March 23, 2012

Foreigners impressions on Portugal

"Linda and I had Portugal on the back burner for many years. A mistake! Had we not procrastinated, this would have been a return trip. Portugal is booming. With a strong economy and funds from the EU, the transportation and telecommunications infrastructure is being upgraded at a record rate. Restoration of old and historic buildings and homes as well as new construction can be seen everywhere. Portugal is a country on the move while at the same time preserving its old-world culture, traditions and lifestyle - its heritage. Language is not a barrier. In addition to Portuguese, the younger generations speak English and at least one other language. There is always someone nearby who is more than willing to help you if you are having trouble communicating."The Travelzine
Don Freedman, a retired marketing executive, and his wife Linda, are from Canada but they really love Portugal. They documented their 9 visits to my country in a very detailed way. It's amazing how they really got to know the way we live and our culture. I think that they spent all winter at the Azores Islands. Maybe they already left the moment I am writing these lines. I found their site accidentally and asked permission to quote what they wrote about Portugal in Spring of 1997. I enjoyed reading that particular opinion. But soon  my thoughts turned into sad ones. In fact when Don and Linda visited us for the first time Portugal was kicking. Now along with Greece and Ireland the country is one of the most affected by the European sovereign debt crisis. That along with years of misgovernment by leaders that had not the capacity to invest adequately the money Don mentioned determined Portugal to lost the Euro challenge. The European leaders granted a bailout loan only after Portugal signed up huge spending cuts. As a result of that the economy is in recession for a second straight year. Unemployment rate is at 14.8%, and that's a record. Reforms will take some time to make any positive effect and I don't know how long can companies and people handle it...

But while exchanging emails with Linda we end up writing about Coimbra. This city has one of the most relevant educational institutions in Portugal and abroad.The University of Coimbra was founded by King Dinis and confirmed by Papal Bull of Nicholas IV on the 9th August 1290. It's Portugal’s oldest and largest university and one of the oldest universities in continuous operation in the world. With approximately 20,000 students, Coimbra's hosts one of the largest communities of international students in Portugal, more than 1000 a year.

I visited Coimbra this week and took some photos of the city. So you can expect several postages about this city and some of its traditions for the next days. Meanwhile take a look at these two postacards of the old university. This is Law school. I got  my Law degree there. Yes, I had the privilege to attend classes in a precious national monument! 

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