale) 2.50 - sub sandwich December 29, 2018 - Life in Portugal I was speaking to the receptionist at the hostel and inquired about what an average salary was for a young person. She said that a young person would make $580 Euro/month! I was in shock. 580 Euro/month? Egads! How can anyone afford to live on that? Incredible. She said many young people are forced to live with family or in a rooming house with 6 to 10 other young people. Portugal's minimum wage is debated and set by government committee which includes ministers and reps of trade unions and organizations. The three sides comes together to comprise in the end for cost of living increase and any changes to salary. In 2018, there was an increase from $557 to $580 Euro/month. In 2019 it will increase to $600. Payments are normally made 14 times in a year versus 12. If you are an apprentice in a trade, an employer can discount your wage by 20%. I asked her what it would cost for a student to study at the University of Coimbra for a year. She said it was over $1,000 plus books. She asked what it cost at my university and was dismayed---$16,000 U.S. not including room and board or books. I told her that was at a state school. Many private universities cost $50,000 and more per year. She couldn't believe it. She said students at the university often do not work because their job is to get good grades and graduate. Most complete their degrees in 3 years. I told her that the average student in the USA takes 5 years, and if they remain focused can complete it in 4. In addition, many students worked throughout the school year to help pay for their education. She wanted to know how long it would take a person to payback the money they own for a college loan. I told her it can take years. And if the student has more schooling with a specialized degree (medicine, attorney) it could take 25 or more, pending how much they are making when they get of school but there is no promise of a job. In addition, a student has to begin paying interest on their loan 6 months after the graduate. Plus, if a person goes bankrupt, their educational expenses do not disappear; they remain with the person until their death. I explained that there were some loan forgiveness programs that would wipe out the loan in 8 to 10 years, but they were very competitive. I wonder how any average person can afford to buy a home in Portugal. When I see listings in an apartment building, an average place in a not so great location is more than $200,00o Euro in the city. A decent place can cost more close to one million Euro. If you are in the countryside, prices are reduced but they too are increasing. Portugal's population is also decreasing. There was mass emigration when farming took a mass decline with approximately 27% of the population leaving the country. Placing this with a declining older population and fewer young people having children, the country is continuing to decrease in size. There is concern how to stabilize this particularly with stagnation in salaries when a young person might go else where in the EU for more money. For example, in 2011 with the global financial decline over 300,000 university graduates left Portugal for better jobs else where. It is estimated that the country will need 75,000 new residents annually to maintain a stable working population.