Two days after our unexpectedly interesting day in Torquemada Iggy the Hymer pranced his way perkily into the University City of Salamanca. We’d had a great catch up with an old friend the day before, and had really enjoyed all the socialising over the last few days.
Free Parking in Salamanca
Now it was back to the nitty, gritty of free parking in an unfamiliar city, which sadly, had not thought to provide a motorhome Aire for visitors. The Aires are very common throughout many European countries, and we will usually stay in one when it’s provided.
It’s nice to be able to relax, knowing that you are in a place where you are wanted. And most of the Aires provide water and waste facilities as well.
Free parking on the other hand can be a bit more stressful. We have to make sure we’re not in a spot that the locals might object to. Be extra careful that we’re not breaking any parking regulations or laws. Tricky sometimes in various languages and unfamiliar signage. And lastly be a bit more careful, and a bit more aware, about our personal safety and that of the van.
This spot in Salamanca seemed okay, but it wasn’t an ideal place to stop in a van. The area was quiet, a small park and then the river at the bottom of a big, big car park. There were apartments on one side only, and the car park was nowhere close to full. Just a mile’s walk to the historic centre, with supermarkets and cafe’s nearby, the general area would work quite well for a city Aire – apart from the slope. It’s a pretty big slope!
Luckily for us though we managed to bag the one, totally flat space, right at the top of the car park. The reviews from people who’d parked here showed it as a quiet area with no problems experienced by folks stopping there. So grabbing the lead, the camera, DM and our furry friend Marley, we headed off into town to see what Salamanca had to offer.
Into the Old Town
Salamanca is a larger city of over two million people, and we could feel that “city buzz” from the van as we drove in through the modern, outer sections of town. Walking from the van into the historic heart was a simple process.
A few streets forward and we were at the beginning of a park which led us straight up to the old town. Just to be awkward though we took a slightly longer route. Aiming to start at the farthest away point and work our way back up to the van again.
It didn’t take long until the ancient buildings of Salamanca came into stunning view ahead. What at first appeared to be two cathedrals in close quarters, vying for attention, turned out to be an ancient monastery on one side, and the cathedral on the other.
To be honest it is often hard to see the difference in Spain. Buildings we think are cathedrals are often “just” churches here. Monasteries, convents, churches – all rising in enormous splendour to the skies. Masterpieces of architecture and of art of every form.
The cathedrals surpass them only by taking on the size of a small town. Impossible to grasp with the eye. Massive structures that pull the unwitting observer to feelings of awe. This genius of the designers -to impart in the visitor the awareness of being unable to comprehend the larger structure, while being completely stunned by it’s beauty – still draws the religious and non-religious alike to gape at their creations.
Some may see God. Others the inspiring ability of the human mind to turn feelings and mystery into material objects. Into art. For others, like me, it is like lying on a hay col in a black, Shetland, December night, looking at the stars. The vast, myriad wonder of the Universe. Spinning, shining, glowing, for billions and billions of light years, before my drowning eyes.
As I’ve said before – give me some old buildings and I’m happy. So there was no doubting I would be happy in Salamanca. It’s one of those places where the old buildings just keep on coming. Relentlessly. Pummelling the wandering tourist with beauty until the mind ceases any attempt to grasp and simply bathes. Nourishes itself in the flow of gorgeousness that envelops it.
Gasps of “Oh look!” diminish and we just find ourselves feeling increasingly happy. Content. Satisfied. Footsteps slow and shoulders drop – releasing tension, unnoticed, to the ground.
The atmosphere is warm, safe, friendly and alive. Lunch is bought from a bakery take away. Cerveza and tinto eventually dawdled over in the sumptuous Plaza Mayore.
We were lucky enough to see the entrancing sculptures of Xu Hongfei, currently on open air exhibition until early March. Interesting and beautiful pieces of art that somehow work perfectly with the apparent contrast of their surroundings.
But then, these pieces speak of life, of youth, of emotion, of experiencing, of cultures mingling, growing, breathing life into each other. What better place than the seat of the oldest University in Spain? The third oldest in Europe? A city that attracts thousands of young people every year from all across the globe to live, dream, grow and learn in it’s ancient halls of knowledge?
One day in Salamanca is far too short. But it is better than no days at all. If there had been a proper Aire to stay in I think we would have stayed here at least one more day.
Instead we wound our way slowly back to Iggy for a late dinner and a movie. Afterwards we took Marley for her last walk. Down to the riverbank and along the footpath. Sniffing out sleeping ducks and trying out the open air gym equipment.
Then back, as always, to our waiting home on wheels. Another day of immersion, another night of falling into the arms of sleep. Tired, but in a good way. Thinking of nothing, but how blessed we are to be here. Now.