A wee bit of Salamanca’s history and ‘crazy’ Madrid(-Barajas) nights

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This time I’ll tell you my two favourite legends of Salamanca (Actually, I should have done it much earlier).

The Frog

The facade of Universidad de Salamanca, carved in stone, conceals a small frog… on the skull.
The legend says that all the students who came to Salamanca have to look for the frog. If they find the frog, they will pass their exams and will have good luck. Nowadays lots of tourists look for it every day.

So that’s the legend ‘sold’ to tourists. The alternative story gives the frog on the skull a deeper meaning, i.e. the frog is a symbol of a sexual temptation and the skull a symbol of a failure (or death). Thus, according to the legend the frog on the skull warned the students to beware of women, to stay away from them because they might make them not pass their exams, make them miserable and even make them dead (students used to associate with prostitutes that spread various contagious disease, some of them incurable).

 

Waters Monday (Lunes de Aguas)

This story is based on facts.

In XVI century Felipe II, Spanish king, ordered that all prostitutes residing in Salamanca had to leave the city during the Lent and Holy Week (so students could study and get involved in the Lent). They would go to another side of the river El Tormes and Padre Putas (clergyman) would watch them. When Holy Week finished, prostitutes would return to the city crossing the river by boats. Students, after such a long time of a sexual abstinence, would go to the river to give a warm welcome to the prostitutes with drinks and hornazo (kind of a pie, very typical of Salamanca).

Until now, los salmantinos go to the riverside on Easter Monday with their families to have a picnic, drink, eat hornazo, chat with their friends and enjoy a day (but no longer to await the returning prostitutes ;)).

 

The other thing that Salamanca is famous of is Nochevieja Universitaria (University’s Hogmanay). It falls usually on last Thursday of the first semester. This day all the students gather on Plaza Mayor and drink since the afternoon. At midnight while the bell is tolling everybody’s eating twelve grapes (one grape at each stroke of the bell). Later everybody’s celebrating until… next day or so.

This year there’s an issue with Nochevieja Universitaria. The mayor of Salamanca doesn’t approve of its celebrations (because it costs a lot to clean the city afterwards, etc…). There’s a plan to make official celebrations in Zamora or other city nearby. However the situation is solved, I’m sure there will be (at least unofficial) Nochevieja in Salamanca (oh, I’ve forgot to mention that Nochevieja falls on 10th of December this year).

 

News from my personal life…

I’ve been quite busy lately… with travelling. I had a crazy weekend during which I went to Krakow (with a flight change in Bergamo) and from there to my hometown in Silesia to visit my family, my best friend who’s pregnant and a gig of my favourite Polish group. My stay was amazing although so short (just two days)! Short but intense, in fact. On the way back to Spain I had a flight change in Bergamo again but with six-hour gap between the flights so I went for late lunch with my Italian friend and had a wonderful time. Oh, and I came back with 15 kilos of my hand luggage (luckily no-one weighted my luggage at the airport!). I had ‘just’ Polish food there.

The craziest thing during my journey? Sleeping at Madrid-Barajas airport! Yes, I had an early morning flight to Bergamo (just guess… with which airline? Ryanair, of course) and the last bus from Salamanca goes to Madrid about 10 p.m. So I spent a night kind of sleeping at the airport, listening to music and waiting for the clock stroking magic 5 a.m. I was taken aback by the number of people doing the same thing as me! There were a few bunches of people spending their night at the airport… Some of them sleeping on the floor alone, others playing cards and others drinking. Actually, the night at the airport wasn’t so bad as I had thought!

Another crazy thing, although not so crazy as the latter during my journey was a night in Madrid. I arrived in Barajas airport about midnight, and naturally, there was no bus to Salamanca until morning. Luckily I had found a couch in Madrid so got on metro and arrived to my host’s place about 1 a.m. We chatted about everything and nothing until 5 a.m. and after two hours of sleep we got up… me to catch my bus at 8.30 to Salamanca and he to get ready to work.

This weekend I’m going to Toledo and Segovia by train. Yes, trains… and Interrail pass, I’ll leave it for next week. Cheers!

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