When we wake up, both our room without windows and the corridor are still dark. We can see the daylight thanks to the window in the dining room though. It’s quiet everywhere so we slowly pack our stuff, do the morning hygiene and walk away quietly, so that we don’t wake anyone up. It’s difficult to be as quiet as mice because of the creaking floor though. So it’s no wonder that the door next to us suddenly opens and Stefan is in it wishing us Buen Camino for the last time. We stretch our legs outside on a completely empty street. Suddenly, a window above us opens and Mary is in it laughing, saying hello and that she’s looking forward to see us again in the monastery in Coimbra.
“You will never cross the ocean if you are afraid of losing sight of the shore.”
It’s about ridiculous 15 km to Coimbra today. We’re planning to arrive there in the morning, check in, wash our clothes and calmly look around this old university town.
The weather is still the same way as it has been all the previous days. The morning sky is gray and thanks to that the temperature for wandering is pleasant. Full of impressions from yesterday’s dinner, we do not pay attention to the markings. We don’t notice that we’re going the wrong way after a few hundreds of meters. We return to the crossroad and continue along the pointers. Coimbra is visible from the distance and it’s the biggest city from Camino since Lisbon so far. The markings are fortunately great and so it doesn’t take long and we’re a short distance from the monastery where we’re planning to stay the night.
A terrible breakfast
Since we haven’t had anything for breakfast yet and a café is in front of us, we postpone the arrival to the monastery. The café is served by two young boys. One of them has a cold so strong that we’re trying not to breathe near him. We order a coffee and from the tragic menu of desserts that they have there, I choose a pineapple pudding and Jitka some strange Maultaschen. The coffee is so far the worst we’ve had in Portugal yet and the pudding seems to remember the times when Saint James was alive. Jitka’s dessert isn’t any better. The sweet Maultaschen turns out to be a one with meat with a very poor taste. We rather give up. We go to pay and then vanish.
Tonight, we’re staying at the monastery
In the monastery we find someone like a cleaning woman. I think we’ve won. That’s usually the most important person, right? And she actually is. She tells us to come in the afternoon, that no one is here to check us in right now. I don’t know how about Jitka, but I’m trying to pull puppy dog eyes on her and it seems to be working since suddenly there’s no problem to leave our bags here, sign in and pay 10 euro for the accommodation… That’s just in case, so that we’d have a sure bed.
Hurray to the city
After filling the form and paying, we leave our backpacks and go to the lower part of the city. We go around something which looks like an amusement park until we reach a bridge. We sit on the railing there for a while and pull out a phone with a map. We want to try to find the restaurant from the advertisement for pilgrims menu that we’ve been seeing for the past few days. According to the map it’s not very far so we exceptionally try the noon pilgrims menu. Until today, we were used to walk on an empty stomach in the morning, get some breakfast after about 7-12 km and eat more in the evening.
We find the restaurant Aeminium quite quickly and we’re even lucky enough to find a free table outside. We sit down and after asking for the pilgrims menu, the waitress starts pouring out of herself two different variants of the menu. We interrupt her and say that each of us takes one of the variants. To drink, she offers beer, alcohol-free beer or wine. We choose wine. Not long ago, there is a big jug full of red wine standing in front of us. As a side snack we get a bowl of olives, seafood and some buns with spread. We both get the same soup, a pumpkin soup. It normally isn’t one of my favorites, but I don’t mind it here.
After the soup I get something looking like beef tail with potatoes and garnish. The rectangular plate is full of it. Jitka gets something like mushroom risotto. It’s no glory but it’s eatable. There’s just too much of it. Also, we feel sort of heavy after the food and wine so we’re agreeing on a change of plans. We return to the monastery, check in, shower and then go to a tour around the city. Since the waitress is not to be found, I go and pay in the restaurant even though a part of the menu was also coffee and dessert. We feel so sick to our stomachs that we wouldn’t fit anything else in there anyway. The price 8,50 euro for the menu with wine is still more than great compared to the classic menu.
In the monastery we get bed linens and instructions about where we’re going to sleep. Jitka along with the other women downstairs, me and the other men on the upper floor. While Mary, who has arrived while we were eating, takes Jitka under her wings in the female section, I climb up the stairs and occupy the lower bed of the bunk bed which is right next to the stairway and showers. There are more beds in the room, from which one of them has been occupied, too. It was by some Enrique from Argentina. A charmer, as I’m getting to know him, his wife Tonya from California is trying to call him by whistling from downstairs, so that he would lend her shampoo. After the shower and washing our clothes I meet up with Jitka on the garden and we’re discussing what to do next.
On the garden we meet a Spanish pilgrim we met in Alvorge who has bites all over her body. She slept in the same albergue as we did but on the right side. We find out that she was going to spend two days in Alvorge to rest for a while but instead, she had to run away from the bugs and that they don’t want to accommodate her here (which kind of makes sense), until she goes to the town to wash all of her stuff. Then she hurriedly leaves so that she would do everything in time. Me and Jitka go for a walk.
We don’t feel like going back to the city because of the feeling of a heavy stomach so we just walk around the monastery and its surroundings. We meet Mary with Enrique and Tonya. Mary gives us a tip where to sleep the next day in Sernadelo. Apparently apart from the classic albergue with bunk beds they have a few normal rooms too and that the price is only slightly bigger. After seeing the bitten Spaniard, we decide quickly and reserve one double room by email. When we get back from our walk, we order a dessert with a coffee in a café in the monastery complex and check the map to see what awaits us tomorrow and plan tomorrow’s breakfast on the route. While planning, the pilgrims come one after another and two of them are Danny and Eva. I check them inconspicuously and neither of them is bitten. They were lucky they slept on the same side of the albergue as us. I think Ania and Marek maybe weren’t so lucky though.
We finish our coffee and go to sleep, so that we have enough energy for tomorrow. As I’m walking through the female section, I see that most of the beds are already taken. In my floor I find out it’s completely full. I slide into my sleeping bag and fall asleep so quickly I don’t even notice.