I left Salamanca in mid-afternoon to drive to my next stop, Coimbra Portugal. Coimbra is another University town, towards the north of Portugal and not far from the Atlantic coast.

The drive took longer than I anticipated, most of the route was secondary roads, there was construction and resulting bumper-to-bumper traffic. I finally arrived shortly before sunset. My hotel was on a hillside on the west side of the Mondego River, and my top-floor room overlooked the old part of the city across the river

Coimbra has a population of somewhere between 100,000 and 150,000, references differ. The University of Coimbra, founded in 1290, has about 25,000 students and the center of town makes up much of its campus. The University claims to be the oldest in Portugal and the second oldest on the Iberian Peninsula. According to Wikipedia, the University has an interesting history, having moved between Lisbon and Coimbra several times in the medieval era.

I started my tour of the city the next morning in the Se Nova (new) Cathedral (New meaning 17th century.) I soon wandered into part of the University "campus", academic buildings fronting on city streets, and a large plaza or courtyard surrounded on three sides with historic University buildings, actually originally the Portuguese royal castle.

It was apparent that something special was going on, many of the young people were dressed in black stylized formal dress, a suit and cape. Some were carrying banners and attempting to get others to parade behind them. Rather curious, I asked one what was going on. He and his friends explained it was the first day of Freshman Week. Those, like him dressed in the black suits were Sophomores, and the activities were designed to build school spirit. That brought back memories of my first days at WPI, some 60 years ago now.

There was a lot going on. Their campus (FM) radio station was doing a remote broadcast, interviewing people. There were performances by music majors with different genres. I even got a free snack, one of the nearby establishments was handing them out, apparently with the hope of building up business. I ended up talking to a number of the students. My biggest surprise was that they all spoke English, mostly proper idiomatic English, and usually with no noticeable accent. I asked a couple of the ones with no accent where they were from, thinking they might be foreign students. They both said no, they were from the Coimbra area, although there are in fact many International students there, from all over the world. I asked about majors, all different: Electronics Engineering, Computer Science, History, Law, Biochemistry, you name it. And I'll tell you, talking with bright, astute, worldly young people like those students gives me some hope that the upcoming generation will do a better job running the world than some of the current leaders.

The one thing that worries me is how they are doing with COVID-19. Their college experience is being shattered. They may get (much of) their academic curriculum, but the social aspects, the life-long friendships, are broken. And how many did they loose? Probably not too many (young) students, but I fear for the older faculty. At least at a University over 600 years old, they have been through this type of tragedy multiple times before, and presumably have learned how to cope.