Travelling for a while on the Iberian peninsula, it is inescapable to wonder about the linguistic variety of the area.
Similarities between Spanish and Portuguese are obvious when reading a text in those languages. Things get different when you hear Portuguese, which to me has a peculiar slavic intonation and I find it hard to understand. Spanish and Portuguese have about 89 % lexical similarity. The rest must be Russian.
One of the remarkable differences is the most ubiquitously used expression thank you: obrigado in Portuguese and gracias in Spanish. At first, entering Portugal, one is still saying gracias, but that is to be swiftly replaced by obrigado. It makes people smile.
In my guidebook I read a topic covering the New Cathedral of Coimbra which mentioned The Jesuit college of the Eleven Thousand Virgins. That seemed like a lot of Virgins to me. I did some research and found out that is was connected to an interesting myth of St. Ursula who was martyred in the German city of Cologne. According to legend a twelfth century stone was found with the inscription: S. Ursula et XI M. V. This was enthusiastically interpreted as St. Ursula and her XI Thousand Virgens, mistaking the XIM for Romain numerals. instead of St. Ursula and her eleven martyred Virgins. Eleven thousand Virgins! What were they thinking!
In Coimbra I strolled through the Jardim Botânico which was filled with amateur photographers, taking pictures with lenses of outlandish size. The weather was gray but that didn’t seem to hinder the ardent photographers. I was surprised at the height of Brasilian Palm trees that seemed to flourish in this Southern European climate.
My cursed knee and that damned rain. Looking outside only to see wet cobblestones in the dark and dancing umbrellas. I drink my wine in sober contemplation.
I leave for Tomar. When I wheel my bike outside it rains. I hesitate, I hate to leave in the rain. But I’m all set and packed, so I go. The rain is very light, it’s somewhere between drizzle and fog, but I get wet nevertheless. Just outside Coimbra, I’m in the hills and follow little roads winding up and down, it’s dificult to find the right way. I despair when at first I make little progress every time I check my map. Then I get on a main road, the rain stops and the landscape flattens out.
Half past three I arrive in Tomar.