Of Romans and Ruffians

The next photograph was taken from the window of my dormitory in Coimbra. It’s a detail of the Old Cathedral depicting what looks like some poor gargoyle suffocating in weeds. The building itself is a formidable example of Romanesque architecture built in the twelfth century. It looks like an impenetrable fort and that’s because that is exactly what it was: an impenetrable fort, built to keep the Moors out. It was the period just after the Reconquista and the Moors couldn’t be far away.


Detail Old Cathedral

For once, the weather looked promising, so I cycled to the Roman ruins of Conimbriga, some 15 kilometres south of Coimbra. To get there, I followed the IC2, a road that seemed to be solely used by truck drivers having their minds set on scaring the living daylights out of day-tripping cyclists.

The museum was small but pleasant, with some lovely artifacts. Among them a collection of oil lamps which were first imported from Italy, but later from North Africa, where they were then mass produced. An early example of moving production to countries with cheap labour.

In the museum I made a photograph of a bust of the deified Emperor August.



In the 5th century the city was besieged by the Suevi who came from the North. They had moved south, I assumed, because of the incessant rain pouring down on their native Galicia. Besides, the Suevi were always in for some killing, raping and pillaging which made a welcome change from plodding behind their oxen in the rain. As is still clearly visible today, the inhabitants of the city built an enormous wall to defend themselves, but to no avail. The city fell in 465 AD.

Mosaic Conimbriga

Mosaic Conimbriga

The photo above shows a mosaic of the Minotaur lurking in the heart of a labyrinth. Interestingly, if one follows the path, it inevitably leads to the Minotaur. In the classical sense, labyrinths were not designed to get lost in… Another example of things learnt while travelling.



To keep in the tradition of 19th century travellers, I try to develop an interest in the flora and fauna of the lands I travel through. Hence this photograph. I have also successfully identified olive trees at the excavation site.


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