At around 10am we arrived in Salamanca and were ready to meet our host families. My roommate Carly Metz and I were introduced to our Salamancan madre, Saturnina Bravo Inestal. Her infectious joy gave me immediate comfort and as she quickly referred to Carly and I as her ¨niñas¨ I knew that Satur would be a caring and compassionate temporary madre.
Satur´s house is a long hallway with rooms branching off of it. Carly and I are staying in a shared bedroom at the end of the hall, next to the living room/dining room. Satur and her husband, Francisco, share a bedroom next to the front door. Two bathrooms and a kitchen separate their bedroom from ours.
After a long siesta, Satur fed us pasta carbonara and walked us to the school we will be attending for two weeks. We met up with the rest of our group (there are about 16 of us total) and were introduced to Maria, our trip coordinator for Salamanca. Maria took us on a tour of the small city of about 165,000 residents. The narrow, cobblestone streets reminded me of Pescopagano or Siena, small Italian towns I visited with my family a few summers ago. Young street performers danced and chanted while Maria showed us Salamanca´s New Cathedral. The Cathedral´s gothic architecture captures the antique essence of the small city, and the yellow coloring reflects Salamanca´s nickname ¨The Golden City¨.
Maria then showed us the Old Cathedral, a much smaller structure simpler in texture compared to the New Cathedral.
The University of Salamanca, the 4th oldest university in the world and 1st oldest university in Europe, was next on our tour of the city. The intricate architecture of the front door was mind-boggling, the famous hidden frog difficult to find among all of the designs. A vendor outside of the university was selling toy frogs and explaining the story of the mysterious ¨rana.¨
The courtyard facing the doorway is lined with buildings dedicated to the university´s medical students, a statue of one of the professors stands in the center. Past the medical center at the back left of the courtyard is a cast iron gate separating the concrete from the greener courtyard inside. A sign stuck in the grass says ¨no pisar”, keeping guests off of the green and preserving its beauty.
Inside the building there is a dome ceiling covered in a mural which depicts all of the zodiac signs. Carlene and I searched for our sign, Pisces, but were unsuccessful in finding a symbol relating to the fish. I am a complete zodiac freak, so this was definitely one of the highlights of the day.