Salamanca

Students in Salamanca

The second of two day trips organized by my program, Salamanca was a pleasant surprise of enjoyable architecture and interesting history.  After the first, rather boring visit to Toledo, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Salamanca, a city with as equally as rich history, but a dominant student presence, both in the past and present day.  Stories of the mingling of academia and religion throughout Salamanca’s development kept me engaged the entire trip, and established a willingness to return to this city of students.

DSC_0035.jpg

New Cathedral/La Nueva

The first stop on our tour was the Catedral de Salamanca.  The twelfth century Catedral Vieja, or Old Cathedral, was soon outgrown by the expansion of the city, and construction of the Cathedral Nueva, or New Cathedral, began around the old building in the 1500s.  Restoration work in the 1900s brought about work on the facade of the New Cathedral.  As an artist’s signature, on the exterior of the building, the designers left two hidden figures in the detail of the decor, testaments to the century.  They chose to incorporate and astronaut, to represent the technological discoveries of the time period, and a monkey holding ice cream (no one seemed to be able to justify this one).

DSC_0039.jpg

Astronaut (left); monkey (right)

The inside of the cathedral was even more intriguing, with a clear aesthetic divisions between the sections of the old and new.  The grandeur of the Old Cathedral was impressive, considering its antiquity, but the New Cathedral was just as breathtaking, extravagantly executed with Baroque-style details.

DSC_0042.jpg

Altar in the New Cathedral

To complete our visit to the cathedral, we climbed its towers and enjoyed the view of Salamanca.

DSC_0051

View from the cathedral

DSC_0050

Bell tower in the cathedral

DSC_0046

View of Salamanca

Our second stop in Salamanca was the town square.  Like Madrid, Salamanca has a Plaza Mayor, but the one in Salamanca has stronger traditions and is, in my opinion, more beautiful.

DSC_0053.jpg

For lunch, many of us went to Mandala, a restaurant café recommended to us by our program advisor for its abundance of beverages: 18 flavors of hot chocolate, 45 combinations of milkshakes, 56 types of juice and too many teas to count.  With high expectations, I ordered raspberry white chocolate hot chocolate and a tapa, but neither were exceptional.  The hot chocolate tasted artificial and the tapa, a mini burger, was underwhelming  With so many options, however, I hesitate to give Mandala a bad review; there is so much more to try!

After lunch, the group visited the University of Salamanca, established in 1221.  With this year, it is the oldest university in Spain and the third oldest in the world.  As with the facade of the cathedral, the university’s exterior was beautifully intricate, with another hidden message: this time, a small frog.  Our guide explained that at the time, frogs symbolized lust, so the little amphibian was a warning to students to remain focused on studies and not get distracted by other students.  Though the original building is no longer used for classes, we were able to tour some of the preserved university classrooms and courtyards.

Not everyone in the program went on the trip, but we took a group photo of those in attendance, because my program director wanted an image for the program newsletter and I “had a nice camera” for him to borrow.

DSC_0062

About half of USAC Madrid Spring 2016

 

Travel Tips

  • Don’t take on more than you can handle.  With our choice of Spanish-speaking or English-speaking guides, on all of our tours, I had chosen the foreign language group in Toledo to test myself and practice Spanish.  I thought that touring with the Spanish speaking guide would be beneficial, but in reality, I do not know enough Spanish to understand the explanations and appreciate what I was seeing.  At first, I was a little disappointed in myself to select in the English-speaking group in Salamanca, but by the end of the day I was glad, because I got so much more out of the tour.  I’m all for challenging yourself, but sometimes it’s better to take a step back to be able to enjoy the moment.

 

Destination Locations

 

Paz, Amor, Salamanca

A.J.H.

Advertisements

Week 8/9 – Recap

I am academically halfway!  It’s crazy to consider that I’ve finished learning two entire semesters of Spanish in just eight weeks.  I’m excited to be completing my classes and improving my Spanish skills, but regretful to realize that my time abroad is truly flying by.  In my two months of residency in Spain, I’ve also developed conflicting feelings about the people, country, and culture.

Studying abroad has been one of the most incredible experiences of my life.  I have learned a lot about myself from both the triumphs and the challenges.  Without years of hard work, patience, focus, and support from family (thank you, Mema and PopPop, for your generosity, and help in making my travels possible), I would not have been able to pursue my passions of exploration and discovery.  I am infinitely grateful to have the opportunity to analyze foreign behaviors, and consequently, analyze myself.  For as easily as I have accepted Madrid as my new environment, however, there are some things, both theoretical and physical, that, as an American, I still value.  With the upmost acceptance and affection for Spain, I list some constructive complaints, followed by a few compliments, that I may have to learn to live with should I decide to make Europe my future home.

