A Different View from a Cathedral – Around the World Day 8

As I’ve stated before, when you go to Europe, you spend a lot of your time touring various cathedrals. You become well versed in the ways of architecture, and you can start to tell the difference between the gothic style and the baroque style. You also get to see the Catholic church’s collection of great pieces of art. After awhile they start to blend together unless you come across something completely new and unique with the cathedrals that you tour. Catedral Nueva in Salamanca is one of the cathedrals that adds a new twist to the experience.

It has its various chapels like all the other cathedrals in Europe. It even has a special artifact, the left forearm of saint that they have preserved in a case that you can pray to. It even has a boring audio guide that explains all of the things you are looking at by some old British guy with a monotonous voice. So then why should this be one of the places that you visit while you are in Salamanca. Well, because after you take the tour, you will notice a small door off to the side of the building that will give you access to the roof. This is where the views are spectacular, and you really get to see Salamanca from a different perspective.

The winding paths that they give you access to will allow you to view the main cathedral from up above, and will actually take you all the way to the bell towers high above the streets of Salamanca. The give you access to this part of the cathedral even at night while it is all lit up and Salamanca looks completely different from this perspective. I do recommend that you watch out while in the bell tower because they do ring the bells every fifteen minutes and they are really loud when you are right next to them.

But you start to feel like Quasimodo in Notre Dame Cathedral as you get to skip around the rooftops. Not many people know about this access either, so while I was up there I ran into only a handful of people, and there are so many hidden little corners up there that even when I did run into these people it did not feel like I was overrun by tourists. And you just want to take pictures of everything because there are so many photo opportunities up there.

And you do get to watch the people as they make there ways down the winding paths to their jobs or their lunches or to their classes. It is the hidden gem of this city. If you do find yourself in Salamanca, I do recommend that you visit the cathedral because it is a nice example of gothic architecture, and it is connected to the old cathedral, so in one visit you can see two great buildings. But make sure you find that door that gives you access to the roof because that is where the great views actually are, and it makes the visit to this site truly memorable.


Wandering the Streets – Around the World Day 7

Yes, Salamanca has some great sites that as a traveler I will visit, but that was not the goal of my first complete day here. When I get into any new town I like to get my bearings by wandering around the streets, and I did not do that the first evening I was in town. I had an important soccer match to watch. (I know I should call it futball because of where I am, but some habits die hard.) But it was a beautiful day to see what the city had to offer today.

I enjoy this activity a lot, and Salamanca is the perfect place to go out and stroll its streets. It is an old city filled with a tannish brown stone that makes every street I wandered down feel as if I was back in the twelfth century. But it also has little gems that the guide books do not like to highlight. There are numerous plazas, and shady spot to escape a hot summer’s day, and my camera went crazy trying to capture all of them.

There are also lots of cafes and restaurants all through the windy streets. It is not an officially a car free zone, but so few cars come down these streets that it gives it that pedestrian mall feel. The center of the city is ringed by a single busy road, and this is the heart of the tourist’s place. It houses the university, and Plaza Mayor, and it is big enough that you could easily spend a day exploring all of the crooks and crannies. In this way it reminds me a little of Venice. You can get a little lost wandering the streets and never get so lost that you will never find your way back to your hotel room. Any time you come to the major road that rings this area, you just dip back into the old streets and get lost some more.

This is when you can find the small little details that the city has to offer. There are enough carvings into the buildings or crazy models in shops that you will easily be entertained all day. And you do not have to do the usual tourist thing in Europe by visiting the cathedrals, or watching people at the major plazas. That does not mean that I still won’t do those things, but by doing Salamanca this way I felt like I was being a tourist on my own terms.

And by doing this I got to enjoy the city on a different level. I was able to watch the street performers and their unique style. I got to stop in a cafe to get a cafe con leche any time I felt a little thirsty or needed a boost of caffeine. I got to sit in the shade of the trees and laugh at the herds of tourists being led around by their tour guide. It wasn’t a busy day, and I can’t say I saw anything that was worthy of a guide book, but in a way I saw a whole lot more.

Salamanca’s Living Room – Around the World Day 6

I have left behind the busy pace of Barcelona on my quest to constantly head west to the slower pace of Spain’s college town, Salamanca. The major feature of this town is its university which was established in 1154 and at one time was considered one of the more prestigious learning institutions in Europe. Even though it is still held in high regard today, it is not considered at the level it once was. It does not matter much because it is not like I am going to take the time to enroll in a class, and I am pretty sure that there are not many classes going on right now due to the fact that they are probably out for the summer. Either way, it will be a change of pace from Barcelona.

Most of the day was spent on a train transferring in Madrid, so when I finally arrived at my final destination I was looking forward to some tapas, a quick beer, and an early night so I could really explore this town the next day. I was in for a little bit of a treat though. Christine had booked a hotel room overlooking one of Salamanca’s greatest features, Plaza Mayor.

A plaza is the main feature of any Spanish town. Barcelona has a few of them, and they were interesting, but nothing like the one in Salamanca. The whole square is surrounded by one single large building with arches placed strategically in many places to allow entrance into the place. On the ground floor, there are numerous tapas bars, gelato shops, and restaurants. Because of this this is where the people of Salamanca come together to catch up on their days.

On a typical Wednesday night this might mean a few people, but the thousands of seats were all taken up last night because what better way to enjoy your city’s family than to get together to watch a World Cup match where Spain is looking to overcome the tie they had the opening night against Portugal. There was a lot of excitement as people found a place to settle in to watch the game, and even though I was hoping for an early evening, I knew I wasn’t going to get it because this place was going to be loud tonight and my room overlooked the noise.

Now as an American, I don’t understand the mass appeal to World Cup soccer, but as a world traveler, I do understand that it is the largest sporting event in the world, and if your country happens to make it, any time there is a game, it becomes a major event. It becomes a completely different sport when you find yourself in a large group of people who are excited about the outcome, and it is also a way to show national pride as people wore Spanish jerseys, waved Spanish flags, and even draped them over their shoulders to wear like a cape. It made for a memorable start to my visit to Salamanca, and I can’t wait to see what other exciting things this town has in store for me.