We took two trips to Salamanca, one on Holy Thursday and the other on the Tuesday after Easter. The first trip was to visit the various sites. We were taken by Isa’s father, Don Mariano, because he had studied Law there and could show us the city. Of course, the city that he knew is not the same. The “hot spots” and places to be have changed multiple times over the years. One exception, at least, is Mesón Cervantes where Mariano took us for lunch. The second time only Isa and I went. We wanted to do some shopping as the stores had all been closed the last time. Isa took me to La Sureña, which is a bar favored by students in Madrid because of its cheap tapas and beer.
Salamanca is a “college town” with the oldest University in Spain. Many Spaniards and foreigners come to Salamanca to study, and therefore there is always something do and somewhere to go even though it is a small town. Many famous people have lived there, including Nebrija, who wrote the first Spanish grammar book; Christopher Columbus, while he was planning his trip to America; Fray Luis de Leon, who translated the Bible into Castellano; and Miguel de Cervantes, who studied in the University. Too, many famous Spanish novels have been set in the city, including La Celestina, written by Fernando de Rojas in 1499. The story tells of Calisto and Melibea, whose courtly love affair goes wrong due to the machinations of the matchmaker Celestina. Don Mariano took us to El Patio de Calisto y Melibea. This is the actual garden where the two lovers meet in the novel. It is still a garden for lovers, who come to be together, write love notes on the walls, and fasten locks to the well to symbolize the “foreverness” of their love.
On the back side of the University is a facade that is very elaborately carved. Somewhere on the wall is a frog sitting on a skull. The legend is that if you find the frog, you will graduate.
Que dice: La leyenda que si encontrabas la rana, aprobarias la carrera.
Isa showed me where the frog was. I guess I’m not going to graduate!
On our second pass through Salamanca, I drove Isa’s car there and back. Don Mariano had to work and we wanted to get out of Zamora and the house since we had been inside way too much due to rain. We made some purchases, including earrings typical of Salamanca and a book of practice exams for the B2 level for me (Isa is going to be my tutor), and we each bought some clothing at Bimba & Lola, another successful Spanish brand of clothing (the others being Zara, Custo, Desigual, etc). Isa needs to open a Bimba & Lola store in Los Angeles and share the wealth with the Americans!
I also bought a replica sword of Carlos V, and everyone, including the people at DHL where I had to send it, thought that this was amusing. Most people leave Salamanca with a t-shirt from the University, or some sort of souvenir of a frog, but I preferred the sword. It is a two-handed broadsword and has the crests of the kingdoms Charles ruled (Tirol, Flanders, Bravante, Borcoña, Austria, Aragon/Sicily, Castilla/Leon/Granada) etched on the blade. Carlos V, King of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor, ruled from 1500-1558. (Here is a similar sword, but much much more expensive.)