Let me start out by saying yes, I have used a very similar blog post title in the past to describe Seville. However, it sums up my time in Salamanca pretty well.
I wasn’t supposed to be in Spain in April. Far from it, actually. I was supposed to be a good little student, hacking away at a mountain of essays piling up. However, my friend Joel had settled into the town, and his stories were giving me a major case of itchy feet.
Plus, as I described here, I was getting a bit lonely. I wanted to see a friend. I mentioned my musings to Joel, and that was it. As soon as I verbalised it, I was going. I found a cheapish flight to Madrid, and I was off.
Salamanca isn’t the most conveniently-located place in Europe. It’s roughly between Madrid and Porto, and only has a tiny domestic airport. So I took a late flight to Madrid with Iberia, before training it to Salamanca the next morning. There was only one flaw in this plan; after flying with KLM a few weeks before, I’d expected food on the two and a half hour flight. As it turned out, they did, but only if you were prepared to fork out eight euro for a sad-looking sandwich. I refused on principle, meaning I was delirious by the time I got to my hostel at 12.30am. Next time I’ll bite my tongue and buy the sandwich.
The train ride from Madrid to Salamanca the next day was lovely. The landscape of Spain fascinates me; it doesn’t feel European, but it doesn’t feel like anywhere else, either. It’s not quite desert and it’s not quite farmland. With little towns sprinkled throughout, it’s something in between.
Salamanca is known for a few things. It’s incredibly beautiful, which I became aware of after watching the action movie ‘Vantage Point’ a few years ago, which was set in the town.
Most of the city centre is made out of sandstone, making it all look lovely and matching yet not at all like another sandstone city, Adelaide, at all. The Old Cathedral (thirteenth century) and New Cathedral (yeah, very new, sixteenth century) dominate the town.
As you can see from a previous blog post, I spent a lot my time in Salamanca eating. Tapas is one of those foods that is ridiculously overpriced everywhere in the world bar the country from which it hails. Salamanca’s offerings were exceptional, particularly on the foodie street Calle van Dyck and even the ones on the square, though a tad more expensive, were worth it.
That’s because the square is up there with the best in the world. That’s right, I’m putting it in the same category as Il Campo in Siena. The Plaza Mayor sums up Salamanca perfectly; it’s easy on the eye, perfectly matching, and way too regal for a town similar in size to Geelong.
I sat in the square at one point for a good forty-five minutes or so, just taking it all in and admiring people’s shoes. (The Spanish have the best footwear in the world.) Those forty-five minutes just happened to coincide with the only forty-five minutes it stopped raining in my whole time in Salamanca. I took advantage of the rare blue sky.
Salamanca’s not a place that has a lot of ‘to-do’ things on its list. Rather, it’s a place to wander, to appreciate the picture-perfect surrounds and to eat yourself silly. Sure, there’s tourists (mainly French from what I could gather) but the shopkeepers hardly speak English and there’s a complete absence of FC Barcelona shirts and bull-pattered hoodies in shops. Instead, it feels pretty upmarket, even down to the local Zara.
Just around the corner however, were signs of more things Spanish.
Salamanca’s a major univeristy town, boasting the oldest university in Spain and the third-oldest in Europe. The university’s presence is everywhere, whether it be the endless throng of students or the unique font used for street names. It’s the university’s font, and it makes everything look just a tad more Hogwarts than it already does.
Not only does Salamanca have a huge domestic student population, but the town is also home to dozens of Spanish-language schools (hence Joel’s reasons for calling Salamanca home for a bit). Salamanca’s massive student presence means for pretty good nightlife, as well. Nights were dominated by tapas hopping, and when the food disappeared at around one in the morning we’d keep going.
La Chupiteria is a crowd favourite, with its one euro shots, or even the strange Camelot; a nightclub set in an old church.
Despite the bags under my eyes, I’d force myself up the next morning before doing it all again. Because sleeping in Spain would be sacrilege, really.