I’ve heard a number of people, including locals, tell me that Salamanca is the greatest city in Spain. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I did have an enjoyable time during my short stay there. When I arrived at my hostel in the evening I found that I was the only person in the room (which had six beds). Being late October, the high season for tourism was over and there didn’t seem to be too many other people in the hostel at the time. I also didn’t see as many other tourists as I expected walking around town the rest of the time I was there. Salamanca is a university town that doesn’t draw as much tourism as other places in Spain, so it sort of made sense that I wasn’t seeing as many tour groups while I was there. On my first night nothing major happened but I did stay up late, as that’s the sort of thing you do when you’re in Spain.
The next morning I slept in until around 10:00am and left the hostel around 11:30am. Before doing any sightseeing I took care of business at the train station by validating my rail pass for Spain and reserving the 12:30pm train back to Madrid for the next day. When I was ready to start checking out the city in more detail, I went over to the tourism information office and purchased a Salamanca Card. The Salamanca Card works like other city cards you can find across Europe in that it gets you into various sights and if you use it a lot you are effectively getting discounted entry fees. It saved me a few euros, though not as many as some of the other city cards I’ve used elsewhere. The first place I visited was the Clerica Towers, which had a decent view of the city. Next I went into the old university. Salamanca’s university was once (back in Renaissance times) the best in Europe and is still a well known school. On the outside at one of the entrances is an facade that is famous because it has a small frog on it that people try to find for good luck. After a minute of searching I was able to locate myself. Inside, I got to see the old lecture halls and meeting rooms. The old library was also interesting. It still has it’s original books and there’s a sign from a long time ago warning students that if they remove anything from the library without permission they will get excommunicated by the Catholic Church. Right by the university are the old and new cathedrals. Normally when a town’s cathedral is to be replaced, the city usually demolished the old one and then built the new one on the site of the old one. In Salamanca’s case, the city left the old cathedral and built the new cathedral directly adjacent to the old one. Connecting the two together, the old cathedral serves like an extension of the building, even though it is the older structure. I spent about an hour inside the old and new cathedrals and there was an audioguide that came with admission and gave more details on the cathedrals. Moving on, I paid a visit to the Art Nouveau Museum. As I’m not an art historian, my knowledge and understanding of Art Nouveau is limited, but there are elements of it that I’m able to enjoy even in my ignorance. From the Art Nouveau Museum, I went over to the San Estaban Church. Inside I found a giant, 100ft tall golden altar. I assume it’s a wooden altar that is gold plated and not solid gold, but still it was impressive. The last museum I visited was the Automotive Museum. Most of the cars in there were European, but they did have a special exhibit on American cars from the 1950s through the 1970s. That night I just walked around town and got some photos of the city at night, including Salamanca’s main square. Some sort of book fair was being set up in the square, so I could get the photo I wanted of the whole place, but I just had to make the most of it. A second person was in the hostel room for that night, and she spoke some English so I was able to talk with her a little. Apparently she was in town for a single day as part of her college studies and was returning to Bilbao the next day.
The following morning the other person had to leave early and was already gone when I got up. Before leaving the hostel I uploaded photos to social media. I still had almost two hours before my train when I checked out, so I first went over to the main square and took a look at the book fair that was going on. I had no plans on buying anything, though I did come across a book by Karl Marx. Clearly this is what I should have been reading in high school Spanish class instead of that bourgeoisie propaganda. It then occurred to me that I still hadn’t found a certain bench that I was looking for. Back in 2012, prior to my first trip to Europe, a friend of mine had recounted to me about being in Salamanca and at one point sitting down on a bench and taking in the beautiful light of the city. I had hoped to find this particular bench and get a photo of myself on it, however my friend hadn’t responded to an message I sent him on Facebook, asking where the bench was. After some searching, I realized that I wasn’t going to find his particular bench, so I just picked a bench and pretended that I was sitting on the same one that he had sat on. Then it was time to leave, so I got up, and walked to the train station. I was going back to Madrid, for a second visit.