Updated: Oct 13
Thu 12th Oct., Salamanca
Addendum: it was this day, 12th October, 8 years ago, that we first walked into Santiago de Compostela at the conclusion of our Camino Frances experience.
Let me go back in time and put a bit of flesh on yesterday’s “500” bones.
We are now roughly 500 kilometres, or half-way, through our stroll along the Via de la Plata. Our bodies are strong, and walking 20+ klms a day doesn’t present too much of a challenge. The challenge comes in days like yesterday when the walk is (was) fairly uneventful or even uninspiring. The countryside wasn't particularly interesting, so it was simply a matter of putting one foot in front of another some 30,000 times until we reached the end. I’m not sure it helped that we could see Salamanca from something like the 17 klm mark, which is a long way to watch one's goal slowly materialising.
But the travel gods had a trio of tricks up their sleeves upon our arrival, which was why yesterday’s post was so brief.
Unbeknown to us (me not paying attention), our pre-paid SIM cards expired during the day. In this modern e-world not having access to phone and internet can throw a bit of a spanner in the works. Especially since access to our little hostel relied on emails and electronic keys (physical keys are soooo yesterday!). So we had no internet, and the electronic door key system failed and we couldn’t get into our room. Or ring anyone. So for an hour and a half or so we went back and forth to the English speaking tourist bureau, another hotel in the same chain, three way WhatsApp calls, and eventually got access to the room. At least we could now wash off 5 hours of travel dust (there was an inordinate amount of dust on that leg).
Then it was off to Correos to collect two packages which we'd forwarded from Sevilla and Castilblanco de los Arroyos. The second was promptly handed over. The first though, the more important of the two, was seriously MIA. At one stage we had three Correos staff looking concernedly at the computer screen, and disappearing randomly into the bowels of the building before coming back with more concerned looks and shaking of heads. Not good. We handed over contact details and were assured that someone would ring. Hmmm. Anyway, what can you do? We headed out and across Salamanca’s magnificent Gran Via, when a voice called from halfway across the road. Javier, who had valiantly searching for the package, chased us across the road with big smile and rapid Spanish which we took as good news. And indeed it was. We returned to the Correos building, and there was the package, slightly beaten up, sitting on Javier’s counter. Smiles and thanks all round.
Then it was just a matter of recharging the phones (relatively easy; the hardest part was navigating the Australian bank’s 2FA security system to allow us to charge a card from afar).
By now it was 7pm (we’d arrived into Salamanca around 2:30), and it was time for a G&T but little time for a detailed blog post.
But wait, there’s more ...
We’d agreed to meet Dave and his wife Jackie for dinner. She’s been here for a week recuperating from blisters and an ankle sprain, and they hope to get properly going again tomorrow. Nice meal at a place called Cafe La Platea only 50 metres from the magnificent Plaza Mayor. We were just finishing our meal and a dapper Spanish gentleman in his 60s came to the table, looked at me and asked “are you Peter Campbell?”. He lives here in Salamanca, and it transpired that he had been following the blog and recognised me. He had made a comment on one of my posts a couple of days back, and we chatted briefly about that and about Ivar’s forum. We invited him to have a photo with me, which he politely declined and then we shook hands and he disappeared back into the crowd as quickly and quietly as he had first emerged. A wonderful and quite mysterious connection.
So that was yesterday ...
Today the plan was to do the laundry (a thoroughly mundane but necessary travelling task), visit the cathedral and simply wander around town. Even though I had recharged the two phones yesterday, today they both went down so we were without internet support again. A pain, but not the end if the world, and I'll fix it tomorrow.
But first, some commentary on what today is. It’s called National Day of Spain (Fiesta Nacional de España), more commonly Día de la Hispanida, held on the 12th October each year. The 12th October 1492 was the day Columbus discovered the Americas, and represents the commencement of the period of Spain’s dominance as a global power – the time now known as the Spanish Empire. It's a public holiday, meaning that all government agencies and big businesses are closed, and we did expect some formal public celebrations. Not so. The cafes, bars and restaurants were all doing a roaring trade, many of the tourism oriented tiendas were open, and especially as the day wore on there were people everywhere.
We had an enjoyable day coffee-ing and exploring. I’d wanted to see the grounds of the University of Salamanca, and if they exist in a discrete form we missed them. But there's plenty of evidence of the institution around. The University was founded in in 1212 by King Alfonso IX (1171 – 1230) of León and Galicia. It is the oldest university in the Hispanic world, and one of the oldest in the world in continuous operation. Today it has some 30,000 students from all over the world – in recent years I had toyed with the idea of coming here to study Spanish. That probably won't happen now, but, you know, never say never. As is probably to be expected the early University and the church were inextricably linked. We toured the cathedral and learned of those early connections. Way too detailed for the brain to recall and so you’ll be spared those ramblings.
l took many many photos today. I'll see if I can extract a handful which will give a sense of the city. We're off walking again tomorrow, and I think there is still much to see, so I suspect we'll return one of these days.
First breakfast, eggs and tomato and coffee
A couple of shots of the wonderful Plaza Mayor
Not quite sure what I was seeing here ...
A selection from the "old" and "new" cathedrals of Salamanca. The "old" dates back to 12th century, whereas the "new" was started in the 16th. The two buildings adjoin each other.
Above: of/from the Torres de laClerecia – Scala Coeli
And lastly, a couple more Plaza Mayors ...
There'smany more I could include, but this is a sample.
A few errands to run en la mañana, then a short-ish 3/4 hour stroll. Until then ...