Plaza Mayor, Salamanca, Spain
While looking around for a place to stay, for just a night halt in Salamnca, I ended up choosing a hotel in Plaza Mayor. The first main reason was obviously because Plaza Mayor is the most beautiful square in the whole of Spain! It is the most interesting gathering place for this university Town of Salamanca. Students, tourists, and locals all gather here and it is busy life in the square whether winters or summers, day or night.
Living in a historic place always gave me a special excitement and this was no different. It took me a while to align myself with this 18th century monument and to be within the four walls of an old room in the monument. Plaza Mayor was constructed between the years 1729 and 1755. In 1988, UNESCO declared the old city of Salamanca a World Heritage Site. Entire complex was built of yellow sandstone the one that was used to build the Jaisalmer Fort. And it is called as “The Golden City” just like how our Jaisalmer Fort is called “Shonar Quilla” (meaning golden fort in Bengali.)
Can you believe the square was used for bullfighting up until the mid-19th century?! I looked out from the little balcony of my room in the hotel to imagine one such scene with crowds cheering from all sides. Well the scene was almost the same just minus the loud cheers and the bulls. The square is crowded at any point of time during day and night, maybe past midnight it would have been a little deserted. The Baroque style architecture of Plaza mayor belonging to 18th century charmed me. I read in Steves guide to Spain that “in earlier days girls would promenade clockwise around the colonnade and boys cruised anticlockwise looking for the perfect cheese (smile or a cute dish).”
It took me a while to sense the good angles of photography. I saw a photographer early in the morning set up his apparatus clicking vigorously, wonder what special angle he got!
The monument includes Spanish decorations of cut tablets. The equilateral arches in the ground floor make good pictures. It is not a perfect square. The northern side with the City Hall has 21 arches, the south 20 arches; the east has 22 arches while the west has 25 arches. The spandrels of the arches are studded with medallions of famous men, women and distinguished figures in Spain’s history. They include kings from Alfonso IX to Carlos III, discoverers and conquerors, and Spanish intellectuals. These reliefs were executed by the sculptor Manuel de Larra Churriguera.
The monument has 4 levels, not sure if the whole of it is converted to different hotels or not. The city hall is located on north side of the plaza, built in the baroque style with 5 granite arches and a steeple. The belfry was added in the 19th century–with three bells and a clock. The eastern facade, with a large semicircular arch is the Royal Pavilion.
The old and new cathedral and the university are all within walking distance from Plaza Mayor. A walk through the old lanes near Plaza Mayor was worth the time spent. Once you are done seeing cathedrals, university and strolling in streets go back to Square. There are plenty of benches in the square, so sit and watch the world moving on around you. We did precisely that!
(Spot me in the pic below. 3rd floor, 3rd door. :))