 

Complaints:

  • Smoking and then going to the gym seems dysfunctional to me.  I don’t care what you do to your body, but when it affects mine, as I smell a mix of sweat and smoke seeping out of your pores from the next treadmill over, we have a problem.
  • Best $9.99 I’ve ever spent.  My BRITA filter water bottle compensates for the disappointing and inconvenient absence of water fountains in this country.
  • Peanut butter alone requires a map and a good recommendation to obtain, so you can forget about finding Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups.
  • I drink it when I’m sick. I drink it when I’m tired.  I drink it want to be healthy on-the-go and I’m too lazy to cut up an apple. Though not always as nutritionally beneficial as they seem, tasty Naked Juice does not exist in Spain
  • Between Auntie Anne’s and Philly Pretzel Factory, I’ve never experienced soft-pretzel withdrawal.  I guess Spain is too far from Germany to have adopted the salty snack.
  • “If we had them, they’d be in the aisle with the Mexican food.” Jalepeños are universal, Spain!
  • So maybe Goldfish are a stretch, but can I at least have Cheeze-Its!?
  • It’s mid-March and I am no closer to getting a Shamrock Shake. I know I already complained about it, and I know it’s only for one month. But still.
  • I’m not going to blame Spain for neglecting cottage cheese.  It’s definitely not an international favorite, though it is one of my favorites.
  • Grapes?  You can find them in most grocery stores.  Seedless grapes?  Nothing in Spain is that easy.  Except the metro.

 

Compliments:

  • The Madrid metro is the closest thing to perfect in Spain.  Even though it closes at 1:30 a.m. every day of the week, the signage is clear and the fares are cheap.
  • Topping any street-style, best dressed list, Spanish fashion, or European fashion in general, is simply better.
  • You haven’t had hot chocolate until you’ve had San Ginés, but even Spain’s grocery store mix is good!
  • Tapas=snacking=my kind of eating.  Though I don’t like what is served, I like how it’s served.  I prefer small meals throughout the day to a large dinner, so tapas are perfect for my snacker’s appetite.  I do miss, however, being satisfyingly full after a good, home-cooked meal.

 

These observations are only the beginning!  With an entire second half of the semester to go, I am well-adjusted to my new life, prepared for new experiences, and eager to discover more about, Madrid, Spain, and counties beyond.

 

Paz, Amor, Madrid

A.J.H.

January 13, 2016

Study Abroad

Today’s visit to the university reminded me of why I was really in Madrid: to study.  The USAC program operates out of a campus of the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos. It is a commuter school, but the campus is lively during school time.

After hours of orientation, I took my first siesta. I had heard much debate over the reality of a Spanish nap in late afternoon, but I soon found my answer. Whether or not individuals use the time to rest is a personal decision, but many businesses close between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. for the siesta. Still exhausted from traveling, I took advantage of a few more hours of sleep.

 

Tapas and Teasing

Revived, I was ready to explore the Madrid’s nightlife. Friends from my program and I met at the Mercado de San Miguel, an indoor food vendor venue, comparable to but smaller than Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market. We shared tapas, or Spanish appetizer-sized dishes, under heat lamps among locals, enjoying free time in our new home city. Despite the warmth of the heaters, the Spanish attendees returned our buzzing excitement with cold disapproval. A few of my friends overheard a Spaniard tell his friends: “No hamburgers here, Americans.” When she translated and reported what was said, I became upset. I had made a conscious effort to dress like the women did in Madrid, and I was trying authentic Spanish food served at the market, all in an attempt to adopt the Spanish culture. What more did they want? I do not make fun of foreigners in my country; instead, I appreciate their curiosity for America and their courage to be open to new experiences. In Madrid, I do not even have to say a word before I am identified as American. I could be wearing the same outfit as a Spaniard, and the natives would still know that I did not belong. Though I was aware of this phenomenon, I didn’t realize how true it was and how much it would affect me. I am glad, though, that I was exposed to this adversity early in the trip, so that I have four months to accept the Spanish opinion and be the best madrileña I can be.

 

My friends and I ventured back out into the city streets to continue the night. Our destination was the Gabana Club. The Wednesday night special drew a crowd of locals and travelers abroad, mimicking the balanced blend of American music and Spanish music. I enjoyed getting to know my program friends celebrating our first night out in Madrid.

 

Travel Tips

  • Rest and refuel.  Even though there is a new city to explore, preparing your body properly for the adventures ahead is most important.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff, but be conscious of it.  Let go of insignificant comments or mistakes, but learn from these events to improve.

 

Destination Locations

 

Paz, Amor, Madrid

A.J.H.