Thursday, October 23, 2014

Living in a fairy tale

Alcázar in Segovia. Photo taken by Flick user 'Iapidim' on April 24,
2004. Taken from Flickr. Link: http://goo.gl/11FNyh. CC license.
For the past few weeks I've been living in a place some would consider as coming right out of a fairy tale. And yes, I am referring to Castilla y León, the autonomous community of which Salamanca is one of the provinces. In my opinion, the name of the region could be freely translated as ‘the land of castle and lion’ and it is exactly that (especially when it comes to castles and medieval fortresses, I haven’t seen a live lion running around yet). 






Castillo de Peñafiel. Photo by Flick user 'Ana Ramirez de Arellano' on
  August 9,2012. Taken from Flickr. Link:
 http://goo.gl/xqbYuB. CC license.
If you think your life needs a little bit of fairy tale all you need to do is come to Castilla y León and you won’t be disappointed. Whether you visit Ávila, Segovia or Toledo (Salamanca is a given must-see of course) you will feel that you just went hundreds of years back in time. However, if you like a bit more than that then you can always visit the beautiful castles scattered around the region. Since I would need to write a book to mention all of them I will focus on the ‘top’ 5 (although there are many others worth visiting). 


Alcázar de Segovia, Segovia
Alcázar de Segovia. Photo by Flick user 'Gerwin Filius' taken on October 10, 2014.
Taken from Flickr. Link: http://goo.gl/hu67Gt. CC license.

One of the most famous castles in the world is El Alcázar de Segovia, after all, it has been one of the inspirations for Disney’s Cinderella castle. The castle itself had many uses, it went from being one of main castles of the Castilian royalty to being a prison, then a military academy and now it is a museum showing how it looked in its prime. However, do not forget, this building served one main purpose – it was a military fortress and although it looks just lovely from the outside, the ambiance of a fortress meant to protect its inhabitants can still be felt. 



Castillo de Coca, Segovia 

Castillo de Coca. Photo by Flick user 'Jose Javier Martin Espartosa'
taken on  August 3, 2013. Taken from Flickr.
Link: http://goo.gl/gaJcli. CC license.
Only 50km from Alcázar de Segovia, still in the province of Segovia, you can find another treasure – Castillo de Coca. It was built in the end of the 15th century and served as a place for great fares and celebrations with many important people in attendance (such as Charles, duke of Berry, the brother of Louis XI of France). In the very beginning of the 16th century the castle was expanded and several defensive systems such as doors with ‘security’ bars were added. With a bit of imagination you can see yourself walking on its walls defending it against many of its attackers and enemies of its inhabitants. In the early 19th century the castle fell into disrepair and after being occupied by the French troops it was effectively a ruin. However, in the first half of the 20th century it was declared a national monument and the repair works had started transforming it into the castle you can see today. 


Castillo templario de Ponferrada, León

Castillo templario de Ponferrada. Photo by Flick user 'juantiagues'
taken  on June 28, 2012. Taken from Flickr.
Link: http://goo.gl/PlHXZI.
CC license.
As the name of this castle suggests, it is, or was, closely connected to the Knights Templar. However, it was not built by them. At first, this structure served as a simple fort and then as a citadel and only in 1178 was it given to the Order of the Temple. The knights made a lot of additions to the original structure, namely strengthening its defences and adding more living quarters. For many years this fortress has served as protection of the pilgrims travelling to the holy place of Santiago de Compostela.



Castillo de Peñafiel, Valladolid

Castillo de Peñafiel. Photo by Flickr user 'el perdido en el entierro del
hombre invisible' taken on September 15, 2013.
Taken from Flickr. Link: http://goo.gl/RysXUI. CC license.
By visiting this distinctively shaped fortress you can connect doing something interesting with something pleasurable since in one of the rooms there is a Provincial Wine Museum. The castle was commissioned in the 10th century although the shape and construction as we know it now is the work of the Infant Don Juan Manuel who has finished his alternations to the construction in the first half of the 14th century. The shape of the castle has been compared to that of a boat, it is 210m long and 35m wide. 




Castillo de la Mota, Valladolid

If you want to have the region of Valladolid in your palm then you need to visit Castillo de la Mota and climb up one of its towers (you can use stairs). This fortress has had a very turbulent history since the day it was built in the late 11th century. You can still see its interesting past on its walls which stand as witnesses to the many battles that were fought outside, inside and around it. In the late 15th century the keep has been turned into a rather prominent prison with many important figures 'staying' inside its walls, such as Hernando Pizarro and César Borgia. The latter is known for escaping the prison by climbing down the keep’s nearly 40m high tower using a rope. 

