Wednesday, 14 September, 2011 17:24

Salamanca – A Major University Town

Off To Salamanca …
Salamanca is located about 200km due west of Madrid, 2 1/2 hours by train and has one of the oldest Universities in Spain. University starts back from the summer break mid September so our train was full of young people heading to Salamanca for their first semester.

The landscape from the train, typical for the entire journey

Surprise, Surprise – Another Festival …
Our train arrived on time and we caught the local bus to Plaza Mayor where our hotel was located. We didn’t realize until we reached our hotel that a big festival had just begun and was running for the following week. The town was alive with people enjoying the party style atmosphere. There was entertainment around each corner with lots of taverns serving food and drinks at very cheap prices all day long.

One of the many taverns around the old town set up for the festival

About The Festival
After a walk around the old town we visited the tourist information office to get a program for the festival called the “La Virgen de la Vega”, (The Virgin of the Valley) The festival is important to the locals because she was the patron saint that assisted in defending the city from invading enemy troops during the Spanish War of Succession in 1706. The festival which goes for a week has the widest range of entertainment and cultural events you could imagine and it was a great time to be in Salamanca.

Entertainment at one of the taverns

Our First (And Only) Bullfight
Part of the festival was the traditional art of bullfighting. Yes, it is considered an art not a sport in Spain, and it is something we consider you should see only once. A bullfight consists of six bulls & three matadors with each matador being accompanied by two assistants. In a little over two hours the matadors each kill two bulls or “toros” as they are known in Spain.

Matadors assistant testing the agression of the bull

Following the killing of the bull the crowd reacts depending on how they judge the spectacle. In our case, one of the matadors received a great deal of cheering and was awarded the ears of the bull as a prize. He then paraded around the arena showing off his prize to the cheers of the crowd.

Matador just after he has stabbed the bull with his sword

Bullfighting is an amazing specatacle with a lot of crowd participation. It has deep cultural roots in Spain hence the reason for its survival. It is something we are glad we witnessed, but would not ever consider going again because of the cruelty. What is interesting though is that following the killing, the bull is butchered and the meat sold to high class restaurants, so if you have had a nice steak in Spain, chances are you were a participant in the end result of a bullfight.

Bull being removed after the kill

Some Light Relief – A Concert …
We caught a bus back from the bullfight, enjoyed a meal at one of the taverns and then went to Plaza Mayor (pronounced may-or) to find a fantastic concert was in full swing featuring two Spanish groups; “Folk On Crest” and “La Banda del Soplo”. They played until midnight to a crowd of many thousands in the Plaza. A fantastic atmosphere and a great start to our time in Salamanca.

Concert in full swing at Plaza Mayor

A Medieval Market
Part of the festival was a medieval market selling all sorts of jewelery, soaps, food stuffs and toys with all the store holders dressed in medieval costumes. There were around 50 stallholders including a couple of very unique medieval taverns selling a wide range of typical local food. The market was complete with wandering minstrals and it made you really feel you were back in medieval times.

A stall holder at the medieval market

Entertainment and Taverns Everywhere …
Following our visit to the medieval market we walked the town. Everywhere we looked there was entertainment and taverns including another concert in the Plaza. During our time in Salamanca, we attended all three night time concerts and enjoyed the variety of entertainment.

Street entertainers at one of the many taverns

A Festival Full Of Suprises …
Sunday was a big day for the festival with processions through the town, an historic folk concert in the Plaza, and to our total surprise and half way through the folk concert, about 200 motor bikes all revving their engines and with a police escort, ride into the Plaza. All this going on whilst the folk concert was in full swing. Talk about contrast. The bikies parked their bikes and proceeded to watch the concert until it finished then departed the Plaza.

Folk concert in full swing

Motor bikes on display in the Plaza Mayor

A Sad Farewell …
It was with some reluctance that we departed Salamanca. It is a beautiful city, the young people are all happy and smiling having a great time before uni starts and we did not see one instance of drunkeness or bad behaviour in our three days. In fact, in our three weeks so far in Spain, we have not seen anything that has given us any concerns.

Crowd enjoying a comedy concert in one of the Plazas

If you will be offended don’t watch. We do not condone this artform.

YouTube Video

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Salamanca, Spain

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