Episode 13 – Salamanca – the astronaut and the frog
Salamanca is a small enough town for one to go on foot. Come to think of this, it may be the reason why you do not see too many obese Europeans. They have to travel on foot all the time. The streets are too narrow to allow motor vehicles to go through with ease. The problem with parking is horrendous. The pebble stone streets do hell to the suspension of the cars. Really nothing good comes out of this arrangement. Walking is healthy and it slows down the hectic pace of the daily rhythm.
I was half asleep when they dragged me off the bus and we had to walk a short distance to the plaza mayor. We walked down the stairs and then up passed an arch way and presto, there it was a square that looked a mini version of St. Mark square in Venice. This proved my theory, “In Europe, go small”. Points of interest are never too far away in Europe. It is for them to behold and for you to find out.
This town hall square has the same set up as in St. Mark. The center is the vacant massive common ground. The restaurants close-by were bringing out tables and chairs to set up for their business. I was told there will be musicians playing music. Street vendors littered the square and shops covered all 4 sides of the square.
This is a definite university town. It has the oldest university in Spain and every year, many Spanish courses were offered and if you want to indulge in this language, you are more than welcomed.
The city also has its fill of cathedrals, convents, monasteries and churches. They are all so fabulously enriched with history and culture.
On the side scroll of the façade is a definite image of an astronaut. If this carving was done when they put up the building, then this astronaut would be more than 900 years old, but star trek was not around at that time, captain Kirk’s DNA was still a mystery, how did people envision such an image? Look closely and you will definitely see the boots of the astronaut, the air hoses circling the body, the oxygen helmet and the oxygen back pack, all these items are all modern scientific inventions. Again the question of inter-galactic space travellers who visited us centuries ago gained a lot more momentum.
The frog was intended to be a symbol for acquired wisdom. It appeared singularly on top of a skull. There was not another found amongst the intriguing façade. The theory of symmetry got thrown out of the window here. The legend goes if you can touch the frog; your wisdom will gain many folds. This frog and skull was high up 10 meters at least, so the legend sprang out of a practical joke. People spread rumours of idol worship any way they can. In the town of Genoa, the square where Romeo serenaded Juliet, Juliet was the one who whispered ‘Romeo, Romeo, …’ and Romeo coolly replied, ‘here, babe!’, there was a statue of Juliet holding our her arms in a form of embrace. The rumour goes if you touch the breast of the statue, it has to be the left breast, your love life will be glamorous forever and you will have an obedient husband. I have never seen a statue with shinier left breast.
The main shopping street in Salamanca belongs to the old, classic, authentic style of buildings. The streets are narrow but it has its power of attraction. There are also lots of ice cream stores and pastry shops. My dream got broken when I learned Salamanca produces most of the Spanish ham. I always figure ham is produced in more northern provinces.