Salamanca – a beautiful town & showpiece of the Spanish Renaissance – Located 127 miles northwest of Madrid, Salamanca is a small town whose beauty takes your breath away. When approaching from Madrid, you first see the stunning city as it rises on the northern banks of the River Tormes. In the foreground of the city is its sturdy, 15-arch Roman bridge, above which soars the combined bulk of the old and new cathedrals.
The city abounds with palaces, convents, university buildings, and bustling plazas. It is truly an amazing scene. The radiant sandstone buildings of Salamanca charm us not only with their style, but also with their legends.
For example, perhaps the most famous rite of passage for new students at the University is to find “la rana de la suerte en la Fachada” – the lucky frog on the façade. Among all of the ornate carvings, there is a single, tiny frog, and legend has it that if you spot the frog on your first try, you’ll pass all your exams and have a successful university career; thus, the lucky frog.
Another unique building, la Casa de Las Conchas (House of Shells), tells a legend. This house was built around 1500 for Dr. Rodrigo Maldonado de Talavera, a professor of medicine at the university and a doctor at the court of Isabella. The scallop motif was a reference to Tallageira’s status as chancellor of the Order of St. James (Santiago), the symbol of which is the shell. The legend tells that there is an ounce of gold hidden under one of the thousands of shells…which one might it be?
If you appreciate modern architecture, the Casa Lis is astounding. Commissioned by Miguel de Lis in the beginning of the 20th century, it is a small palace designed by the architect Joaquín Vargas. Today it is the Museum of Art Nouveau and Art Decó. It holds 19 collections of decorative art from the late 19th and early 20th century, with some 2,500 well-preserved items. On display also are French and German china dolls, Viennese bronze statues, furniture, jewelry, enamels and glassware.
Students find time after studies to embrace local nightlife
Students spend 5-6 hours per day studying Spanish language classes at the “Uni.” But when the sun sets and the music begins to play at the Plaza Mayor, they close their books and join the festive atmosphere. “Las Tunas”, strolling musicians wearing traditional garb, never cease to delight the crowds that gather at the Plaza to enjoy “tapas”, small rations of food typically served with wine or beer.
The bars and clubs open around 11PM, but are not filled to capacity until 3AM! Spaniards, and particularly all the foreign students that flock to Salamanca during the summer, follow an entirely different schedule, which includes late nights! (If you are wondering how people survive with so little sleep at night, think “siesta” – afternoon nap time!)
The “El Savor” bar, owned by Professor Ferreiro’s friend, Salvador, is a local favorite. One night during the program, the students held a “talent night”, with guitar playing and singing, and poetry reading. Aaron Torres (in the photo), a student at Western WA, played several classic Spanish songs on his guitar.