About three and a half weeks walking the stoned streets of the Calle Real, maneuvering the city buses and scoping out the unrivaled spots for a quick bite of Tortilla Español, I had left my previous novice nature behind. I know prided myself on being a semi-expert on Segovia,having experienced a smooth transition into it’s bustling milieu. Segovia, Spain, a city with its own unique history, architecture and cultural mannerisms, had provided me with many new experiences and personal lessons, in
addition to aiding in my quest for fluency of the Spanish language. Although I had become deeply enchanted with the small city, I began to realize that a departure from it would be inevitable if I wanted to gain a full view of Spain. Staying in the city would merely circumscribe my Spanish experience. My longing to step foot outside the city walls was like a caged tiger’s yearning for the African jungles. The upcoming trip to Salamanca could not have arrived at a more suitable time.
Piling into the car to begin the descent into Salamanca, my alacrity was too much to contain. It was the first time the rest of my nine other classmates and I would spend a night outside of Segovia, our makeshift home. As my teacher, Eric, keyed the car’s ignition, I waved goodbye to the cozy city craving a dabble into the unfamiliarity that awaited me in Salamanca. The one-hundred and seventy eight kilometers that separated the two cities allowed for a much needed time of self-reflection. I plugged into my ipod. Listening to the melodic tunes of Alicia Keys, Coldplay and James Morrison, my eyes glazed over the stretch of rolling hills in view. After the eternity of two hours we finally pulled into a parking space directly outside of our Salamancan nest, Hostal Italia.
Greeted with a brisk gale of cold air, I stepped out of the van for a first look at the city. Salamanca, quite accurately described as a “city of sandstone,” consisted of the slightest variations of tan colored buildings. Each store or apartment building blended in with the other giving the city a collective look. Salamanca was about three times larger than Segovia and sported chain food restaurants such as McDonald’s and Burger King in addition to local Spanish hubbubs. The Romanesque city, previously an intellectual cornerstone of the world, housed the famous Salamanca University. The University greatly attributed to the sandstone city’s considerably large young population. Salamanca carried a definite air of liveliness. Although it appeared to be a finger freezing negative degrees celsius, people crowed around the city’s center, Plaza Mayor, to take pictures, shop the streets and enjoy conversation with friends. Despite the snow flurries, the Salamancans stayed put as if they were unmovable stone statues. They were unwilling to concede their spots outside to the harsh winter winds.
After taking a trip to the memorable church, La Cathedral Nueva de Salamanca, then going back to the hostel for a quick siesta, I was ready to discover Salamanca’s “nocturnal life.” My friends, Star, Jen, Britney, and I left the hostel around seven-thirty pm heading for Plaza Mayor. It was still extremely early, however we had many sights to cram into the short period of time allotted to us. When I asked the group what they wanted to do first, we all replied in accordance, “find food.” In my transformation into a native Spaniard I have realized that one of the surest ways to test a city’s passion was through its cooking. My friends and I had come up with an essential listing that would ensure that we would be most satisfied with our meals when we went out to eat-every friday and saturday. We walked around the city in search of a place that would adhere to our checklist of necessities which included a great price, cozy location, physical appeal, however most importantly mouthwatering comida. We finally decided on a bright corner restaurant that served a variety of dishes.
We were seated at a tucked away niche with a huge window for people watching. The waiter came to take our order and twenty minutes later returned with two medium sized maragarita-pesto pizzas. I gingerly divided one pie into two perfect halves, placing one side on my plate and the other on my friend’s. Next, I cut my half into five equal slices. Biting into one piece, the pizza melted in my mouth like butter in a warm saucing pan. Thirty-six minutes and four slices later, my feast had concluded. Salamanca had passed the first test. The flavorful food I had experienced gave me an assurance that I would enjoy the time I would spend there. Leaving our window seats, it was nine o’clock. The evening was young and with a full belly I darted into the sandstone night life.
Although I was overjoyed with my discovery of a new Spanish city, I missed my home and Spanish mother, Teresa, back in Segovia. When my paternal mother in the U.S. called and asked which city I had preferred I distinctively answered Segovia because I had developed a biased sense of loyalty towards it. However, I now realize that I cannot compare the two cities because each contain their own unique characteristics unparalleled to the other. As I continue to expand my growth, this passionate country has led me to yet another realization. The only way to fully appreciate anything is to be completely open-minded. Traveling to Salamanca after spending three weeks in Segovia, I could not expect to find something better or worse, simply different. As my journey through Spain continues I will consistently seek to discover the workings of the cities I find myself in, applauding their differences.
Dear reader, staying open minded will continue to be a theme as you travel throughout Spain. If you set your bar too high, you may end up disappointed with the outcome. It is much better to go into discovering a new place with your mind as an empty slate. And so with the fourth essay comes the fourth lesson. Live for the moment and do not try to over think what you presume should be happening. Appreciate what you have in front of you.Things do not always have to be perfect for you to have an enjoyable time. Be blessed to be with good company, in exceptional health or what ever good fortune you may be experiencing. If you go into your trip in good spirits and without over zealous expectations your are bound to be satisfied with your journey, wherever it may take you.