During our week long break from school for Semana Santa (Holy Week), I figured I should take advantage of a few more days of travel. We didn’t venture too far from Sevilla although we still ended up on a 7 hour bus ride…they’re getting old I must say. Sarah and I headed north to Salamanca & Ávila, about halfway between Madrid and the Portuguese border. We booked last minute bus tickets Monday night after returning from Portugal less than 24 hours earlier. Our bus left Tuesday morning at 7 am which meant up and out the door by 5:45. I had a minor freakout at the bus station when I realized I hadn’t written down the confirmation number for our tickets from my e-mail inbox. After being asked 3 or 4 times if I had it by the lady in the ticket window and repeating no each time, we showed her our passports and she agreed to print off the tiny piece of paper that was our ticket (the bus driver hardly even looked at it). We boarded, were lucky enough to get our own seats since the bus wasn’t full and tried to sleep the best we could. I kept waking up thinking we were almost there and then realizing it had only been 30 minutes. We probably stopped in every decent size town between here and Salamanca. We arrived to beautiful views of the 2 cathedrals and the famous Universidad de Salamanca. The architecture was different than Andalusia and carried the old Spanish charm. All the buildings in the old city center were of the same building material which made for a beautiful sight. We got off the bus, figured out the city bus, and walked a few blocks to our hostel. We dropped our bags, got cleaned up, and headed for the sights. We toured the Catedral Nueva (New Cathedral) and the Catedral Vieja (Old Cathedral) as well as part of the University. All were gorgeous and very typical of other places we’ve seen in Spain. We were craving something different for dinner so decided on a Chinese restaurant. It was amazing and very cheap. We had soooo much food. We picked up a guide for Semana Santa in Salamanca and set out to wait for a paso. It turned out to be really easy, we just followed the crowds of people. We waited for a while before the first one came through. It was pretty but much different than the one I’d seen the day before in Sevilla. There weren’t as many people and it didn’t seem to be as big of a spectacle. It was a good experience nonetheless and we got some good photos to share.
Semana Santa in Salamanca
Wednesday we started with a tour of the Monasterio de San Esteban in Salamanca followed by a short bus ride to the walled city of Ávila. Ávila is one of the places I’d been waiting to visit in Spain and I’m really happy I finally had the opportunity. I remembered back to my high school Spanish teacher talking about a walled city in Spain where the streets are barely wide enough to drive in. I had also heard my uncle talk about the famous patron saint of Spain, Santa Teresa de Ávila. The view of the city from the highway was amazing. It was a tiny little town, not even worth a city bus ride from the bus station to the walled section. We entered, settled outside the cathedral to each some lunch, and then wandered through the streets. We went through the museum of Santa Teresa and walked into her convent and saw her chapel. We also saw her relics. The first time I’d seen relics! They had her ring finger preserved with a ring still on it, the sole of her sandal, and a few bones of St. John the Cross. It was a bit eerie to see her ring finger. No photos allowed or I definitely would have snapped a few. We left the city walls and walked to the Monasterio de la Encarnación where Santa Teresa was prioress. Once in the museum, they lock you and give you some information for a self-guided tour of the three floors where she lived. They had a replica of her room as well as places marked where Jesus supposedly appeared to her. To leave the museum, you had to ring a bell attached to a long rope and the ladies would come unlock the big wooden door to let you out, a very interesting experience. We walked around the city for a bit and stumbled into a Colombian restaurant for dinner. Apparently there are a lot of South Americans in Ávila. The people at the restaurant were very nice and told us they had lived in Florida for a number of years. The food was great and we had a nice little chat with them. We wanted to catch a paso in Ávila before our 10 pm bus so we set out and ended up following some nazarenos. We figured they would know where to go. We followed them for a while, stopping a few times along the way while the whole procession came together. It was similar to the paso we saw in Salamanca, not a ridiculous amount of people and the actual pasos were pulled by nazarenos instead of carried on the shoulders of costaleros. We saw the paso in two different places before heading back to the bus station to ride back to Salamanca.
Wednesday morning we slept in a bit, walked down to the 1st century Roman bridge in Salamanca and then stopped for a leisurely breakfast before heading back to pick up our bags and catch the city bus to the bus station. Sarah enjoyed eggs for breakfast, something that Spaniards never eat for breakfast! We picked up our things, headed for the bus station and made our way back to Sevilla about 8 pm.
View from Ávila
It was a great little trip and it was interesting to see a different region of Spain.