Day 3 – Salamanca

Today we packed up and headed for Salamanca.

On the way we passed the Valle de Cuelgamuros, formerly known as the Valley of the Fallen. Franco had the monument built as a memorial for reconciliation, and it served as his burial place until his body was moved to another spot.

I have memories of visiting this place in the Sixties with my friend Diann. How we ever got to the top of this mountain when all we had was the book Europe on $5 a day, I don’t know, but I remember vividly dancing in a circle around the cross with a group of young people who were singing in Spanish. Diann, do you remember more? Or am I dreaming ?

Our group stopped outside the town of Avila to see its intact walls. Our guide Reyes said that many people live in outskirts towns like Avila and take the high speed rail into Madrid to work. They benefit from the charm and quiet of a rural town while making their living in the city.

Avila was home to Theresa de Jesus, a mystic who started the order of Discalced Carmelites. Discalced means barefoot, relating to the vow of poverty. Theresa has an interesting history.

Our guide Reyes said that these metal pieces embedded on the pavement represent Theresa’s feet and that of her cousin. When she was 6 years old Theresa and her cousin walked this way to fight the Muslims. I’m not so sure. They look more like deer hoof prints to me.

The terrain going across Spain to Salamanca is wide and flat.

A few years ago, coming from nowhere, I had a dream. The word Salamanca came to me, both the sound and the written text. What was that about? I don’t know, but I’ve ever since had the idea to visit it and find out. Salamanca’s historic center is full of sites related to its University and the Church, including the Church of San Martin built in the 12th century.

Storks build nests to lay their eggs and raise their chicks on the rooftops of Salamanca’s churches, including St. Martin’s.

They will take off with their young sometime on July and return again next year for another round of birthing.

Lichen grows on the cathedral facade.

Most buildings in Salamanca are made of sandstone. Iron in the stone gives it a red-orange tinge. This elaborate style of facade carving resembles the work of silversmiths.

Salamanca is home to Spain’s oldest active university. Years ago, when university students passed their exams, they painted a victory sign on the university walls. Paint was made from paprika, olive oil and bull’s blood, which seems to have had quite a lasting quality. Those who passed exams had to feed the community, and bulls were killed to provide the meat. Now the victory sign tradition is still followed, but students use acrylic paint on the interior walls.

The Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary is an enormous structure made up of old and new cathedrals combined. This back side view gives a sense of its size and complexity.

Inside the new cathedral, the carved wooden choir is impressive, along with numerous chapels devoted to various saints.

One of many reposing figures, although it does not look like she/he is resting in peace. Must be the heavy metal vestment.

Salamanca is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 1992 one of the facades was repaired, and according to tradition, an element from current times was included.

After the Cathedral, I visited the Centro Documental de la Memoria Historica, located behind the Cathedral. This center is the archive for materials on the Spanish Civil War. It contains information on the people imprisoned and killed, the battles, and the repression.

The Franco government considered the Masons to be enemies and lumped them together with Communists as people to be silenced. The Center has a large exhibit on the Masons including a typical Masonic meeting room made up of items confiscated by the Franco forces.

An American artist composed an image of Guernica using photos from the Center’s archives.

Posters throughout the streets of Salamanca announce the events of Holy Week, which must be quite the dramatic reenactment.

Despite sore feet, I next visited the Art Nouveau and Art Deco Museum , called Casa Lis, to see the Fernando Botero exhibit. Photos were not allowed. I came to appreciate his work much more after seeing his drawings.

After this short stay in Salamanca, I still don’t know why I dreamed about it, but I’m glad for the dream, for otherwise I might not have come.
Tomorrow we’re off to Portugal.

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