Castillo de la Mota. Photo by Flick user ' Dmitry Shakin' taken on December 25, 2008.
Taken from Flickr. Link: http://goo.gl/70jopC. CC license.

So you see, living in Castilla y León is (almost) like living in a fairy tale,you just need to know where to go to see those magical places where history took place and I really hope that this post has given you some ideas ;) Now, the weekend is soon upon us and I know where I am going to go next. Do you? 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Activities 20.10.2014 - 26.10.2014


Welcome to the last full week in 'summer' time (we will be switching to winter time this weekend)! We hope you have enjoyed the weekend and are ready for all the activities we have prepared for you this week including (but not limited to) a basketball game, ‘micro theatre‘ performance and a treasure hunt through the historical centre of Salamanca! :)

Monday 20, 16:00: Yincana – treasure hunt. To prepare you for the week ahead we will start off with a game called Yincana. If you want to have fun while exploring Salamanca there's no better way to do it than with a treasure hunt! Come with us to work out the clues and let’s see which team wins and most importantly, let’s have a lot of fun! Approximate duration: 1-2h.

Tuesday 21, 19:00: Guided tour – Since everyone should know the city they live in we offer a guided tour around Salamanca during which you will see why it is the world’s heritage site.

Wednesday 22, 17:00: Basketball – We’ll play some basketball on one of the courts near the river Tormes. Approximate duration: 1h 30min. 

Thursday 23, 19:00: Microteatro – We will go to ‘La Malhablada’, a cultural centre and a ‘laboratory’ for performing arts where they, among other things, offer short 15-20 minutes long performances. Approximate duration: 30min. 

Friday 24, 18:30: Urban exhibition & Tapas – We’ll finish our week by visiting  Barrio del Oeste, a neighbourhood in Salamanca known for its paintings on the walls and creative spirit. After the visit we will go to ‘La Salchichería’ for some drinks and tapas. Approximate duration: 1h 30 min.

Saturday 25: Excursion – For more information please ask at the reception desk.

Sunday 26: Excursion – For more information please ask at the reception desk.

Please don’t forget that you need to sign up for each activity at the reception desk (to reserve your place, the minimum number of participants required is usually three). Also, unless stated otherwise, the meeting point is always the same Tia Tula school. Lastly, if there’s no price mentioned with the activity it means it is free. 

And don’t hesitate to participate in as many activities as you can, they are designed not just for you to have fun (that is guaranteed) but also to improve your knowledge of Salamanca and Spanish culture, and to put into practice the Spanish you learn in class.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Activities 14.10.2014 - 19.10.2014


We hope that after a 3 day weekend you are full energy to start another week of Spanish classes and will join our proposed activities! :)

Monday 13: Holiday. La Fiesta Nacional de España (National day in Spain) is usually celebrated on October 12, but since this year it was a Sunday it was moved to Monday (only in some provinces).

Tuesday 14, 18:00: Exhibition – We will go visit the first exhibition of Enrique Marty in Spain: Terapia de grupo, acto de fe, cuarto oscuro (Group Therapy, leap of faith, dark room). It will be in the exhibition hall DA2. Approximate duration: 1h.

Wednesday 15, 19:15: Cooking class – This week we will learn how to cook a typical Spanish omelette accompanied by a tapa that we will eat later. Approximate duration: 1h.

Thursday 16, 19:00: Vegan Tapas – To mark the World Food Day we will go to El Rastrel to try their vegan tapas. Approximate duration: 1h. 

Friday 17, 16:45: Horseback riding – if you want to experience a ride through the Spanish countryside on a horseback then this is the activity for you! You need to sign up before Thursday, October 16. 

Saturday 18: Excursion – We're going on a trip to Lisbon, Sintra and Cascais. You need to sign up before Wednesday, October 15.

Sunday 19: Hiking trip – Let's take a tour of Duratón and Sepulveda (Segovia). You need to sign up before Tuesday, October 14, 14:00. 

Please don’t forget that you need to sign up for each activity at the reception desk (to reserve your place, the minimum number of participants required is usually three). Also, unless stated otherwise, the meeting point is always the same Tia Tula school. Lastly, if there’s no price mentioned with the activity it means it is free. 

