Day 45 (11/Nov/2017): Sightseeing in Salamanca


I left the albergue in Salamanca at the prescribed time (between 7 and 8am) after an awkward discussion about my request to leave my rucksack there for the morning. Yesterday, Julia laughed when I explained that I felt as though I was being watched at the albergue. Sure enough, though, as I cleared away my things from breakfast, the hospitalero’s firm voice from behind me admonished me: “Jonathan. Glass!” It seems he was suspicious of my movements as I took my glass yoghurt pots to the sink to rinse them out before putting them in the recycling bin. I appreciate that the hospitalero has volunteered his time to help people like me, but I don’t need or want this precisely apportioned, regulated, controlled, and enforced, hospitality.
What to do at 8am on Saturday morning in this city? I took the opportunity to wander and photograph Salamanca’s compact old town in the early morning light as it was waking up. In the chilly morning air, I was drawn to the covered market with its cast iron frame that I noticed yesterday. I love these covered markets wherever I find them, which seems to be Spain, and anywhere the French have been … except France. Sure enough, I found fishmongers hauling yesterday’s catch to their counters and an early morning cafe with friendly staff. I had a coffee with a tapa of jamon. The bread hadn’t yet arrived.
In the morning I visited the house of shells and Salamanca’s two cathedrals – The “new” high gothic and baroque one and the adjacent late Romanesque cathedral dedicated to Saint Mary of the See. I also climbed to the roofs and belfries to see these buildings and the surrounding city from a new perspective. I suppose I’ve always known that I didn’t like heights. I remember freezing at the top of the mast of a boat as a kid, but forcing myself to pretend that it was nothing and continuing to thread halyards through pulleys with one hand, while the other clung tightly to a stay. I struggle to muster that courage these days.
At lunchtime, I enjoyed some bread and cheese in the beautiful gardens near the cathedral (the Huerto de Calixto y Melibea) before collecting my rucksack and walking to my home for the next two days; an Airbnb room in a huge apartment, hosted by the delightful Raúl and his mother. Raúl welcomed me, showed me around, and made me feel at home. We discussed the city, the changing colour of the stone through the day, and the sights that I shouldn’t miss. He found an English book on his shelf to explain some of the things that I should understand, and he told me to come and go as I pleased and to do what I wished. It turns out that what I wished was to sleep, so I did for the next three hours.
On waking, I visited the Dominican convent of San Esteban, with its beautiful cloisters, garden, church and choir gallery – with an ingenious rotating music stand to allow the entire choir to literally sing from the same hymn sheet. I also climbed the towers of the Pontifical University of Salamanca to get some spectacular views in the late afternoon. One of the attendants, monitoring traffic on the narrow spiral staircases was keen to talk to me in his excellent English. He had lived in hackney for 20 years and moved back to Salamanca 8 years ago. He was curious about the logo on my canvas bag and I was a little embarrassed to explain it, but he was cool.
I found some restaurant recommendations online and headed to one for dinner, but found it closed. A little way up the same road, I came across a student bar with a fun looking crowd. As an old guy in sandals and a raggedy fleece, I hesitated to enter but I noticed the anti-homophobia flag on the wall and decided to test the tolerance of this bar. It turned out to be great, with a mix of old and young folks and a cool barman who kept correcting my Spanish in the nicest way. Tomorrow I will see some more of this lovely city and on Monday I’ll start on the next stage of the Camino.

Categories: 2017 Camino Mozarabe (Almeria to Finisterre)

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