Evelyn Rupert is a student at Washington and Lee University and an ISA Featured Blogger. Evelyn is currently studying abroad with ISA in Salamanca, Spain.
My first month in Salamanca has gone too fast. The time slipped away somewhere between the café con leche and tapas and aimlessly going into gift shops even though they all basically have the same things.
When I was saying goodbye to my friends and family back home, four and a half months seemed like forever. But now I’m worried I won’t have enough time to do all the things I want to do. So to remind myself to stop being such a baby about the cold weather and not waste any time, and also to show off some of the things that make Salamanca unique, I decided to make my first blog post a Salamanca bucket list.
Disclaimer: Some of these things I’ve actually already done. But come on. Who hasn’t written something on their bucket list just for the satisfaction of crossing it off? It’s not cheating.
1. Find the frog on the university façade
The original University of Salamanca building is a plateresque maze that is beautiful and overwhelming to look at. Somewhere among the intricate detailing is one small frog sitting on a skull. It’s said that the frog brings luck to those who can pick it out. I could use some for my history exams.
2. Be a tourist!
Visit the old and new cathedrals, the old university, the Universidad Pontificia, museums, and other old things.
I’m just a geeky tourist pretending to be a trendy local.
3. Walk the trail along Río Tormes
I originally wrote “run on the trail along Río Tormes.” Then I remembered I don’t run. Walking gives me more time to take in the beautiful sights.
4. Churros and chocolate at Valor
Valor is a huge chocolate brand all over Spain and is not unique to Salamanca, but it is definitely the most popular place for churros y chocolate with both the tourists and the locals. Maybe I should reconsider that run….
5. Find the milk vending machine
After those churros, all you really want is a nice glass of milk. But my host mom doesn’t give us milk. Plus, in Spain milk comes in a box and that kind of weirds me out. Luckily, some of my friends have come across a vending machine-type thing that dispenses milk like a soda fountain. I don’t know where or why, but I know I must find it.
6. Sit on the ground in the middle of the Plaza Mayor and eat McDonalds.
People do this. All the time. I don’t get it, but hey, when in Rome.
7. Live music at Café Corrillo
For some silly reason I was under the impression that when I came to Spain I would hear a lot less American music. I was wrong. Spanish radio and DJs do not only play the current top songs in the states, they also take it back to circa seventh grade with nostalgic hits from artists like Usher, Outkast, 50 Cent, the artist formerly known as Snoop Dogg, and every once in a while something super random like the theme song from Friends. Café Corrillo is right outside of the Plaza Mayor and features a lot of live music from local artists. I can only take so much Gangnam Style.
8. Ride a motorcycle/moped
Lucky for me, my host brother has a small collection.
9. Read a book in Spanish.
I am slowly working my way through Cien años de soledad (One hundred years of solitude) by Gabriel García Márquez. Which means I am also working my way through the Spanish-English dictionary.
Every day I walk down Calle Zamora to get to the Plaza Mayor or to class, and there are always these two guys with a little metal hut who literally roast chestnuts over an open fire. You can buy 10 chestnuts for 1€. I don’t really know what a chestnut tastes like nor would I know how to eat one, but I’m intrigued.
11. Go shopping at the Rastro
The Rastro is a street market that takes place every Sunday morning near the Tormes River. Sounds like a good place to knock out some souvenir shopping and make myself leave the house before lunch.
12. Go see an actual Spanish movie
My roommate and I have made two valiant attempts at seeing a Spanish movie. Both turned out to be originally in other languages and dubbed over in Spanish. Side note: going to the movie theater is actually cheaper than in the U.S. and they give you reasonably-sized popcorn and drinks.
13. Tapas on tapas on tapas
EAT ALL THE TAPAS.
