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Published: August 15th 2019
Issy is keen to lie on some grass in a big park, so we head to the biggest nearby patch of green we can see on the map, which is the Parque de Los Jesuitas. It’s leafy and very pleasant, with a duck pond, fountains and a section for dogs. We lie on the grass on our Sardinian tea towels and then go for a snack at the park’s cafeteria. Our waiter seems to have a real obsession with the menus, and if we leave them lying down on the table for more than a few seconds after we’ve finished looking at them he appears from nowhere to put them back in their stand next to the salt and pepper. We were probably fortunate he let us look at them in the first place. We wish that the cook had been as obsessive about heating our precooked omelette which turns up lukewarm, and we then battle to get to it through marauding wasps. We move to another table in the hope that they won’t follow us. I’m not quite sure why we thought they wouldn’t follow us; if they managed to find our omelette in the middle of an entire city
in the first place I doubt they’d find it too much of a challenge tracking it to another table only a few metres away. The omelette‘s not nearly appetising enough for us to persist so we give up and leave.
I leave Issy resting back at the hotel while I go off on another church and convent crawl.
First stop is the 16th century Dominican Convento de Las Duenas. The two storey cloisters are very attractive and peaceful; well they look attractive and peaceful until I view them from a bit closer. Most of the figures carved into the cloister’s columns are grotesque - skulls, writhing figures, snakes, goats with long horns, and faces contorted in agony. Most of the other stone carvings we’ve seen on old buildings around town here have been of biblical scenes and revered historical figures, so I’m not quite sure of the mindset of the stonemason they let loose in here. This is a closed order and the nuns are all hidden away behind locked doors. I think I’d be hiding away behind locked doors too if I was faced with the prospect of being confronted by this horror show every day.
Next stop is the small and very cute 12th century Iglesia de San Martin de Tours which is right next to Plaza Mayor. We ate next to this last night and couldn’t help but notice that it had a huge bird’s nest on the top of its bell tower. We’ve also noticed large bird‘s nests on the tops of a lot of the other bell towers here. Issy says that she read an article from a few years back about the priests at a small village in northern Spain getting permission from local authorities to evict 39 stork families which they claimed had caused 32,000 Euro worth of damage to their church’s tiled roof. They then went a step further and put up electric fences on the roof to stop the storks from coming back. I’m sure the tiled roofs of churches are very valuable but this would still seem to me to be just a modicum of overkill. One of the storks inevitably did try to come back and, no surprise, got itself trapped in the fence, where it was electrocuted and broke its wings. The fire brigade, the Civil Guard and the local environment agency were then called
in to free it and cart it off to a local refuge. The story apparently got into the national press and caused quite a backlash against the church, which probably explains why there still seem to be lots of bird’s nests here on the tops of Salamanca's churches.
I move onto the much larger 17th century Iglesia de la Purisima. Wikipedia’s a bit quiet about this one, but another website says it’s the only publicly accessible part of another closed nun’s convent. The article goes on to say that it was built as the funeral church for a local count and his family. This would seem to be a lot of effort to go to to hold a funeral every few decades, so I can’t help but think that something might have gotten a bit lost in the translation here. It’s quite impressive nevertheless, particularly its dome.
Final stop is the Biserica Ortodoxa Romana or Romanian Orthodox Church. Wikipedia’s a bit unforthcoming about this one as well. An article on another site says that it was built in the 12th century and was formerly the St Mary of the Knights in Salamanca Roman Catholic Church. It's very dark
and sombre inside, and I stand in reverent silence with a dozen or so other tourists admiring the very Greek Orthodox style interior. The silence is soon broken by a lady emerging from a room at the front of the church holding a bucket and mop and saying “hola” to everyone in a very loud voice. The Catholics handed the church over to the Romanians in 2010, recognising that there are apparently a lot of Romanians in Salamanca.
The other thing that there seem to be a lot of in Salamanca are lawyers. One of the few Spanish words I’ve managed to pick up is “abogado”, which means lawyer, and this word seems be plastered on every second building we pass; well every second building that isn’t a church. I wonder why there seem to be so many lawyers here. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of obvious crime. Furthermore a high proportion of the population here are students - most students I’ve known haven’t got any money, and most of the lawyers I’ve known don’t seem to be all that interested in clients who don’t have any money. I Google “why are there so many lawyers in
Salamanca” and all I get is a long list of legal outfits who are seemingly only too willing to help you part with your hard-earned if you’ve had a car crash or you think you should have got a bigger share of your auntie’s will. This isn’t a lot different to anywhere else we’ve been to in the world, so the mystery remains.
It’s been eleven long nights since Japanese food last passed Issy’s lips. It seems she’s been using the Google machine to good effect to track down nearby Japanese restaurants, so no prizes for guessing where we’ll be eating tonight.
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