SalamancaMay 12 in Spain
Salamanca may be one of our few european cities that we visit, and it was beautiful. Salamanca is over 2000 years old and started out in the first Iron Age, and went through all the major players of spanish history (Celtic, Carthaginian - think Hannibal and 40 elephants, Roman, Moors, Germanic, French, and then Spanish). The roman bridge over the Tormes is beautiful, the cathedrals are stunning works of sculputure that look like they have had icing dripped from each of the many spires, and the multitudes of buildings that make up the old city and the university (established in 12th century) make it impossible to put down your camera.
We went into the new and old cathedral, and were suitably awe struck. Caleb kept seeing people way up high (70 feet) on a hanging stone walkway, which didn't seem possible, and then we found our way to the small door, where for another fee you can scale the stairs up to the rooftop. The sprial stone staircase that goes up several stories, was so narrow that there were timed traffic lights so you didn't stuck going up when someone was coming down. The cathedral is sandstone, and there are several mentions of the Lisboa earthquake of 1755 and the damage that occured. So when we took Marty out on the walkway, he was hestiant and kept looking at the 3-4 inch cracks causing breaks in the banister, and overhanging keystone rocks that were shimmed with chucks of plywood, basically wedging a several hundred pound rock over your head. On walkways on the outside, there were incredible views over the city and out into the coutryside, and close ups of the carvings on the steeples. There were however, several stone bell towers stories high leaning percariously far off their plumb line so Marty stayed away from the edges and quivered his appendages at the sight of fearless Jorja peering over. Caleb made it up to the bell tower just in time to be deafened by the six bells that marked the half hour.
We did a trip to the Decathalon store, where you can buy alpine hiking gear, dance shoes, guns, and sadles, and stocked up our bike gear. We told the CTT (portugal post) to send our glasses back to Canada (unbelievable bureaucracy over an old scratched up pair of glasses) and Marty bought another pair of reading glasses with clip on sunglasses. Our camping spot was in an actual campground, where we paid money, used hot water to wash dishes and ourselves, and did a load of laundry. There was a trail into town along the river, lots of established bike trails and parks in Salamanca. It was full of retirees, mostly Dutch, camping in their trailers that they pull behind small cars. It was surrounded by a huge chain link fence, which despite the ambiance, meant we felt safe leaving our tent and gear. I think we talked less to people in the campground, as people appeared akward about what language to use in greeting! Jorja of course was off looking around and scoped out all the cute little dogs that she could take for walks, and charmed their owners before we could get our tent set up. We were lucky to make contact with a family from Warm Showers (an online community of bike tourers) and shared an evening of their wine, advice, an insight into spanish life, and a delicious dinner. Thanks Ivan and Angelica!
Our last morning we brushed frost off our tent and froze our toes on our half hour ride to the train station where after a few warming cups of leche caliente and donut sticks we boarded the train for Madrid. What an easy way to bite off 200km! An overnight in Madrid in a cheap apartment near the train station, but unfortunately the big futbol game had been the night before! Then we took an early train up to Huesca in northern Spain and who should get on at the second stop, but Grandma Cheryl and Grandpa Terry with their bikes! Surprise!! So in two days, we covered the same distance as we did in 4 weeks on our bikes through Portugal and reached the foothills of the Spanish Pyrenese. Read more