Hi all! I am so glad that there is no word limit on these blog posts – I have a big one coming at you for this week.
First of all, I need to tell you ALL about Salamanca. This was a trip that about 10 or so people organized and, fortunately, I was able to join in at the last minute. I really need to be better about getting on top of travel plans.
Salamanca is in the Castilla y Leon region and is about a 2h 30m train ride from Madrid’s Chamartin station. We took a Renfe Medium Distance train and let me tell you – this was probably the nicest, cleanest and most well lit train I have ever been on. Amtrak, you know I love you and your onboard WiFi but the Europeans have got it goin’ on when it comes to railway transportation. Also, on our way there, there were rainbows and beautiful landscapes out entire trip. Rainbows were going over the walls surrounding Avila and over the mountains that surround Communidad de Madrid like a crown. On the way back, the trip was a little less pleasant not because of the train itself but because of an issue with assigned seats. MAKE SURE you check what your seat asignment is. Even if people are inyour seat, which always happens, make sure you ask them to move. Otherwise, you will get yelled at by an arrogant dad and then security guard who think that Americans (and women) are uncultured and don’t understand how Spain works. True story. Boy did we shock them when we whipped out are GOOD spanish. Eventually, everything worked itself out but as my Women’s Studies professor has said, “machismo still exists in Spain”. I will post links on how to get tickets and explain the website on the Tips & Tricks page. NOTE: Be sure that if you go to Salamanca, you book your ticket to the Salamanca-Al Alamedilla station NOT the Salamanca station. The first one is only a 12 minute walk into the city center and the latter is a 30 minute walk.
Salamanca is beautiful. The winding and windy streets, the Plaza Mayor, the University (make sure you look for the frog on the facade for good luck!) and the sandstone buildings give the city its instantly identifiable look. Also, Salamanca is definitely a college town and day or night there is always buzzing activity. The hotel I was in was affordable, the staff was very friendly and it was right next door to the Cathedral. Interestingly enough, the Cathedral is actually two buildings that are connected! The Old Cathedral was built in the 12th century and the New Cathedral was built in the 15th & 18th centuries (a mix of Gothic and Baroque). Fun fact, in the Old Cathedral, the Sta Barbara chapel (I think) was a place where students would prepare for their oral exams and food would be brought to them in a special door since they would be there all night. Also, on the Cathedral and the University buildings, there is red graffiti in very distinct handwriting. This IS actually graffiti from over the centuries that was written on buildings when students passed their exams. Side note, I may or may not have cried when I went to mass in the New Cathedral on Sunday morning – the building is muy impresionante and 15 priests entered the main altar, chanting and walking, from the chapel. While I do enjoy doing activities with the group, sometimes it is nice to have quiet moments of reflection and peace like that alone. I definitely felt recharged after a very busy weekend.
Working backwards, there are a ton of things to do day or night in Salamanca. The city is relatively small so walking is a breeze. The Airbnb my friends were staying in was down the street from my hotel so I felt safe going around at night. We also cooked a delicious dinner at their Airbnb because it was cheaper to buy groceries and cook than go out to eat. Definitely would recommend this if you are travelling with a group. Camelot, La Chupiteria and Gatsby were some of the more notable places we went to. Camelot is actually housed in the same building as a medeival convent so that was interesting to say the least. Gatbsy had the best Sex on the Beach ever even though it was 3am at that point and kind of empty. Note to everyone – unlike Madrid, clubs and bars in Salamanca have NO COVER and drinks are so much cheaper. Then, the holy grail – La Chupiteria. This shots bar had shots (obviously) for 1 EURO EACH. They had every flavor and type imaginable and there was room to dance and chat with locals. Definitely one of the most innovative/fun bars I’ve been to in Spain. Also, I can guarantee that if someone opened a bar like that in D.C., they would be billionaires, no question.
As for things to do in the daytime, this is the checklist I used while I was there: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g187493-Activities-Salamanca_Province_of_Salamanca_Castile_and_Leon.html. If you are there for a weekend, you will absolutely have enough time to see everything. And make sure you visit Cafe Novelty in Plaza Mayor. The region Salamanca is in is known for their meat products (jamon) so order the “pan con tomate con jamon” with a cafe con leche and fresh squeezed orange juice (or orange Fanta because it literally is sparkling orange juice/nectar of the Gods). You will not regret it. The jamon melts in your mouth.
As for the situation awareness story as hinted in the title of this post: there was a man with a shotgun in the metro station before the one I get off at. Don’t worry, I SPRINTED out of the station as the security guards were running down the escalator to catch him. I checked the news the following day and there was nothing written about it, which was interesting to me. If this happened in the U.S., it would be national news. Yet, since this was something so uncommon and rare in the extremely safe metro system, no one would have known about it unless I told them. This experience definitely reinforces my belief and the point that you should ALWAYS be aware in any city you are in. If I wasn’t paying attention in that moment, I’m sure I would have kept walking down the escalator onto the platform where that man was with the shotgun hanging on his back.
Finally, my internship! I love interning at Hibooboo. I have been working on various translation projects and learning more how to use WordPress (which is super useful for future internships). Seriously, I am so lucky that I have an internship that is relevant to my career path. I have my own desk and I share an office with two other women who work there. They have been so supportive and nice this whole time. I also am looking forward to work more since my horrifyingly awful sinus infection is being treated. Interclinic Cincinatti on Calle Padilla in the Salamanca neighborhood of Madrid has an English speaking doctor named Dr. Borras who is quick and very nice. Also, something I’ve noticed at my internship is the speed at which people work. People in the U.S. work extremely fast and are insanely busy all day. People in Spain complete work but are not afraid to take more time to do it and have constant interaction with their coworkers to avoid any unnecessary stress. No sitting at your desk wearing headphones here. I cannot wait to give you all more updates about my internship as it continues.
Finally, just some other quick things. I am going to Cordoba, Seville and Granada this tomorrow with our program so expect a blog post about that next week! Also, make sure you try to watch some TV when you are in Spain. It has definitely been interesting to see how the news/other programming is different than in the U.S. Also, my host mom LOVES House of Cards and Scandal. With House of Cards, she is totally blown away by how cold workplace culture is in the U.S. (whether that is just Claire Underwood or an actual correct analysis of the American workplace culture, I’m unsure). My host mom does have a point though – there is definitely more eye contact, constant talking (no silences) and much more physical contact.
Hasta luego and see you next week 🙂
Word of the week: “sevillaton”. This word (not really a word) comes from the show Aida (episode: El cielo sobre Berlin). I don’t really remember what the episode was about but the song was a fusion of a sevillano/flamenco song with the classic reggaton hit “Gasolina” – Yo iba de peregrina y me cogistes de la mano y a ella le gusta la gasolina.