Salamanca, Spain


My license to own and operate a camera was withdrawn this morning. Yes, I forgot the memory card, again. Sigh. I need to carry a spare in my bag at all times! 

The woman with the cute little dog and clothes didn’t mind my using an iPhone. If I was her, not the dog, I’d have asked for a retake so it was clear the dog and I weren’t family!

  Decided to do Salamanca museums today as it is Saturday, not Friday. The days are unimportant in many places but, not in Spain. Lots of things are shut Sunday and I’m catching the train to Madrid early on Monday. So, museums today, wondering why this was my first time doing them. 

Having found the various websites confusing I chatted with the woman on the front desk. And she said they don’t have ethnographic or history focused museums. I didn’t want painters. Heck, I’ll probably go to the Prado again in a few days. No, I want history, elaborations of the Medina del Campo worldview, of why Salamanca was important and when etc. etc.

Thought I’d try the Museum of Salamanca. Spoke to the man on the desk there. Sure enough, painters. Didn’t even bother to go past the inner door with that. 

Next, the Museo de Santa Clara, an old monastery run by, I think, a closed order of nuns. It has strange hours on Saturday so I’m sitting in a nearby plaza waiting for 11.40 when they’ll let me in. Yes, a strange time, 11.40, not 11.30 or any other option. I suspect it’s not really the type of museum I want. Might see if nearby shops have the newspaper I want, the ABC. No. Oh well.

10′ and I can enter the convent. 

For €3 I got a personal tour with a very patient guide who explained words I didn’t know and spoke at a reasonable speed. I got to see the skull of Saint Bernard or, were those his finger bones and someone else’s skull. Anyhow, wonderful frescos from the 13th and 15th centuries, the reliquary, various religious items of little interest to me and then we went upstairs. The frescos downstairs survived so long by being hidden under wooden panelling on the walls. The reliquaries, hmm, why keep a bit of something when the essence is gone? Moving on….

Through a grid upstairs you can look down onto a pretty impressive rococo retablo of the church, lots of gold but, dating from some recent period like the 18th century!

Best of all, a 13th century wooden ceiling, painted, and maintained by the nuns. Magnificent. Fancy, 700 to 800 years it’s been there, and long hidden by a false ceiling below it. To see the wooden roof you have to climb up and over it on a metal frame above the false ceiling. Wow. 

You can view sections of old Salamanca from up there too. 

  The glass over some windows has been abraded by many fingers and noses over the decades so it’s not the best way to see the old city. That is better seen from the cathedral tower.

The museum has various artefacts from everyday life, an eclectic collection. I loved the side saddle. Imagine galloping on a horse, all the while sitting in a tiny little chair that faced sideways to the direction of travel. I admire the women who could do that, who had to do that. Wow. Much harder even than smiling while dancing backwards and wearing stilettos. 

The set of animal traps was unexpected. In case you need to catch a bird or rat there are many more options than you may have realised.

  So, an interesting museum with the best bits being the frescos and the ceiling from the 13th century. Think of all the wars, skirmishes and power games fought around the place and that could have threatened their existence, an ambitious abbess wanting to make her mark, a local bishop needing to prove his superiority, lots of things that could have interfered, the civil war, so many earlier possibilities. Yet, both still exist. 

Back to the Plaza


Not many people for lunch outside at this time of year.


There I was, no, no selfie, sitting on a bench in the sun with two old boys watching the strange celebration and listening to a discordant band. Another old guy came up and gave the one on my right 2 blue balloons. Free for you today he said. One € tomorrow.
Yes, it was a joke and the old guy grimly hung onto them until the cutest little miss came near. She was eyeing them off. He gave her one. She stood there until he handed over the second too. All the while her father was telling her one was enough. It wasn’t, for her. 

 Ahh, the balloons are blue because it’s Autism Day today. Who knew! 

Spanish TV’

Travelling to Australia is confronting. I know, I’ve just been watching Border Control Australia. Looks like everyone is searched for drugs, food is confiscated from nice Chinese grandmothers even if they smile a lot, and visitors are expected to be liars. Even soft toys are vulnerable as they can carry drugs and seeds. True! Scary. Very scary. And the penalties seem unfair: the Chinese woman wasn’t fined despite even having bugs in her many fresh vegetables and a British couple with a banana and a couple of apples was, $220. And boy did she give them the rounds of the kitchen about how bad an impression it creates. Yes, it’s translated into Spanish. 

Breakfast at the usual place. The woman there never seems to rest so I asked her when she has a break thinking she’s having Monday off. No, just Monday afternoon in winter and Sunday in summer! 

I’d noticed her husband has not been there this time and was sad to learn he died 5 months ago. Very sad. So she has had to continue working by herself, without a real break, in a cafe that needed two previously. I was quite upset for her but didn’t have the words to say anything more than something trite like, what a pity and to tell her that I had insufficient words in Spanish to say more. 

For the past few days I’ve been considering whether to move forward and learn more Spanish or to give up as my world is too english-centric. It’s becoming increasingly clear: I want to study more and it’s likely to be in Salamanca. As she told me this morning, the accent here is ‘pure’ Castillo-Leon, a difference I’d noticed made chatting easier for me here and in Medina del Campo. 

What to do today? Easy. While the rain holds off I’m walking back along the southern sections of the Via de la Plata. May be brief though as the sky is threatening, increasingly darker. 

I’m still sad for the woman running the cafe. 

One thought on “Salamanca, Spain

  1. I have the answer – you go stay in Salamanca for three months. School in the morning and help her in the cafe in the afternoon. That will force you to use the language! And even better you will be helping someone in the process. Win win.


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