19 May 2010 – In Salamanca

Breakfast at this Parador is nothing special.  We must be getting spoiled.  The fruit selection was not that great, and there was no oatmeal, which I happened to want today.   I asked the concierge for a map, and I got this piece of paper

The footbridge to Salamanca

with no streets visible, and the street names almost too small to read.  With that I went exploring, first across the bridge to town, then found a church tower museum named for Ieronimus (Jeronimo)  who was a key figure in the reconquest of Spain.

At mid-level

I headed up a short staircase to a small exhibit room and then up a long, small spiral staircase, and came out behind some Moorish parapets, face to face with the towers I had been looking up at a few moments before.

I could also walk high over the new

Cathedral column capitals

cathedral floor up where the columns were reaching the arches of the roof.  It was a great sight.

An old passageway with new electic cables

I then crossed over to the New Cathedral through a narrow passageway.  The feeling of antiquity was somewhat marred by the heavy electric cable running along the wall of the passageway.  I soon found another narrow spiral staircase going up even higher.  I am not afraid of heights but this left me breathless and hanging onto the carved stone rail with both hands.

Now that's a spiral staircase!

Once again out among the ramparts even higher.  The cooing of the doves nearby blended with the Gregorian chants drifting up inside.

Even higher

It was an adventure.

My next mission was to find a good map of Salamanca.  The tourist information office was in the “conche” building, and I assumed that meant the walls were embedded with conch shells, which would have been quite a sight.  Instead they were Shell gasoline style shells carved in stone and not nearly as interesting as what I had imagined.  Teresa thought they would be real shells, too.  I did get an excellent map, and when I showed them the ridiculous Parador copy, they gave me the name of the Asociatión de Hoteleria, and said the hotel should get maps from them.  Back at the hotel desk they were not interested.

Lazarilla de Torme was apparently a big deal in Salamanca, and one day I am going to find out why.  It was getting close to lunch time, and walked back past a stature of Lazarilla de Torme, on a bridge over Rio Tormes to the Parador.  I noticed.as I returned that breakfast had been in the Lazarilla Room.

In the afternoon, armed with the new map, we ventured by car into the center of Salamanca.  Actually, driving through these winding little streets looks a great deal harder than it actually is.  We drove up by the cathedral and around town a bit before we got back to the parking garage that was recommended to us.

We then walked to the old and new cathedrals, and I got a ground level view to go with the elevated view from this morning.  The old and  new cathedrals are completely different experiences, but both are worth visiting.  The University of Salamanca had closed to tourists but wandered into the Faculty of Philology building whose inside walls were covered with student names and the date of their getting their doctorate, according to a student.  Each name was accompanied by  what looked like a secret symbol but with variations.  It turns out each is consists of the letters VICTOR in a design of the student’s choosing.

There were students basking in the grassy plaza sun and on the benches.  Clearly this is a college town.

We then headed for Plaza Major, which was as big as it was billed, it was reminiscent of Piazza San Marcos without the Campenile, and the cathedral  There were cafes all around and so we enjoyed a Coca Cola Light and a cerveza Español.  In fact we walked in the Plaza a bit and had another coke and beer.  The wall behind us was decorated with medallions commemtorating explorers.  The next wall over had Spanish nobility, and farther on, royalty.

It was getting to be time for dinner so we began walking  back towards the parking garage when we stopped to eat as the Cerveceria Gambrinus.  We shared fish spaghetti, croquettes, and vegetable-pork stew.  I assured Teresa that they would be fish croquettes, but they were not, of course.  They were basically breaded, deep fried cheese lumps.  We struck up a conversation with three people who had arrived around 10 PM, and learned they were here to give lectures on dealing with battered women issues.  One of them was Lenore Walker who came up with the “Circle of Violence” to explain the phenomenon.  They come here every year to lecture on the subject and also to a couple of other cities selected each year.  Her husband suggested we look for a greenish liqueur when we are in Santiago de Compostela, which is where we will be tomorrow.

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