A night in Salamanca

Trip Start Aug 25, 2006
Trip End Dec 15, 2006

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

We got a train from Madrid to Salamanca, a town about half way west between Madrid and Porto. Again the scenery on this trip, although limited due to rain, was interesting to see and definitely something that is unique to this area. It was a mixture of large rocky hills, arid landscape and more farmable land closer to Salamanca. We stayed in the HI which was pretty ordinary due to the main room being about 20 odd people. There are several reasons why this sucks. One is that you have to be considerate of others when you come back late (there´s always someone who expresses dissaproval at your late return to the dorm), it´s noisy when you sleep (there´s ALWAYS someone snoring or making noise when they get up and do stuff in the middle of the night or phones or someone with loud headphones), odds are there´s always someone in there so there´s less privacy, and that one wasn´t too good especially due to lack of lockers and it was a pretty crowded room.

The uncool hostel aside, Salamanca was again a surprise to me. I, for some reason, thought Spain was a dirty place and the cities wouldn´t be as modern as German or French ones, but how wrong I was. Salamanca is primarily a university town I believe, but it has no shortage of large churches or a cool old town charm about the place. We got in mid afternoon and decided to do a lap of the town, find the bus place and book our tickets to Porto the next day, then come back and check out the town a bit more.

It´s probably pretty evident by now that we´ve done some walking around European cities on this tour. During this time we´ve seen all manner of green walking man/red stop man lights at pedestrian crossings. I´ll have to give the award for the coolest ones to Salamanca for their effort with the animated green walking man, the timer and on the large pedstrian crossings near the center of the town, they have lights embedded in the gutters that go green or red appropriately. There´s no mistaking when you´re meant to go or stop.

They have maintained the city well and all the old buildings are very clean and don´t have the look of being massively refurbished, which is nice. There are about 4 very large church-like buildings which give even the Notre Dame in Paris a run for it´s money in scope and grandeur. They´ve made the city very friendly to pedestrians as I think it´s set out like a traditional university town with parts of the uni all over the old town area.

I´ll have to admit at this point that we´ve been a bit slack on learning any spanish apart from the basics of hello and thank you. And after leaving a large town like Madrid we noticed that a few people speak or understand english. It´s not too hard to get by though. I would say we´ve honed our intuition with regard to what people are trying to get at when they come up to you, be it in a park or a restaurant or an internet cafe. Short of holding extended conversations with locals, we´re able to get what we want and understand people who are trying to tell us something important.

We headed out and watched the Chelsea/Barcelona game in town and found every pub we went to full to the rafters with people, so much so we were forced to walk around for 10 minutes after it had started to find somewhere to watch it. They love soccer here, it´s unbelieveable.

It´s also starting to get pretty cold here. Although we´re in Spain, it was raining and overcast all day and we were freezing by the time we´d watched the soccer and were on our way home. We´re hoping Portugal and Morocco are a bit warmer.
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