Outdoor activities in Salamanca

Hadley1

By Hadley Stein, Spring 2013

 

I love all outdoor activities and here are some  I discovered during my semester in Salamanca. Even though Salamanca is a city, there is so much nature to explore both inside (and right around) the city as well as tons of activities a little farther afield.

I went biking with friends along the bike path, which follows the river for a while and is perfect if you want any easy, flat ride for just a couple hours or even shorter. We also followed roads that went outside the city and just explored. Biking is great if you want to get a sense of the layout of the city and the residential areas that are a little farther afield. The parks near Villamayor Golf are beautiful and a perfect picnic spot with benches and picnic tables along the river. It’s less crowded than the riverside on a sunny day in Salamanca with beautiful wildflowers in the late spring.

I went hiking twice in La Alberca, a small town about an hour away from Salamanca in the Sierra de Francia mountain range. There are three great day hikes I discovered there: Ruta de las Raices, Las Batuecas, Peña de Francia and tons of other smaller trails that you can easily explore in a couple of hours. Peña de Francia is the tallest peak in the range – a fun hike, with great views and a lot of switchbacks. Go up to the summit for a great view of the sunset; there is a restaurant and chapel at the summit open during the day. La Alberca is perfect for an easy weekend trip. There is a bus that costs just less than seven Euros and will stop right in the center of La Alberca; however, it only runs 1-2 times a day. If you ask the driver when you get on the bus, they will also stop at Albereka, the hotel I stayed at both times (see below), which is right before you enter the town. The trails are beautiful, not very crowded and well marked. Be sure to stop by the Casa del Parque at the base of the trail to Las Batuecas. You can get maps and trail information there.

Read more: Outdoor Activities

El coro universitario de Salamanca (By Jacob Bueno de Mesquita)

I became involved in the university choir (el coro universitario) at the Universidad de Salamanca almost completely by chance. I was chatting with a professor from Geografía one day after class and she told me that they were in need of male singers in the choir. I had never sung before in the US, however the prospect of getting involved in such a student organization intrigued me. I found the sala de ensayos en el Palacio de Fonseca, met the director and before I knew it, I was fichado in the choir. I have to say that throughout the semester my time in the choir was one of the most meaningful parts of my abroad experience. Besides discovering a newfound love for music, the choir enabled me to meet lots of Spaniards and to make some close Spanish friends.

One of the interesting things about the choir was its inclusive mission. Out of the roughly 50 to 60 choir members, I would say that about half of them were students and the other half were alumni or employees of the university. Everyone was welcome to sing, granted that they could pass the quick prueba de entrada. Joining the choir, I was joining in a long time musical tradition of Salamanca. The choir was founded in 1950 by a distinguished professor from the prestigious musical conservatory in Salamanca. The founder’s son, Bernardo, is the current director. The group is called upon to sing in many important and official university events such as graduation ceremonies for the different facultades. My participation helped me to engage deeper with the University and its rich history and traditions.

Read more: Music The Universal Language

Fútbol Brings the World Together   

                                                                                      

During my first few weeks in Spain I had a hard time feeling comfortable around my host family. They gave me plenty of space – so much so that I wasn’t sure how much interaction with me they actually wanted. Not usually a shy person, I was nervous about putting my cultural foot in the mouth that could not seem to conjugate verbs correctly, or conjure up vital vocabulary words. When I mentioned my fears to my (real) mom, she advised me to ask questions, about my host parents’ work or children or interests. Even this sound and simple advice presented a daunting task. What type of question is too personal, and once I’ve hit upon a safe one, how do I find an opening in the lunchtime conversation? Then one day I stumbled upon the answer to my integration problems: fútbol (“soccer” in the US).

 

I would never have guessed that my cultural salvation would be athletic in nature. I am not a sports fan; I barely even follow Georgetown basketball. I quickly realized, however, that although Spain is officially Catholic, the true religion of the country is fútbol, and so I decided to use my abysmal lack of sport’s knowledge to my advantage. I gathered my courage to ask one basic question regarding this most sacred pastime as we watched the sports update one afternoon, and my host dad and his son-in-law eagerly set about educating me. A torrent of information ranging from the statistics on different players, to the drama surrounding the coaches, to the history of different teams and rivalries baptized me into the fútbol fanaticism of Spain. From then on I began watching the games with my host dad, and was delighted to find European fútbol much more interesting than American football. Once they saw that I was intrigued, they started explaining the sports segment of the news that we watched every day at lunch. Being a fútbol spectator, ironically enough, reversed my spectator role in the apartment, and turned me into a participant in family life. Fútbol provided me with the materials to build a relationship with my host family, and for that I will always be thankful.

 

Bernadette White, NHS, 2013

Integration 101: Lessons I Learned

maria

Before I left Georgetown for Christmas break and before heading to Salamanca, everyone who I talked to who had been in there in past years told me it was really hard to make friends and that I would wind up hanging out with my fellow GU classmates. Even then, I knew that they were wrong. I was going to Spain to meet new people and practice my Spanish, whether with other non-American exchange students or Spaniards. Salamanca is a university city; there are 6000 Erasmus students (Erasmus is the European version of study abroad). Therefore, it was actually relatively easy to meet other foreign students; more difficult was balancing them with the GU crew.

When you first arrive it is nice to already have a social circle in place; the GU crew serves as a good support network when you are all trying to figure your way around, but you also end up speaking a lot of English and truthfully, you can see these people anytime back in the States. In order to avoid this problem, I chose to deliberately distance myself from the other Georgetown students and other Americans, even at the cost of sometimes seeming rude. However, as I look back over the semester, it was truly worth the price. In the days before I left Salamanca I went to so many cenas de despedida o cafes de despedida that now, only days after, they all blend together. One day I had four citas in a row, all with people from outside of the program. Here are some of the things I did to meet people outside of my program.

Read more: Integration 101 by Maria Rocha