Driving in Spain is not a problem until we enter a town. Then I long for my bicycle since the car navigates tiny bike lanes between stone houses and hotels. Driving in the open countryside is easier and landscapes there are dotted with olive trees, orchards, and grazing land. When the countryside is hilly, Don Quixote’s old windmills have been replaced by enormous wind turbines. In spite of this being sunny Spain, solar cells are uncommon. Recycling is sporadic and involves small stations where cans and glass can be left. Garbage is often collected in large plastic bags which aren’t of the biodegradable species.
Salamanca is an old university town dating back to the 13th century. We arrive on a graduation day and the streets are overflowing with diplomates, families, and friends. Young women wearing the shortest skirts on the planet and do the wobble walk as they negotiate the cobblestones in their high stiletto heels. Large crowds of people are celebrating and the cafes overflow.
The university has a wide range of colleges including medical, law, and even one for archbishops. This superb city has a mix of Renaissance and modern buildings but somehow the new blends in with the old. At night the illuminated walls create a magical glow.
The countryside around Salamanca is a lesser known area of Spain called Sierra y Francia. Old villages with timber-imbedded in the walls are framed against the snowy mountains. Once this area was considered backward, useless and mosquito infested. In 1922, the King of Spain visited and his café con leche was served with human milk. Within the year he introduced cows and today there is a thriving dairy industry as well as olive orchards and fruit trees. Our favorite town Candelaria is free of both tourist buses and shops. We feel this unique mountain charm walking the narrow cobblestone streets.
Our last days in Spain are spent in a jewel of a medieval town─ Avila. From a distance, this appears to be a movie set on a Spanish hilltop. The most famous resident of the town was Sainte Teresa who is still a mighty presence. At 20 she became a nun and rebelled against the errant and indolent ways of Spanish Catholicism. This caused a certain amount of upset for the patriarchal church leadership. She also invented some cookies made of egg yolks and sugar. Fortunately her church clean-up was far more successful than her cookies which are still available today.
Perfect fortifications surround Avila and a large cathedral dominates the square. We climb the walls to walk on the ramparts. For most people the walk is short but we ascend every single rampart. Atop there is often a Spanish plaque explaining an aspect of the fortification. Undaunted Mark attempts comprehensive translations.
We also spend long periods of time watching the nesting storks. On the most precipitous parts of a church roof, the storks build large nests and give birth to several chicks. Storks like some humans are only partially monogamous but they have a singular relationship to their own nests which can be used for many years.
So Adios for now and thanks for traveling with us…..