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Published: November 16th 2018
Carl’s concert at Coimbra university went really well. He delivered an hour lecture speaking as a musician to the audience of musicians in terms they fully understood. But he also spoke about the zen of shakuhachi. The students learnt that there is more to music than the Western tradition and some were deeply inspired and wanted to purchase a shakuhachi and pursue studies in Japan.
Our love for Portuguese Fado brings us again to Coimbra. Fado is medieval and was/is a serenade song. The spirit of Fado is a deep yearning and in that respect it is similar to Japanese Enka. It is in the tiny taverns that you hear the most soulful Fado. Oliveira Salazar, the cruel dictator of Portugal knew that the Fado singers were a danger to his regime. He sent many of them to the army, Mozambique, Angola etc. Many died but these musicians ‘corrupted’ the army. They taught the other soldiers about passive resistance. When the revolution came and the citizens put white carnations in the barrels of the army’s guns, they did not shoot the rebellious citizens. The Fado song ‘Vila Morena’ was broadcast on April 25 to signal the Carnation revolution has begun.
The students wear black capes, a beloved symbol of their university. There is a revolution song titled, 'Black rose, black cape, black flag of freedom.'
People listen to these songs and they cry moved by the poignancy. We don't do that in Australia.
The university at Coimbra, founded in 1290, has a depth of history beloved by the black caped students. The ornate, baroque library is particularly stunning. There are bats in the library that keep the insect population down, thus protecting the precious books. The science museum is full of wondrous contraptions from the medieval days but also the home of some more recent advances. They claim to be the first to invent artificial insemination, putting panties on frogs.
Until 1970 you could only reach Piódão by horseback, even today it is a very long, slow trip up a tortuously windy narrow road. This tiny traditional village clings to edge of a steep valley. Carved into the valley walls are narrow terraces, only a metre of two wide but with three-metre-high walls. The terraces are bare because young people have fled the countryside. No one farms here anymore. Everything is made of schist, black slate. Roofs look
like broken blackboards. Our BnB was luxurious
Porto is a lively town. Our very spacious apartment was above a tattoo shop. We went to the ocean which was pumping.
Igreja de Sao Francisco is dripping with 400 kilograms of gold. I hate it very much. I know the people of south America suffered so pious folks can worship before a gilded Christ in Agony. But I had to see the gaudy spectacle for myself.
A monument worth seeing is the new Concert Hall of Porto. It has one of the best acoustics in the world. Many on the walls are made from several layers of corrugated glass. You can see the performance from outside but no noise passes the glass barrier. Many floor and staircases are made of aluminium, one of the most energy intensive surfaces to produce. Not so good.
The delicacy you see is francsinha (little frenchie). It is a sandwich of toasted white bread with ham, sausage, and steak inside. Melted onto the outside is cheese. It is swimming in a thick spicy sauce of tomato and beer. A fried egg graces the top and it is served with a generous portion of
chips. It is not a meal to be repeated but on a cold night it wasn't too bad a culinary experience to share.
Beautiful, Pinhao in the Douro Valley. We are living in a fabulous three bedroom, four bathroom, three bidet house, high on a terraced hilltop. It is a working vineyard and olive orchard. We have been sampling the owners products - delicious. The harvest is over but there are still grapes on the vines, just begging to be an early morning snack. They are juicy black balls of sweet zingy goodness. The vineyards are dressed in their autumn red and gold splendour. There has been some rain.
Tomorrow off the hot thermal baths in Chaves, then Leon, then a few days in the mountains in the north of Spain. Our last stop will be Singapore.
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