10 Lessons from my first Queima Cortejo

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May 31, 2014 by mariannat92

Now we’re firmly into May, I have an announcement to make: I have been to my first ever Queima das Fitas (the famous week-long graduation festival here at Coimbra) including its incredible Cortejo parade, and can therefore confirm that this year has been FUN. Properly fun. Like paint yourself blue in celebration and make ridiculous faces fun. The highlight of Queima for me (and, lets be honest here, for everybody) was undoubtedly the Cortejo, a parade of every department’s graduating class held on the first Sunday of the festival. For anyone reading who’s thinking of going, here’s the lowdown on my first ever Queima Cortejo experience.


  1. Prepare to get wet: this is going to be one of the messiest days of your life.
  2. Get yourself a place somewhere along the parade route. Make sure you are on the street. Anyone who wimps out and tries to watch from a window is missing some serious Coimbra fun, so just whip out your worst clothes and surrender yourself to the Cortejo madness.
  3. Remember, all the beer is FREE. Yes, free. Just approach any float in the parade and they’ll provide you with as many cans as you want. However, this isn’t necessarily for drinking…
  4. Beer is for throwing, not for drinking. Whoever told you otherwise is doing it wrong. Here point one and two come into play – the main principle of the parade (other than a kind of university run beauty pageant for the floats, but who’s really interested in that bit…) is to get your friends as wet as possible. If this means you get injured by your own enthusiasm (here’s looking at you Will) or by other people’s bad catching and flying cans (yep, that’s me and many, many others), then so be it. You only get one Cortejo per Erasmus!
  5. Find your own float! Every department puts forward their own float, or floats, for the parade so make sure you find yours – it’s a great chance to wish your classmates well for graduation, paint yourself with your faculty colours (hence the blue faces in the photo) and maybe even get up onto the float with the people you’ve been studying alongside all year.
  6. Follow the parade to the river – the parade goes all the way down from the main university campus, along Avenida Sá de Bandeira and through the Baixa before reaching the river.IMG_4657
  7. Here, if your name’s Elaine, you can buy yourself your very own unicorn balloon and fall deeply, deeply in love with it (Derek quickly became our Queima mascot and was adored by all, until finally breaking free and taking himself off to unicorn heaven a few days later. RIP Derek Jackson, forever in our hearts).
  8. If you feel like it, grab some friends and go for a dip in the river! I’d wanted to do this all year and it was such a good feeling to finally get swimming – you’re not a proper Coimbra student until you’ve been baptised in the Mondego! However, on the advice of my old Portuguese housemate, remember to take your phone and keys out of your pockets before you jump in… Cortejos are an expensive business!
  9. Whatever you do, when you get home do not sit down. Do not have a nap. In fact, do not pass go. If you sit down you will fall asleep, and just because you’ve been partying all day doesn’t mean there isn’t more partying to be done tonight. Just grab a shower, put some non-beery clothes on and get straight out, you won’t regret it.
  10. Get yourself down to the Queimódromo and in prime position to see Quim Barreiros. He might be the one everybody loves to hate, but he’s a Cortejo institution so suck it up and enjoy the end to the best day of your Erasmus – after all, you only Queima once!

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