14. Make Spanish friends.
Because I live with a host family and have classes with all international students, it’s more difficult than I thought it would be to meet Spanish people. Hopefully doing some of the things on this list will give me an opportunity. I imagine it would go something like this: “Hello, I see that you too are eating McDonalds in the middle of the Plaza. Lets share some ketchup and then get BFF bracelets.” Or, “Oh, me? Why yes, I’m just casually reading Cien años de soledad under this here tree. Would you like to engage in an intellectual discussion about literature and then be my friend?” And so on. But in all seriousness, I think that becoming friends with someone who lives or studies in Salamanca would be a great way to get to know the city from an insider’s perspective. It would also force me to speak Spanish, which I don’t do enough of since almost all my friends speak English.
15. Figure out the metric system and the Celsius scale.
Just kidding. That will never happen.
I’ve been to salamanca in the summer, great place! Please go to the chupeteria (less than 5min from plaza mayor), shots for 1 euro and the irish pub (has eramus students nights). totally worth it
Don’t worry – I’m way ahead of you.
I can completely relate to number 14 on your Bucket List. I’m currently spending my second semester of Erasmus in Bologna, Italy. I spent my first semester in France, and all I did was speak English with my English friends. Here, I’m really isolating myself from English speakers, but if just makes me feel lonely and like I have no friends! Its so difficult to meet native speakers and fit in to their group, what I can suggest is look for a tandem partner?
Hi Evelyn, I’m glad you’re enjoying Salamanca; I spent 8 months there many moons ago but there are things about Spain that will never change so you’ll have some of the same experiences that I did. I hope you don’t mind my adding to your bucket list.
Please make sure you try the delicious anise cookies sold by the cloistered Dominican nuns.I believe they’re off of the NE corner of the Plaza Mayor. In any case they’re probably near the Catedral de Salamanca.
May I suggest reading a Miguel Delibes book (Cinco horas con Mario) since he’s from the region (Valladolid which is part of Castilla y Leon)? Or Carmen Martin Gaite who was from Salamanca. There are so many wonderful Spanish writers, and I”m sure a Spanish literature student would be glad to explain why these authors are so well known.
Buy something with the Salamancan symbol on it (the silver rosette looking thing. I never did learn the name of it, but you know what I mean); it’ll mean a lot to you when you return. (Unfortunately, I lost mine)
I once worked at a video store and saw a girl wearing earrings of this symbol,so I immediately asked her about her trip to Salamanca. We gabbed excitedly for half an hour and her mother just stood there with her mouth open the whole time;she just couldn’t believe it.
Make it a point to learn a Spanish song; someone who may only be known in Spain or Europe.
You must get out one Saturday night to hear la Tuna; the university medieval singing group. Another thing to do is learn one of the many centuries old Spanish folk songs that are still popular, like Clavelitos.
There used to be a bar near Calle 5 (close to Colegio de Espana) that sold the best mushrooms. (Mushrooms are delicacies in Europe) Ask around.
Another bar specializes in mussels and you just drop the shells on the floor. If nothing else, the experience alone is fun!
And off of the Plaza (I want to say west side facing the clock) there should still be a bar that sells anise; the liquor that drove artists crazy in the 1800s. It is milky green and very, very strong, so beware. It is illegal in the US and in many countries, so this could be a once in a lifetime chance to try it.
Thank you so much for the suggestions! I will definitely be adding these to my list.
You are so lucky to be in Salamanca! I was in your shoes a year ago and miss it every single day. Enjoy your time. Drink wine by the river, stay out at the clubs until the lights turn on, take walks with your host mom, go EVERYWHERE.
Thanks for personalising your experience. The roasted chestnuts are dry and not very good without lots of butter, yet I still want some when they are so tantalizingly displayed.
The symbol C. Edmund was talking about is the boton charro. It’s very pretty, and I wear the ring I bought everyday. Try paddleboating on the river and take one of the rented bikes for the day and just ride around. I was in Spain for only 5 weeks, and I feel like I could have accomplished so much more. Have fun and tell everybody at ISA Waldy says besos y abrazos!