This has been another lively week here in Coimbra. We got back from Lisbon last Saturday after spending a week with Jason's family (blog is coming on that - we’ve been getting behind!), and the city felt a little different. It is currently the Queima das Fitas, or Burning of the Ribbons, the biggest student festival of the year and apparently second only to Oktoberfest in terms of beer consumption. The Queima is basically a celebration of the end of the year, a final hurrah for graduating students, and a full welcoming of the poor freshman who have been getting hazed all year as full members of the university. Starting at the end of last week, the freshmen have been allowed to wear the traditional student suit, and all of the students are supposed to wear them this week. This leads to some funny scenes of people dressed very professionally and looking very nice, staggering down the streets with one beer in each hand or passing out on the grass in the parks. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The Queima started last Thursday night with the Seranata, a fado concert on the steps of the old cathedral. We
were in Lisbon and missed this, but I think a lot of people who were here also didn't make it because of the crowds - so, no major loss on that one. Starting last Friday and continuing through this Friday, there have been huge concerts from about midnight to 6am at the park across the river (directly across from our apartment, good thing for earplugs). Yesterday (Tuesday) was the peak of the whole thing, with the cortejo, or parade. We had seen the parade for the other student festival, the Festa das Latas, back in October, but this one was in a completely different league. Each faculty/department had its own float, usually covered in tissue paper flowers in the color of their program. Apparently they used to have more signs with political critiques or criticisms of the university, but now there is a lot less of that. Basically what they are now are bars on wheels, moving slowly through the city handing out free booze. My geography teacher told us today that the float for his department had 3,000 bottles of beer on it (as well as two suckling pigs, a local specialty). And that is just one of about
85 floats. Yikes. Apparently the students get the beer for free from different beer companies as advertising.
The parade was fun, although most of the people we saw seemed very drunk. There was a TON of broken glass on the ground, and people were just pouring beers all over each other and then smashing the bottles on the street. I guess that’s what happens when beer is free and plentiful. We saw a lot of people vomiting and urinating in the street, too, including several awkward scenes of people using their capes (part of the student outfit) to try to get some privacy while they went about their business. To the students’ credit, though, we never saw any fights or any sort of aggression at all, which I’m pretty sure you would get in the US. People were really drunk, yes, and some guys were being a little too forward with girls who didn’t necessarily appreciate the attention, but it really did seem very good-natured. Things are starting to wind down a little bit here, although the concerts will go on until the end of the week. Then, apparently, we're all supposed to go back inside and study for
"FEUC OFF BOLONHA"
Criticism of the Bologna Process, a (very unpopular) proposal to standardize certain aspects of universities across the EU
final exams - not sure how much of that is really going to happen.
We took a short video of the chaos on the square near our apartment. It's posted at: