Saturday, May 2, 2009

Puente de Mayo en Salamanca!

Yesderday was Labor Day here in Spain, so it's a three day weekend, the famous puente de mayo! I didn't want to take a big trip because EVERYONE in Madrid is traveling this weekend, so I thought a daytrip somewhere close to Madrid would be nice. Hannah, Sondee and I took a train to Salmanca, the great university city, in the comunidad autónoma of Castilla & León. Our train left at 11 am, so we got to Salamanca around was a lot farther than I was expecting!

Once we got there we headed for the Plaza Mayor, one of Spain's largest and grandest! All around the Plaza are arches with faces of kings, authors, and other famous people, and the Royal Pavillion on the east side is decorated with a bust of Felipe V, who built the square. We found the head of Cervantes! I really liked the Plaza Mayor because it really was a central meeting poing and the heart of Salamanca. There were tons of people sitting on the ground, eating lunch, talking, sun bathing, kids playing, it was so alive!
After Plaza Mayor, we were getting hungry, so we walked and found a little restaurant with tables on the sidewalk. Sondee and I ordered the plato tipico de Salamanca, huevos con farinato (two fried eggs, spicy beans and a breaded meat). It was pretty good, but so much food! After lunch, we headed to the Catedral Vieja and the Catedral Nueva. During a restoration of the catedral in 1993, one of the "creative" workers decided to put an astronaut along with a few other interesting characters on the side of the puerta principal. At the time, a lot of the citizens of Salamanca were not happy, but now it's funny.

After the Catedrals, we walked past the Casa de las Conchas, "House of Shells", a mansion of the knight Rodrigo Arias Maldonado. The golden stone scallop shells that cover the walls are a symbol of the Order of Santiago.

After the Casa de las Conchas, we took a tour of the Universidad Pontificia, the private university that we thought was the University of 4 euros and thirty minutes later, we left and found the real University, which was "en obras" and closed! But we saw the elaborate facade and the . This university was founded by Alfonso XI, of León in 1218, making it the oldest in Spain. Miguel de Unamuno studied there as well as Miguel de Cervantes, so it was really neat to see it, even if it was only the door! The building's façade is decorated with numerous figures, one of them being the famous ¨frog on a skull¨, which isn't easy to find as there are numerous small figures, but according to local tradition academic success is guaranteed if found, so I guess I will have luck for my finals in a few weeks! :)
After the University, as we were walking down to the Puente Romano, the Roman bridge across the Rio Tormes, built in the 1st century AD, we saw a wedding! It was absolutely gorgeous! I took a few pictures sneakily and decided that I want to have a wedding like this! :)

After the Puente Romano, we had to get back to catch the train! It was a short time, but I'm glad we went! We finally got to see the famous University and the Plaza Mayor!

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