A couple of days ago there was a celebration in Coimbra related to their academic week. Since my sister is studying there, she thought we should go to her, watch the festivities and then bring her back with us, since she has no classes all week. Made sense.
From my time in Évora I knew that the particular event my sister was going to participate in was going to be a mess. The idea is that each course in the university makes an allegorical car(more of a truck, but you get the idea), dresses it all up, stock up with maddening amounts of beer and then go through a planned path through the city. Then there are concerts at midnight. I didn't go to this event back when I was at Évora because my friends described it has "Another day of drinking, but with cars". This being Coimbra, I assumed it was going to be like that, but on a larger scale. My expectations were low. They were not low enough.
My sister didn't really want to go in the first place, she drinks very little. But, her friends insisted, so she thought about just going with it for a couple of ours and then leaving. We would watch only in the beginning, leave to find our hotel and then return to her when she was done.
It started of bad. The space where the cars started was in the university and there was not enough space for all the cars(around 70 or so). Beer was raining down from the cars regularly and none of us was finding it particularly funny. Anyway, my sister got next to the car, not in, because, hear this, you had to PAY to go to the car. This is specially ridiculous because my sisters course only has around 20 people and the all would have fit in with no problems.
Anyway, we leave her, the cars start moving(very slowly) and we go to find the hotel. We do that, and minutes after my sister calls saying she had enough, witch meant she lasted a little over an hour, far more than I could bear.
We go to her and realize that the quickest road there is now blocked by a mass of people, cars and beer. We go around for most of the path but eventually reach a road we must go trough. It was awful. The entire road and sidewalks(this was not a small road) was covered in beer, making the floor sticky. In every wall, everyone was pissing, and said piss flowed to the street to join the even larger flow of beer. Here and there, people vomited.
Incredibly, the town, children and old people were all watching, the old people having brought small seats for the show. I saw old women asking for beer next to the students. Little kids were washed by beer and other alcoholic beverages. Small groups of gypsies, drug addicts and a few others were going around stealing and grouping the girls. I saw people shitting themselves next to the police, they didn't care. What were the cops going to do, arrest everyone?
We manage to cross this mess and reach our sister. She was drenched in beer and had a miserable mood. We led her home, as we were only going to leave the next day.
Foolishly, we thought that by the time we got to the awful street again, the worst would have passed. We were wrong. The street was now even more covered in piss and beer. Not even half the cars had passed yet. I saw a guy barely able to stand but still somehow with enough madness and energy in him to try to make a joint. Not a meter away from him was a girl pissing herself, I mean, I hope she was only pissing.
After what felt like an eternity we reached the hotel, a pretty 19th century building that had clearly not been extensively renovated since the 70's, but, you know, at that point that didn't matter. From our window we could see a small corner where hundreds of people went to piss and vomit while we were paying attention. The sirens of the police and ambulances made for an odd lullaby. Before the party was even over, there were already cleaning crews washing and cleaning the streets. The next day the scent of beer and piss still lingered.
But, despite all this, everyone was happy. Most people in Coimbra must be the happy sort of drunk because they all helped each other in a drunken manner. And even those not drunk seemed happy. The cleaning crews were laughing and chatting as they cleaned the mess.
If there is anything you should take from this miserable story it's this: Don't visit Coimbra during the academic week. Coimbra is a really pretty town, and it deserves being appreciated and explored when it doesn't smell like a cocktail of piss, beer and shit.
FML and may the cleaning crew that dealt with that crap be blessed by all the gods I can think of.