Day 17 – Salamanca (Plaza Mayor)

Planes, trains, and automobiles – we were off to Salamanca.  We arrived on an extremely hot day when everyone in their right mind was hiding away.  We rolled our suitcases and dripped with sweat as we made our way to our hotel.  The importance of a siesta was again reinforced.  We rested and studied our maps until the heat broke around 7.  Then we were out the door to get a feel of the city.

A main sight in Salamanca is its Plaza Mayor.  I have made it around to a number of plazas at this point, and Plaza Mayor quickly became my favorite.  We slowly walked around the Plaza appreciating the statues of famous Castilians, the town hall, the grand clock, the square niches and colonnades. With a large open space in the middle, it was easy to imagine when bullfights were held in the square (through 1893).  The plaza has always been, and is still, a place for the people to chat, eat, and watch the world go by.  As the sun began to set people poured into the plaza, the tables began to fill and a feeling of delight came over me. Being a part of this nightly ritual was one of the highlights of my trip so far.  There were two lovely surprises. Since it was a Wednesday night, I did not expect to hear any music in the plaza. I was very happy to be mistaken. There was a group of men singing, playing stringed instruments, and dressed in velvet pants, black capes and leggings. ‘Tuna music’ was a tradition from the 1400s – 1700s for the poor students to play and sing in the plaza to earn money for their education.  The music is a little hard to describe…there were songs that reminded me of waltzes and jigs and others folk songs to which all the Spaniards sang along.  I sat with a smile on my face, enjoying the gentle breeze and the lively music, when the second surprise occurred.  When it became dusk they turned on the lights around the plaza and everyone cheered!  You may think I’m overreacting, but it was beautiful!  The whole plaza glowed in a golden-tone adding magic to the air.  I already love Salamanca!

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