The search for an internet cafe took me out to the other side of town..outside the tourist horse shoe as it were..here it was feeling much more familiar..numerous Irish bars, h&m, body shop....normal every day goings on. Very few tourists make it out here, though it is only a five min walk from the Plaza Mayor. It is in Salamanca, as it has been in several of the cities that the old and new are quite separate...notable exception being Merida. Walking past all the clothes shops made me miss shopping. There was a dress in one window which I would loved to have tried, but then I remembered two things..no shopping allowed, and those damn tan lines. I was looking at my lines this morning, and just to be more annoying they are unbalanced on the different sides. My right side is browner than my left. I will have to try and find a way to cycle so that that gets that balanced out. So I will still look odd but at least I won't be lopsided odd. small things...
Anyway..Salamanca is a sandstone city..all the buildings are this pale gold colour making it very soft and easy on the eye. There seems to be an official font for the city too. Street signs, shop names and even the graffiti follow the same writing style and the gold walls are awash with ochre inscriptions of the same.
As well as the writings, the city has many chiseled facades of extraordinary detail and size. The Plaza Mayor is quite refined in this sense, but when you move further into the city the buildings become more ornate. The first you come across is the House of Shells, Casa de la Conchas, called so as it has conch shells decorating its sides. There is then a wave of impressive university buildings. The first of which is my favourite..though I am not entirely sure what it is functionally, I'll come back to say more on this one in a minute. Further along still is the main university entrance facade. This an amazingly mad mixture of mythological creatures, religious images and coats of arms. The image is so busy that you could stand for hours trying to identify each. There is a superstition that leads on from this..if you can find the small carved frog, then you will have good fortune and the like for the coming year. There is apparently an alternate to this on one of the cathedrals ornate doors..during a restoration project, a workman carved in a spaceman and an ice cream cone somewhere...not sure this one is true though!
The cathedral was actually two..and old and new one in the same building. The old was damaged during an earthquake and so they built the other along side it. I actually got the audio tour device today and a random piece of information I learnt was about arches. If the arch is round it's of Roman origin, if it is a pointed arch it is Gothic. These cathedrals were a mix of both. I think that was all I learnt from the audio, as it was quite long winded and perhaps unsurprisingly very gushing on the religious side of things. So I tended to walk faster than he spoke. I did catch something about David and Goliath and there being an image of David dislocating a lions jaw, which sounded pretty cool. But by then I was about 10 sections ahead of him and I couldn't find it when I went back past. The dome was another amazingly ornate baroque, a bit more traditional than the Toledo one but still very very impressive.
So back to my favourite building..not sure why it is but it is, it is just up the road from my hostal so it is the first thing I see. It has a beautiful facade, but it also has two towers. Now up is always a calling for me..there is no better way to see a city than from up high. So up I went. And it was the weirdest thing. I was the only one in the tower, it was dark, and creaky, and then I heard bells and a sinister Spanish voice eminating around from somewhere. It all started to freak me out a little. It is a little ironic that I have a bit of a phobia of heights, though I love them at the same time. So the phobia plus these other frankly quite disconcerting things meant I was a shaking mess when I got to the first view point landing. I could blame my poor legs for the shaking as they certainly felt the steps after the last few days but I will be big enough to say that wasn't the case. There was still another set of stairs to go..so onwards and upward to the bell tower. Keeping a very respectful distance from the edge, the views were, as always worth the shakes. And then the moment I was dreading all the way up..the down. But holding on closely to the rail all was fine...though I shook more and was starting to feel lightheaded from it. However getting to the bottom, I immediately looked around for the entrance to go up the other tower! In life as in cycling it seems.
The city was in general lovely and relatively quite today. I forget about weekends so yesterdays hoards were from the Spaniards being put in force as well as the tourists. Today only the tourists, the tour groups and the school trips were about. It is mothers day here, and so many take this day as a holiday too. So many holidays...so little time....
Body language lessons:
- Not sure if I have mentioned this one before or not, but it is my favourite and most used signs particularly in terms of beer or coffee..and that is for 'one more'. Basically a pointed finger over said item doing a circle..repeat/rerun as it were. I don't think we have the same at home or whether it would even work but for the Spanish style of waiting table it is perfect.
- waving hello. Not vastly different to ours but instead of waving the hand, front side forward, from side to side, it is a twisting of the hand. Like a more vigorous and wider arched Queens wave, if you will. Like I said not vastly different but enough to have to look twice when they do it.