The Sound Of Salamanca

Zaragoza, Guadalajara, Cartagena – don’t they sound wonderful?

Putting aside whatever these places are actually like, I’m simply talking about the sound of the word. The sounds of the syllables. To me at least, as a boy from High Wycombe (fairly non-descript town between Oxford and London), these places have always evoked a sense of exotic otherness which still make me want to visit them.

But the place or rather the word that does it for me more than any other in Spain is Salamanca.

Salamanca

I’m told it’s a beautiful city steeped in history, culture and architecture and is the linguistic heart of Castellano which all sounds lovely and pretty much as I imagine it to be. I say ‘I’m told’ as I’ve not yet been and this is because although my wife and I have lived in Granada for over a year now and have travelled extensively throughout Andalusia, we have yet to see much of the rest of Spain.

There are a variety of reasons for not having been to Salamanca yet including the perhaps familiar ‘haven’t yet got round to it as life gets in the way’, but one of the key reasons is in fact that I haven’t wanted to spoil my image of this seemingly perfect, exotic place. I guess you could compare it to meeting your heroes. Should you or shouldn’t you? Could they ever be as amazing as they are in your head? For example, I’d love to meet David Bowie one day, but only David Bowie the rock star, not David Bowie the normal bloke who has Cornflakes for breakfast. That’s just too much information.

To me, Salamanca has always symbolised all things Spanish and I look forward to seeing whether it is in fact as wonderful as I have heard or imagine it to be. So much so that this summer my wife and I will be having a trip through the heartlands of Spain including Segovia, Caceres and of course, Salamanca among other places and fortunately, we also have some friends there who I hope will be showing us their side of the city.

Random 18th century French nobleman
Random 18th century French nobleman

One of my favourite books is ‘The Art Of Travel’ by Alain De Botton where he talks about an 18th century French nobleman who has a room in his residence dedicated to England and all things English. However it is not necessarily the ‘real’ England, but the one that he has imagined and one day he indeed sets off to England to see it for himself but turns back when he gets to the coast because as Alain de Botton puts it:

“we may best be able to inhabit a place when we are not faced with the additional challenge of having to be there.”

However, I’m going to perhaps be a little braver than our French nobleman and take my chances. Maybe I’ll be disappointed or even amazed, but at least it will be based on something real. Either way, I’m really looking forward to the trip and of course, I’ll be able to say I’ve finally been to Salamanca.

Maybe then I could try Zaragoza, Guadalajara, Cartagena or even somewhere like the province of Gipuzkoa in the Basque Country, as that sounds fascinating. Which places sound interesting to you?

 

12 comments

  1. People build up Salamanca too much in my opinion, and I ended up disappointed. I’d love to give it a second shot, and I hope you have a better trip than me. San Sebastián-Donostia is better than Bilbao, but Bizkaia is better than Gipuzkoa. I keep looking up “cortado” in Euskera but I forget it before I can tell you!

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    • Ebaki? Is that Euskera for ‘cortado’? So, ‘cortado English’? Enough questions?! Will tell you how it goes but I’m quietly optimistic. How are things with you Pablo?

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      • Three more days of work then two weeks for Semana Santa, I cannot wait. That’s all that is on my mind right now 🙂 I’ll have to look at the coffee machine at work again today and tell you.

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  2. You’ll love it! I lived there for the first year and a bit after arriving in Spain. Gorgeous. Best plaza mayor in Spain. I’ve got a list of tapas bars if you need recs, though I don’t personally know any of them anymore (left in 1993). And yes, love the sound of it. Salamanca.

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  3. I’m currently living in Salamanca and I absolutely love it, it’s a beautiful city. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. I never tire of seeing the Plaza Mayor lit up at night!

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    • Hi Robyn. I look forward to seeing it for myself soon. Thanks for the comment. Recommend any tapas bars?

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  4. Like a few people have already said – it’s worth going for the Plaza Mayor alone. I was there for the first half of 1992 and it was a brilliant introduction to Spain. It’s pretty hot in the summer although you’re probably fine with heat if you’re living in Granada. The city feels a bit abandoned or empty when the students (and staff) aren’t in town so if you can squeeze in a trip during term time, you’ll like it all the better. I also like the sound of Cartagena and saw it a few years ago. Other favourites with me are the ones that are initially tricky to pronounce such as Jerez and Valladolid…

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    • Looking forward to a wonderfully majestic Plaza Mayor. Been a while since I’ve spent time in one of those. I’ve been to Jerez and loved it. Valladolid may be on the list for this summer. Worth visiting or do you just like the sound of the word?

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  5. Jerez is great isn’t it. I’ve only passed through Valladolid but friends that lived there loved it. Shawn/Azahar – I left at the end of May so our paths may indeed have crossed. Went north to Santander where I find myself today…

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