A Voice In The Crowd: More about Salamanca
By By James Spellman
Sorry about the hiatus. It was my intent to write something to send home every week. But, two weeks ago, our family was stricken by a tragedy to which, when I was informed by phone, I reacted with disbelief akin to that I experienced the morning of September 11th. During the night, near her home in England, our 31-year-old daughter-in-law, Karen, had died giving birth to our grandson, Leo.
Within two hours of the call, my transportation to Gillingham, a town just east of the city of Rochester, in County Kent, England, had been arranged. By that evening, I had left Spain and arrived at Medway Hospital, a huge medical installation in Gillingham operated by the National Health Service of the English government.
Fortunately, I was able to stay with our son, Jim, and the rest of our family for eight sad and frantic days. Obviously, there was no time to update the VOICE. However, just so you arent left in the dark, we dont have a prognosis yet, but Leo seems to be recovering well from his birth injuries.
While I was in England, I missed several days of orientation for my classes, all done by the faculty of the fine university which bears the name of this beautiful and ancient city. Without the benefit of that orientation and after four days of intense Spanish language classes at the beginners level, I can truly empathize with those souls brave enough to try to learn English as a second language from me!
But, enough of that and more about this wonderful country to which I have been lucky enough to make an extended visit. Because most of the older buildings here are built of large blocks of tawny stone quarried nearby, Salamanca is known by some as el ciudad amarillo or the yellow city. The color becomes particularly stunning at sunrise and sunset.
Other old towns throughout Spain are also built mainly of the sandy colored blocks. However, in more modern cities, buildings are constructed by newer methods and exhibit a variety of contemporary colors and styles.
Last Friday, our sponsoring agency took us to the north coast cities of Santander and Bilbao. Because, in Spain, the speed of commercial vehicles is constantly measured by a disc graph attached to their speedometers and is limited, by a well enforced law, to 100 kilometers per hour, our bus trip took five hours.
The topography here varies from moutainous heights of more than 3,000 meters in several parts of Spain to sea level on its north, northwest, south and northeast coasts. On our way north, we traversed all its levels.
Near Salamanca, the scenery consists mostly of literal seas of wheat. Slightly to the east and north, we began to see irrigated plots of corn, potatoes and other vegetables among the acres of golden grain.
As we left the arid central plateau (it has rained only slightly, twice since the end of May), crops remained the same, but the land became more rolling. In the distance we noticed buttes topped by crops of wheat resembling blonde crew cuts.
Then the two-lane roadway (the government is in the enormous process of constructing a wide modern motorway through and over the mountains) began twisting into the foothills following dry streambeds up the south side of the north coastal range. Once over the divide, the rocky streambeds were filled with cold mountain water rushing down to the Bay of Biscay. The flora became lush, much like that on the coasts of Washington and Oregon.
As we emerged from the heights, evidence of civilization began to appear. Unlike many other parts of Spain where highrise apartment living is all most families can afford, the economies of the busy northern provinces provide some with incomes which allow the purchase of detached dwellings situated on their own plots of land. The piles of people become more leveled. Just ahead was the wonderful city of Santander, the San Francisco of Europe.
Barring any more tragedies, you can read about it, Bilbao and the awesome Guggenheim Museum next time. Until then, I remain A Voice in the Crowd, Jim Spelman.
Jim Spelman is a local attorney.