iblogspain

The online Plaza Mayor for those who love Spain, and those who blog about it.

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Savoring Salamanca

November 25, 2016 by Luann Edwards

(This post was originally shared on www.luannedwardswrites.com)

Our second tour was about an hour away from Segovia, in the city of Salamanca. We rose early that morning and boarded a bus that took us through the highways of Spain, out of Segovia and by Avila. Traveling within Spain’s interior is a beautiful experience, since the highways are not quite like those that we’re used to. There are usually no overpasses, not too much honking, and a lot of countryside to gaze upon as you pass through. Sprinkled between interesting conversations with my traveling partners were glimpses of fields of sunflowers, which I still regret not photographing in time, since the blanketed hills caught me by surprise. Later we would pass the lines of windmills that Spain is known for, and I’m reminded of Don Quijote and his

Friends in Plaza Mayor, Salamanca

experiences on the roads that we were traveling. We may have been riding a bus (and not our trusty horse, Rocinante) and the windmills were a bit more modern, but it was an adventure nonetheless.

We arrived in Salamanca, which had a different flavor from the other Spanish cities I’dvisited. This one seemed, somehow, more like a city. At first glance, I wasn’t sure I liked it – it ran contrary to what I’d expected it to be. But once we’d move into the city and began at the Plaza Mayor, I felt Salamanca begin to slowly grow on me.

We started our tour at the University of Salamanca, exploring the building and its evident history in every beam and detail. My favorite story is that of Frey Luis de Leon, a professor at the University who had been teaching one day, and then thrown into prison the next by the heavy hand of the Spanish Inquisition. It took five years for his defense to acquit him of his supposed crimes, after which he returned to the classroom with the following quote, “Como decíamos ayer.” Translated, it reads, “As we were saying yesterday.” I’m not sure why, but this quote really stuck with me and continues to – a clear statement of moving forward and not letting the past hold back the future. I find it encouraging, even still today.

One other item really stood out to me – the wall markings of the PhD students who fought a bull in order to earn their degree and then used the blood to write a quote and a symbol (the word “Victor” in some permutation) on the wall. These days, they use a more humane paint to inscribe this on the wall – but still a great tradition. A good friend and fellow travel writer was, at that time, awaiting defense of her dissertation and we thought that this would be a great tattoo when she became Doctor, which she would a month later.

153 (2)We took a meandering walk in the hot sun – every, every day was hot in Castilla y Leon – looking at shop windows and churches and even purchasing cookies made by the nuns in a local convent. Lunch was spent at an outdoor restaurant just outside the Plaza Mayor, which provided a flavorful menu del día and people-watching opportunities.

After a long, hot day of walking and absorbing and maybe even baking a little, we boarded the bus on a quiet street just at the edge of the city and drove back to Segovia, waving out the window at Avila and stopping for a moment to take a photo at the base of the hill below the magical castle outside the gates of Segovia. The driver dropped us off at the i.e. University, which seemed incredibly modern compared to the University of Salamanca, and we made the uphill trek through the city gates and to Los Linajes.

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Wisdom from the Camino

May 5, 2013 by Luann Edwards

 

In the last blog post, we looked at the Camino de Santiago from the perspective of modern-day pilgrims in anticipation of the journey. Today, we turn our attention to the wisdom shared by those pilgrims – peregrinos – who have completed the pilgrimage.  There is a wealth of beautiful writing by those who have been transformed by the journey.

In her blog, girlsontheway.com, Patricia Herr shares “The Ten Truths of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela.” My favorite truth is the first, “You are stronger than you think you are.” Here’s what she says:

“There will be days when your feet feel like someone went at them with a hammer. There will be times when the rain pelts you for hours on end. There will be moments when your back aches and your shoulders hurt and your neck wants to fall off. During each and every one of those times, you’ll go deep within yourself and you’ll find the strength to keep going. Every time you tough it out makes the next difficult time that much easier.” 

My second favorite – although perhaps it is a tie with the first – is the final truth, number 10, “Ultreia.”

“This is a peregrina’s mantra; it means Onward. Forward. Ahead. You can’t go back. “Ultreia” applies to every aspect of my life. Whatever has happened in the past, it doesn’t matter. I can only take action in the here-and-now and I can only look ahead to the future. Keep moving. Keep growing as a person. Keep trimming the unwanted fat (in terms of both diet and negative people) from my life. Keep doing the best I can, keep learning, keep celebrating the moment and keep cherishing my loved ones. Keep hiking, keep planning for the future, keep true to myself and my family.”

If each of us came out of an experience with just these two lessons, the world would be a better place.

Each blog post is filled with uplifting anecdotes of experiences on the road. On richardtullochwriter.com, Tulloch described a “miracle” during his camino:

“Miracles happen along the Camino. Somewhere between 13.7 and 15.1 kilometres into the trek my GPS computer broke free of its moorings on my wrist and was lost. I retraced my steps and searched the ground fruitlessly, until a Spanish angel appeared on a mountain bike and produced it from his backpack.”

An in aviatrixkim.com, Kim Green’s blog, she shares wisdom from her day of departure:

“1. You can never get everything done.

2. When you don’t get it all done, the world doesn’t end.

3. Worrying doesn’t help.”

 

And for all those who wish to find The Way, are about to set out on The Way, or have already found their version of The Way, iblogspain.com wishes you buen camino!

