One of the trips sponsored by our study abroad program was our trip to Salamanca. It is an old university town that still draws thousands of international students every year and is deeply steeped in history and tradition.
We had a wonderful guide who told us the stories about the students who came to Salamanca to study and to learn about the world. As a group of students ourselves, we thoroughly enjoyed learning about this old university town while we all reminisced about our beloved college towns back home. She showed us the courtyard where students learned Latin so that they could eventually go to the University, where students from all over Europe attended and were taught in Latin- the common language. My dear friend Abby has been semi-impractically studying Latin for years now, and I immediately thought of her and missed her.
She also brought us to the famous facade of the university. In this facade is a teeny, tiny frog that when built used to symbolize passion and lust- a warning for the male students to avoid female temptation. Eventually school officials found this story a little bogus, and the folklore behind finding the frog changed. They say that those who are able to find the frog have academic success bestowed upon them.
She showed us the bull’s blood writing. Students that had accomplished the nearly impossible task of passing and becoming doctors were able to write their initials in the walls to celebrate their victory, following which they would treat the town to a big fiesta.
We ambled up to the top of the city cathedral and enjoyed the beautiful views of the golden city.
Also, can you spot two silly carvings on the side of this cathedral?
On the left hand side, if you look closely, you can see an astronaut floating through the vines. On the bottom right hand side, you can see a devil licking an ice cream cone. Now, astronauts definitely didn’t exist during the 18th century, when this cathedral was orignially built. So what is this evidence of? Did these architects guess what space suits what eventually look like? Did they really have the sense of humor to give an ice cream cone to a guy who lives in the deepest depths of burning hell? This is in fact the results of a very recent renovation project on this old cathedral. I particularly enjoyed seeing this because after seeing so much architecture, forts, and palaces throughout India and my time in Spain, one can easily forget that every little piece and artistic decision with these building is so intentional. It made me smile and reminded me how lucky I am to see the product of human ingenuity during my travels.
Post-tour, we walked across a bridge that was built over 2,000 years ago and sought the bull that was built thousands of years ago and is the oldest thing that exists in Salamanca. We kept looking and looking, asking people where we could find this bull. Turns out, this was it….
We enjoyed a wine tasting at a beautiful vineyard with also a very interesting history. We were told that Christopher Columbus stayed here, prepping for his proposal to Queen Isabella to fund his trip that would eventually lead to his landing in North America.
During this wine tasting, we sat in a cold cellar where the ceiling resembled the nave of a large ship. The only light came from the tables, which seemed to be a strange decorative choice until we learned that this light helps to better see the color of the wine, cheese, and olive oil we consumed. Our guide told us about the lengthy and complicated fermentation process for the wine and the cheese. Furthermore she instructed us to use all of our senses while consuming. I learned how a wine, after a few intentional sips, really can taste different and more nuanced. This was a great start to what will hopefully be a lifelong learning journey to better get to know wine and cheese.
Another big highlight in Salamanca was turning 21. After spending my entire undergraduate career underage, it felt truly special to ring in the biggest birthday in one of the oldest university towns. So college.
We had dinner at a cute restaurant. With each drink we ordered, we got tapas along with it. We shared food, drank wine, and began the evening with good conversation and full tummies.
After dinner, we hopped over to allegedly one of the only Michael Jackson themed bars in the world called Jacko’s. At around midnight, we begged them to play some of our favorite MJ tunes.
At a bar that was filled to the brim and bartenders that were busy filling orders, I was so pleasantly surprised and touched when the owner gave me a sparkling drink on the house. We toasted to many more fabulous weekends in Spain to come.
At midnight,we all took a shot of tequila, and off we went to Chupetería, a charming shot bar where all the shots are priced at 1 EU each. It’s like the Hatch, but cheaper and business is much faster.
We went then to Cum Laude, and danced the night away. This was unanimously decided as a fantastic evening, one of the best we had had so far in Spain. We planned it out so well, tried new things, met new people, and all had the time of our lives. Of course, I missed my family and friends so much. It really didn’t feel right to have such a big birthday without them near. Nevertheless, my friends here made sure that I had a terribly fun night. I feel very lucky to have people with whom I can share countless meals and with whom I’ll be traveling all over Europe. We’ve gotten a lot of our flights booked and not to boast or anything but in the next few months I’ll be in Rome, Dublin for St. Patrick’s Day, Barcelona, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Athens, Portugal, and Tuscany. I’m crossing items off my bucket list like a madwoman and no one pinch me because I would like to keep living this dream forever.