Salamanca is a medieval university town and alums include Miguel de Cervantes and Hernan Cortes amongst others.It is one of Europe’s oldest continuous teaching universities and I am told has many Indian students on its current rolls. There is an old wall where 13th century Phd students had to sign their names in blood when awarded the difficult to get degree – nice touch ! My own college in Mumbai is an early nineteenth century stone building run by a Jesuit order but we didn’t have to sign anything in blood – wonder if I should feel deprived 🙂
The well preserved town, just two hours from Madrid is a UNESCO World heritage site. This by the way is not unusual in Spain -which has 45 such sites including Avila in this region, but Salamanca almost feels like you are walking onto a movie set. Not surprising that a film crew had been shooting a version of Romeo and Juliet on one of the streets right at the Building of Conch Shells ( see pix) needing merely to throw sawdust on the streets to recreate 15th century Europe. The Casa de Conchas is now the public library . I am not sure why there are stone shells on the outer facade of the building but I read that the 15th century owner was a knight of Santiago and that is a symbol of the knights of that order. I am not upto my history of Christian saints but thanks to the conch shells everyone can guide you to this building.
There are many architectural style to discover if you are interested – Gothic, Romanesque, Secular Gothic, Platteresque which are well preserved. I wish I had been a student of architecture because these stones certainly tell stories.
While it is an easy day trip from Madrid I reccommend staying the night to catch the gorgeously illuminated ancient buildings-the Cathedral ( with sculptures by Henry Moore for a bit of modernity ) the San Esteban convent and Plaza Mayor. I stumbled upon the garden of Callistyx Y Melibea accidentally – this is where a version of Heer – Ranjha , Romeo y Julietta played out once upon a time, but backstory aside it was nice to stumble upon this hidden garden. I also discovered the outstanding Musuem of Art Nouveau on one of my aimless walks.. I got a rather out of focus shot from the back but see the museum from the front -stand on the bridge across the road and see its stunning art nouveau glass windows lit by the sun before going in for a tour. Being a University town full of students there are umpteen places to hang out, party and head to for a drink and tapas well into the night. The Plaza Mayor or main square comes alive in the night and I found it to be more impressive than Madrid’s. Check all the stone faces glaring at you from history along the stone arches .We were hosted for dinner at La Hoja where the food was delicious – that dish of sardines in a mango sauce in the pictures is to die for ! I stayed thank you Spain Tourism, at the Hospes Palacio de San Esteban which I loved especially the breakfast in the old church vault. It used to be part of the adjoining convent and has retained all the architectural details so you can get lost hunting for your room but it has all the necessary modern convenience yes, wifi and service. I am told they have rooms that actually look into the clositered convent’s gardens for a beautiful experience but I was happy with the room I had and the handmade chocolates were a very nice, warm touch .