Salamanca is known as “party city” because it’s made up of mostly young people due to the fact that it hosts one of the country’s main universities. Located in the Castile and León region, it’s about three hours by bus from Madrid. Stacie, my friend and travel buddy from Texas, caught the bus with me at 8:30am and we arrived to foggy and cool weather. The cold air took me by surprise as we walked through the town to our couch host’s place, stopping along the way to buy her some chocolate and wine as it was her birthday.
One of the first things I noticed as we walked were all these guys dressed up in what I imagine a troubadour would wear. At first I thought they were university graduates because, you know, this is university town but some of them were quite old so it made more sense when we found out they were actually musicians. (though also university students and alumni!)
Stephi’s house is located practically in the center of old town Salamanca – how convenient! She’ s a very nice girl from Germany who has traveled to so many places. I love meeting people like this; it always makes me feel so inspired! The flat she lives in is very multicultural: there’s an Italian named Luca, a polish girl, and a girl named Natalia from Argentina. I love it!!
After settling in, Stacie and I left to explore the town, starting with Plaza Mayor. I thought it looked pretty similar to Plaza Mayor in Madrid except that it is outlined by 88 arches that have the faces of famous Spanish figures carved into them, including Cervantes (I told you, Spain is obsessed with him!) Our wandering took us to Rua Mayor which was lined with restaurants and shops, and bustling with people.
We were trying to find Casa de Las Conchos (House of Shells where the shells represent the marriage between two noble families) and though we did pass a building decorated with shells, Stacie said it couldn’t be it because the picture she had seen of it had more shells. Truth be told, there weren’t nearly as many shells as I imagined there would be either. That’s why I try not to imagine things too much. But lo and behold, that was the one and only house of shells – what a let down!
Next stop was the New Cathedral located at Plaza de Anaya. It’s worth taking a close look at because in the very ornate design, you can see an astronaut, a monkey eating ice-cream, and a stork. They seem a bit oddly placed in a place of religious worship but pretty cool none the less!
The troubadours (who we learned are called TUNAS) were everywhere! The excitement at seeing them for the first time soon withered away because we could not walk down one street without seeing them! They walked in big groups, holding guitars or other instruments, and sitting around restaurant tables singing away. One group from Málaga (all the groups represented a different city in Spain) asked if we could take a photo for them. Then they invited us for lunch, which we declined, but we did end up going to their free concert that night. I practiced my Spanish as we waited in line and when the doors opened, we strategically chose a spot by the door so we could escape early. Leaving early proved not to be a problem though as people were coming and going as they pleased throughout the whole show. There was a moment of silence for Paris as the attack was the night before and then the concert began!
It was quite enjoyable. They stood on stage in a semi-circle moving their feet in synchronization and singing. In certain songs, a guy would go to the middle and do an elaborate dance that looked liked a fusion of ballet and the Highland fling. Everyone looked so much like regular ol’ Shakespeares that it was entertaining. The funniest part, however, was when this guy went to the middle twirling around a flag and the flag part got detached from the pole. It went flying and landed on the ground with a thud. Oh my goodness, I started laughing so hard that it turned into silent laughter. I think people were probably glaring at me but I could not stop! When I was walking to school the next week, the image came back to my mind and I burst into laughter at random intervals probably looking like a weirdo. Ah, I’ll never forget that. Simply too funny.
We left at 6:30 because we had heard there was going to be a moment of silence in Plaza Mayor at 7 to honor Paris but when we arrived nothing was happening so we returned to the house (turns out the moment of silence was actually at 8). We were just in time for the party! It was cool because they have so many international friends and everyone brought food typical of their country. I live for moments like this – moments where people of all different backgrounds come together and have fun. I’m not sure how many countries were there: Poland, France, Germany, Argentina, Italy, Canada, USA, China, Norway, Venezuela, Spain and more! There was so much food and it was all so good.
I was really eager to practice my Spanish and I wanted to bring my red notebook to jot new words down but Stacie made me put it away (haha). I also really wanted to listen to ‘What Do You Mean?’ by Justin Bieber but everyone got mad. I don’t know why, it’s a really good song! Ah well, I’m really glad I got to experience a true Salamancan party. Though I’m not much of a party animal, a house party is fun every once in a while.
It was really LOUD – people were starting to get really drunk, there was smoke in the air, and music was blaring. I’m actually surprised none of the neighbours complained, though come to think of it, they were probably out partying themselves. I looked out the window and the streets were full of people! Even when I went to bed around 3, I could still hear them talking outside! They say Salamanca is made up of university students and old people – so it really makes me wonder how the old people here get any sleep.
The best part of the night – other than this apple pie a French girl made and some tiramisu – was when a group of TUNAS came up to join the party and serenade Stephi! They came with their capes, they came with their guitars, they came ready to sing! It was like our own private concert. I also forgot to mention that it was a mustache party so we had to draw mustaches on our face. I also added a Harry Potter scar to my look and I tried to add freckles to Stacie’s face but she unfortunately didn’t like them (I thought they were beautiful). As the evening wore on, people dispersed to attend other parties (believe it or not!) but Stacie and I went to bed. (I still don’t understand how people have the energy and the inclination to stay up all night!)
The next morning the house was a mess so Stacie and I cleaned up, helping ourselves to some leftover cake as we did so, before exploring the city one last time. It was another foggy day but we still managed to find the iconic frog in the church. This frog is the pride and joy of Salamanca. I’m not joking, they sell key chains and other gadgets of it nearly everywhere you look! Finally we walked across the old Roman bridge, which looked eerie and mysterious in the fog, and then went for a beer. Before catching our bus, we went for Churros and hot chocolate with Stephi. And that my friends, was Salamanca in a nutshell!