 

 

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Beautiful Churches, Vibrant Spaniards

May 3, 2013 by Luann Edwards

She stays up late at night, smoking at an outdoor tapas bar, drinking a crisp white Rioja and talking about the government. She is what makes Spain vibrant – the typical Madrileña. She has counterparts everywhere – people who enjoy life by the moment; who are not usually in a hurry and so they do not miss anything. It’s the people that I love about Spain.

A Spaniard in Spain - The Lovely Elena

A Spaniard in Spain – The Lovely Elena

 

For the record, the photo above is my friend Elena. I don’t think she smokes, but she embodies all of the wonderful qualities of a vibrant Spaniard.

 

In the last blog post, we talked about Catholic Spain. As a lapsed Catholic, I find its ubiquity in the Iberian peninsula familiar and comforting – in the same way that malls in other cities are comforting to me in the US. (For the record, I may have felt differently if I was a resident of Spain instead of an occasional interloper.) What I especially loved was the combination of the people in Spain, and how they celebrated that religion. How they built their churches – and, in the case of the Sagrada Familia, that they still are.

 

I’d intended to dedicate this post to the religious ferias – or festivals – across Spain during this time of year. My only experience was to spend four rushed days in Barcelona just before Christmas. It wasn’t officially a festival, but I enjoyed unseasonably warm weather as I walked just outside of La Rambla, shopping for interesting Christmas ornaments. I couldn’t get enough of the atmosphere – of the people enjoying the festive decorations and the upbeat feeling that many have during the season. Sadly, work brought me to Spain the most often, and we typically avoided travel during the very holidays I would have liked to experience.

Street Performer on La Rambla

Street Performer on La Rambla

 

Without my own experience to draw from, I had hoped to find plenty of blog posts that I could share but there are not as many as I’d thought. Instead, perhaps you might enjoy some photos of the beautiful churches I’ve encountered in my travels throughout Spain.

 

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“As We Were Saying Yesterday” … About Spain and Its Religion

May 1, 2013 by Luann Edwards
Fray Luis de Leon

Fray Luis de Leon

 

 

If there is one thing that you could say about Spain, it’s that this country has got religion. Today, while there is no government sanctioned religion, its Catholic roots are strong and 71% of Spaniards self-identify as Catholics. Its history involves both remarkable religious tolerance followed by equally remarkable religious intolerance. Many landmarks in Spain are large, imposing cathedrals as well as synagogues and mosques – relics from a time when several religious groups lived together until they didn’t. But I’ll save the history conversation for another blog.

 

I was attracted to the story of la covivencia, Spain’s once-harmonious co-existence of Muslims, Christians and Jews, during my first visit to Toledo in 2003. At the time, I was a newlywed in an interfaith marriage – my husband is Jewish, and I was raised Catholic – and its history of tolerance resonated with me. While visiting Toledo, I fell in love with its sand-colored structures and the Tagus river that flowed around it. And what I really loved most was the beautiful cathedral. And since that first honeymoon visit, anytime I’ve visited the Iberian peninsula, Spain’s religious roots could be seen, woven into the landscape.

 

During a visit to Salamanca in 2011, we visited the cathedral there – its two sections reflecting the “old” and the “new” sides of its architecture. As well as being home to this beautiful religious edifice, Salamanca boasts one of the oldest universities around – the University of Salamanca. The photo above is of Fray Luis de Leon, who was a famous instructor at the university and stands as an example of Spain’s tumultuous religious history.

 

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Fray Luis is a prominent figure as an example of the intersection of government and religion. He was arrested during the Spanish Inquision, and held for four years for having what was considered heretical views. After that time, he was cleared and released from prison. He returned to the classroom and began his first lecture with, “As we were saying yesterday…” as if only a day went by since he had last lectured. When our tour guide told us this story, it seemed that she was the most proud of that anecdote.

 

Interior of the cathedral at Salamanca

Interior of the cathedral at Salamanca

 

 

 

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Melancholia and Boston

April 16, 2013 by Luann Edwards

In the interest of full disclosure, I’d like to warn you that I have a serious case of melancholy today.

 

As an occasional/aspirational runner who lives one hour outside of Boston, I am especially sickened and angry about the bombing at the Boston Marathon. I’m heartbroken for those who died, and for those who have been changed forever. I’m sad about the fact that no one will experience this event again without thinking about what happened today. I hate that my second home city is now linked with sadness and tragedy. A shadow is cast on one of the best things Beantown has to offer, and I want to know who is responsible for it. Lord help them when the people of Boston finds them.

 

It’s hard not to think about the parallels between  this event, and the 11th March Atocha bombing. It feels eerie to think that I had just mentioned it in last week’s post about taking the train to Còrdoba. Each time I board a train in Atocha – although, to be fair, it wasn’t the Renfre that was bombed – I think of that fateful day. I offer up a little prayer for those who lost their lives doing the routine, unremarkable act of commuting to their office or class at the local university. And while we don’t know who is responsible for Boston yet, it doesn’t make it any more logical or easier to understand.

 

And today, I mourn for another group of people; those who will be forever changed by a senseless act while experiencing something that should have been uplifting, positive, and and inspirational. When I go out for a run on a crisp spring morning, I’ll say a little prayer for those who only wanted to achieve a dream that many cannot: to run Boston. And for those who came to cheer them on.

 

And today, I echo the words of our president: “Boston is a tough and resilient town. So are its people.”

 

 

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