Towering stone cathedrals, building facades untouched in centuries, meandering cobblestone streets, Salamanca is a time capsule. The city is nestled amongst the rolling green countryside northwest of Madrid, a tribute to the power that the Catholic church held over Spain. In many ways, this window into its Catholicism dominated past reminds me how much the church shaped the world as we know it- its teachings and dogma sweeping across Europe and down through the Americas. Mandy, Jesse, Chelci, and I had three days to explore this famed city and enjoy as much as we could of what it had to offer.
Salamanca is a small city of about 228,000 residents. It is best known for the Universidad de Salamanca which dates to the 1100’s making it the oldest university in Spain and the fourth oldest University in the west. Today, the University is home to 30,000 students which along with tourism, is the primary economic driver in the city. The famed Old Cathedral and New Cathedral dominate the skyline, and almost every street is lined with one form or another of church, cathedral, convent, monastery, or hermitage. The city leaves signs of its Catholic heritage almost everywhere and is a testament to the dominant role once played by the church over Spain.
There is a youthful energy perceptible everywhere. Students are present in every shop, restaurant, street, and bar. You can tell this city welcomes students from all over the world and as I passed groups of young people my ear would pick up a variety of languages. It feels good to be around so much lively energy, and amidst the backdrop of such history-filled scenery, it reminds me of the continuity of life and culture. The passing of traditions and knowledge over the centuries causing the unceasing changes and advancement of society is ever more apparent when perceived next to living relics of the past. The world here has evolved around the unvarying cathedrals and old city.
Our time in Salamanca was well spent. We explored the cathedrals and learned about their history and development. We walked the streets looking for (and finding) the next great restaurant. We enjoyed cocktails on more than one occasion at The Doctor- our favorite cocktail bar. We window shopped near the Plaza Mayor. We explored a majority of the old city and got a taste for what life would be like there as a college student. The city is small enough to see quite a bit of in a few short days, and we hit its highlights with gusto. Lucky enough to see the city at the beginning of a weekend, we got a taste for the nightlife here and had a few late nights – it was a blast. Most importantly, we had plenty of time to catch up with our friends. They are an infinite source of good laughs, great conversation, and an infectiously positive energy. // Jeff