The day was sunny and warm under the cloudless blue sky. The sun was nearing its apex as they left the house, and Matina felt an odd feeling of belonging to the old winding streets they traversed at a leisure pace.
MATINA - So, where are you taking me for my first trip around the city?
AROA - You'll see in just a bit! Right now we are just passing praça da república, the center of all life in Coimbra.. there's a bunch of cool bars here, but we'll leave that for another time. For now, lets go up the escadas monumentais to go see the university tower!
MATINA - Escadas monumentais? What's that?
AROA - Take a deep breath, you will need it!
And then she saw it: a monolith of stone, imposing itself against the hill in which it rested.
MATINA - Wow! Am I going to have to climb this every day to go to class?
AROA - Well, you can always go around them, but this is the shortest way... Don't worry, it's just 125 steps!
The climb was slow and painful, and the heat wasn't helping. Her heart pumping, the backpack dragging her down, her legs starting to cramp with every single step. Finally, after what had seemed like an hour of climbing, they made it to the top.
AROA - Welcome to Polo 1! This is my favourite part of the city! All the faculties are really close together, and the tower is just right ahead! Wanna see it?
MATINA - (*gasping for air*) Yeah, let's go!
Passing under the porta ferrea and onto the open plaza was like stepping into a new world. The tower just stood there, in a corner, imposing centuries of stone and tradition, like a watchdog for newcomers. Right besides it, the old Law School looked plainly uninviting.
AROA - Wanna check out the Biblioteca Joanina? It's amazing! And best of all, it is free today for students! I've already seen it, and I have to go grab some photocopies, so why don't you go see it and we'll meet here again in a bit? I won't take long, promise!
Matina nodded, and they walked into the building. Small crowds of tourists conglomerated on the outside, oddly chatting with the guides and taking pictures with the tower as backdrop. As she stepped inside, her heart stopped. She couldn't believe that the door she just transversed was in fact a portal to one of the most wondrous places she had ever seen. It wasn't for the quantity of books, the infinite bookshelves, the high ceilings filled to the brim with detail what derailed her. No. It was the magic that was breathable in that place, like if all those books could offer her everything she would ever need. The smell of wood, paper and ink filled her heart and, unable to stop herself, she started circling her eyes looking for the smallest details, trying to soak in the experience till its last drop. Without a though, she grabbed her camera from the backpack, pointed it straight ahead and shot. The flash was overbearing, and caught the attention of the security guard slouched against a badly lit corner of the main room.
SECURITY - Miss! HEY! MISS! What do you think you re doing?
MATINA -I...I... I was just taking a picture...
SECURITY - Can't you read, or are you just unable to obey the rules? No pictures allowed!
His finger pointed straight, almost trembling, to a pretty conspicuous no pictures sign that, for some reason, had escaped her initial attention.
SECURITY - And, on top of it all, with flash! Do you now what that does to the older books? I'm sorry lady, but I'll have to escort you out!
There was no way of arguing with him, Matina thought, so she calmly bagged her camera and walked out, still stunned by what seemed to her a gratuitous display of aggression, his eyes staring her down all the way to the exit.