Salamanca by Day

In planning my trip(s) to Spain, Salamanca was a bit of an outlier. The university city is located in the western part of the country and isn’t super-close to other touristy areas. When dividing Spain into easy-to-visit areas, I ended up grouping Salamanca with Madrid. It’s possible to do a day trip to Salamanca from Madrid, but it would end up being rushed, with more time spent on the train than sight-seeing. I decided to make my trip an overnight adventure.

Back in Madrid, I got up at 6:50 when I realized the train to Salamanca left from Chamartin instead of Atocha. Whew. I was dressed and packed by 7:20. I checked out of Hostel Far Home Atocha – gave the desk a few things the nice lady from South Korea had left the previous morning – and took the metro to Chamartin Station. I was surprised at how easy it was to find a seat on the metro at that time of morning, despite having my luggage. At Chamartin, I had my usual breakfast. I’d bought tickets for the train back in the US, so there was no rush to buy tickets this time round. Once on the train, the scenery of golden hills and fields under blue skies was nice and the journey was uneventful and took a little under two hours.

The Salamanca station is attached to a small mall. I caught a cab out front, which dropped me off at Plaza Mayor. I walked to the opposite corner, where I found Sercotel las Torres and checked my bags. (It was 11:00 and check-in was at 2:00.) I set out to explore.

Salamanca is home to one of the world’s oldest universities, and this identity is the city’s bedrock. While religion and education may not immediately go together from a modern perspective, in medieval Spain, the two were tied together. As you walk through Salamanca, you’ll find grand churches, university colleges, and private “palaces”, all built in the same golden sandstone.

I decided to start at the edge of the city and work my way back toward Plaza Mayor. I started by heading for Casa Lis, cutting through the Cueva de Salamanca on the way. The cave was rumored to be a place where students attempted to summon the devil to learn sorcery, a legend that was popularized through a story by Cervantes. Today, you can visit the old structure built around the cave, even climbing to the top. (I didn’t; I was saving my legs for the cathedral climb.) The most magical thing that happened to me at the Cueva de Salamanca was when the clouds overhead produced a brief sun shower, the only time I saw rain in my two weeks in Spain.

About a block away was Casa Lis, an Art Nouveau museum. The museum was okay, but full of bored French teens on a school trip. Photography is banned, which is kinda a bummer when your main draw is an exquisite stained glass ceiling (the picture of it below is cribbed from Wikipedia). Aside from that, some beautiful jewelry and creepy dolls were the standouts.

Next, I visited Ieronimus. In researching things to do and see in Salamanca, I saw Ieronimus mentioned often, with no real explanation of what it was. Salamanca is unique in that when they built their new cathedral (beginning in 1513), they kept the old one (completed in the 1300s) as well, attaching the two buildings. A few years back, Salamanca did restorations of both cathedrals and excavated some previously blocked off passages. You can now walk up through the cathedral walls, out across the roofs, and up to the tallest bell tower. I’ll write about the experience in more detail in my next post.

Next up was the Huerto de Calisto and Melibea. I climbed down a street before realizing the garden was at the top, ugh. Again, this place has a connection with the literature of renaissance-era Spain. It’s supposed to be the place where the titular lovers met in a tale similar to Romeo and Juliet, had Shakespeare’s play made a madam the source of conflict rather than feuding families. In any case, the gardens were pretty and #worthit.

I walked past a few other sites, like the main university facade, the Convent of San Esteban, and the Torre del Clavero. It was 2:00, so I headed back to the hotel and checked in. I didn’t get a plaza view, but I did have a small Juliet balcony on a side street. In any case, it was too hot to open the doors. I settled in, watching some soccer, napping, and showering.

At 7:45ish, I set out to find a place for dinner and the Argentina-Croatia game. I ended up at Las Tapas de Gonzalo, one of the restaurants on the plaza. The food was good, if a little expensive, though still more reasonable here than it would have been in Madrid’s Plaza Mayor. I had small plates of ceviche, patatas bravas with the house sauce, croquettes, and then for dessert, violet ice cream.

Overall, I probably would have been happy with the experience, but service was super slow and toward the end, a group of smokers sat right next to me. I had to sit in their nasty cloud while I waited half an hour for the check, which made me want to puke up everything I'd just eaten, ugh. As for the game, Argentina lost to Croatia, 0-3, lol. After dinner, I headed back to the hotel for a bit before going out to experience Salamanca at night.


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