Coimbra – the cultural capital
Knowing absolutely nothing of this region
of Europe it seemed like a good idea to find out a little
before descending upon their second city. It’s actually
the home of vintage port and the world famous explorer Vasco
Da Gamma and we guessed that was all the cultural information
On arrival at the airport our taxi driver
Paulo appeared holding a card with our names lofted high
– he had this enormous smile until he saw how much
equipment we had brought. Ten minutes into the journey to
break the ice and asked about the vintage port which prompted
a thirty minute conversation about their national tipple,
changing the subject Ian then enquired about Vasco Da Gamma
prompting a further thirty minute conversation………sorted,
this guy knows everything!
The first morning and we’re called
for the official press launch of the event – this
consisted of a large number of local children making kites
with the delegates from Singapore and China. Domingo the
organiser imported for the event from Spain took us to see
the flying arena. Around me you get tell by the jaw dropping
looks many were not impressed! I smiled wryly at Ian and
he smiled back with a look that said “game on”.
As we surveyed the flying site it was plain to see it was
nothing more than a building site prickling with bulldozers,
tractors, workmen, pipe work, trunking and concrete! Unfazed
we were reliably informed that by the start of the event
we would have a nice smooth surface on which to perform!
Portugal’s first International kite
festival was to kick off a whole three month series of cultural
events to promote their city. It was important for the organisers
for the event to be successful and as such the enthusiasm
and effort that they made to achieve this was second to
Following the press launch other International
guests had arrived all meeting up at a local restaurant
which gave us the opportunity to chill out and do the who’s
who. Some of the fliers we had met before in Colombia and
the articles that appeared in Issue One of Power Kite Magazine
became the topic of many a ‘conversation’.
The event kicked off on the Saturday morning
at 10am – we arrived promptly while some of our colleagues
arrived somewhat later due to the festivities the night
before. Suprisingly, the builders had flattened the flying
area as promised with only some of the pipe work and concrete
remaining. The site was fairly narrow with a river on one
side and steel barriers on the other and apart from the
aforementioned obstacles we also had a tree to avoid right
in the middle of arena! Over 130 fliers attempting to fly
in this area managed to make the event electric with representatives
from China, Spain, Chile, Colombia, Japan, Lebanon, Holland,
Thailand, Venezuela, Italy and Israel pulling on a multitude
of differing kites.
Middle of the day was showtime for us and
joined by Fernando from Chile we navigated between all the
obstacles and fliers present to an appreciative crowd. Power
Kiting was obviously new to them and it was surprising to
see them back away from us when we got close - even though
there was steel reinforced crash barriers’ separating
them from the performers. At one point the kite catcher
aka. ‘The Tree’ made an impromptu performance
and refused to let go of Ian’s kite for upto an hour.
All attempts to rescue the kite from the grasp of the gnarly
tree provided as much entertainment for the public as did
our actual performance. Not to be outdone by Ian the tree
then grabbed hold of my kite as I went past a little bit
too close, the crowd saw this as our finale as it resulted
in tremendous cheers and claps from the watching crowd.
For what seemed like the next few hours (probably minutes)
we managed to rescue both kites from the tree to loud rapturous
applause from the crowd, we were back in business!
As the day went on all the flyers had the
opportunity to exhibit their kites and day one of the event
turned out to be very successful.
At breakfast we were starting to receive odd looks from
people in the café, this was explained when one of
the organisers appeared clutching a sheaf of newspapers
full of pictures of the previous days events…it seems
that the publicity machine had done its job….. well!
Sunday’s activities commenced slightly
later but fortunately there was a lot more wind. The wind
in Portugal was either on or off which led to some pretty
interesting sights, it’s not often ALL kites and flags
drop simultaneously together en masse.
Everything fell out of the sky at once as
if by some Godly hand had turned off the fan… just
a few minutes later the wind would come back full-on without
We took advantage of the higher winds and
when it did come in we managed to perform some airs, spins
and some body dragging in the water this time keeping well
out of the way of the ‘wooded nemesis’!
Portugal’s first event of its cultural
series passed off quite successfully despite some of the
difficulties with the flying site. Coimbra is an excellent
city steeped in history and well worth a visit. The people
were friendly and receptive and the organisers pulled out
all the stops to make the event the success that it was.
If you get the chance try not to miss the next Portugal
International Kite Festival.
Eaton (Powerkiteshop) and Ian Meredith
Photography: Dan Eaton, Ian Meredith, Derek
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