There is a great deal of helpful information on Salamanca, in Euroresidentes ‘New Visitors Guide to Spain’. We visited the city, located in the region of Castile-Leon, in May 2001 and immediately surrendered to it. There are some places that you just feel at home in, and this was how it was for us. Sharing with Bologna in Italy and Oxford in England, Salamanca has the distinction of being the oldest of European universities, and everywhere we went there were flocks of earnest students carrying books and folders under their arms, always on the way to somewhere else. One night we had dinner in the student refectory of Fonesca College which was open to the public, and earlier visited the University’s old lecture theatre with its central lectern and wall seats, and the amazing old library packed with dusty row upon row of precious books.
We visited the two cathedrals – the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ entwined, where a Mass was being held. It has an amazing façade, benignly watched over by the statue of a previous Bishop.
There is a very strong sense of monumental medievalism about the whole city, an exception being the remarkable Arte Nouveau/Deco House which is open to the public. It was extremely hot when we were there– 41 degrees one day, and we did our sight-seeing by hugging the shade as we went from place to place, fortified by various liquid refreshments and the occasional ice cream.
The Plaza Mayor has to be seen and experienced. Built in the golden stone from Villamayor typical of many of the city’s buildings, it is in the great tradition of European squares. Here is the place to see and to be seen and we sat amongst tourists, students and families in the great square, some of whom were perhaps relaxing after shopping in the attractive arcades that surround it. One evening we came across the beautiful Covento del Saint Esteban, just before it was due to close.
A helpful man at the desk encouraged us in, and we were able to wander around the cloisters and up to the high choir above the nave, with room for 118 monks. We saw one of them! And later an elderly Franciscan in the street. The façade of the building is stunning – a tapestry in stone, showing the stoning of Stephen.
In our few days in Salamanca we felt that we had met the city and, sitting in the evening shade in the park amongst groups of resting people, the citizens themselves.