And don’t hesitate to participate in as many activities as you can, they are designed not just for you to have fun (that is guaranteed) but also to improve your knowledge of Salamanca and Spanish culture, and to put into practice the Spanish you learn in class.

Friday, October 10, 2014

'Thinking' in Salamanca

It’s official - the autumn has arrived to the city. While some people use the New Year’s Eve as a time for reflexion, I get the same feeling with autumn, the smell of fallen leaves, foggy mornings and chestnuts lying on the ground (although the chestnuts were actually in Segovia which I visited this past weekend). 

Some people can think anytime anywhere; for me it’s a process that requires a certain mood, place and a correct ambiance such as a nice city park or a random rock in the mountains. Now, I am not saying I need to go to the mountains every time I need to make a decision (I can buy a croissant without having to leave the bakery) but when it comes to understanding the ‘meaning of life’ I need some peace and quiet. In the past few days I’ve been searching for some places very ‘intensely’ and I would like to share my two favourites: El Campo de San Francisco and El Huerto de Calixto y Melibea. 

‘El Parque de San Francisco’ (as the locals call it) is located in the very centre of Salamanca. According to public records, ‘El Campo de San Francisco’ (as the authorities call it) is the first public garden in Salamanca, standing on the grounds of the former convent of San Francisco el Real y los Padres Capuchinos. The park has a certain ambiance to it (to be honest, the entire historical centre of Salamanca has one), but maybe that’s one of the reasons why Miguel de Unamuno, the famous Spanish writer and rector of the university, found it dear to its heart and was known to stroll around (if you would like to know more about the writer's life you can have a look at this previous post). I took his example and you can see me doing the same (although I doubt anybody cares) while I enjoy the falling leaves of its vegetation - including 600 poplars planted back in 1828.

You can also see me walking around the beautiful Huerto de Calixto y Melibea. I mentioned this garden in my previous post although back then I had no idea what it was called or that it was connected to the famous novel La Celestina by Fernando de Rojas. If you would like to know more about the history of this place you can read about it here














To be honest, although I find the (potential) history of the garden quite interesting, it is not the reason why I enjoy going there almost every day. It lies on the city walls and the view of the cathedrals is simply splendid. It feels slightly secluded so if you like some peace and quiet this is the place for you. However, since it is no secret (unfortunately) other people go there too and if they are in an overly socialising mood you don´t really stand a chance and you will have to go for a walk somewhere else (but I’ve been so ‘unlucky’ only once). 

On the other hand, Salamanca is a city made for walking. Actually, mostly its historical city centre is made for walking. When you want to avoid ‘the youth’ you can always walk towards and across Puente Romano and/or walk along the river and just enjoy the view.

Overall, for a person who enjoys walking along the historical monuments on a daily basis Salamanca is the place to be :) After all, even Friedrich Nietzsche said that “All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking”. So, ¡hasta luego!, I need to go for a walk...



Monday, October 6, 2014

Activities 06.10.2014 - 12.10.2014


We will start our week in the best way possible – with churros and hot chocolate! Then we will continue with exploring Salamanca and its gardens and terraces and finish it with a movie afternoon at Tía Tula. Read on if you want to know more :)

Monday 06, 19:30: Chocolate con churros – Have you ever tried hot chocolate with churros? Know that this is a must. If you have, no other words are necessary, come enjoy the delicious treat with us at 18:00. Approximate duration: 1 hour.

Tuesday 07, 16:30: Visit to a convent – Come discover the Convent of Santa Clara. The view of Salamanca from one of its terraces is breathtaking! Approximate duration: 1h. 

Wednesday 08, 18:00: Exposition – Come to the photography exhibition of Objetivo 8, a group of 8 young artists from all over Spain. Approximate duration: 40 minutes.

Thursday 09, 18:00: Visit to the Huerto de Calixto y Melibea – We’ll visit one of the prettiest places in Salamanca with a wonderful view of the cathedrals. If you would like to know more about its history join us and one of our staff will tell you all about it. Approximate duration: 40 minutes.

Friday 10, 17:30: Film - Spanish cinema session to continue practicing your Spanish. 

Saturday 11- Monday 13: Excursion – since we have a long weekend ahead of us you might want to go on a 1-day or on a 3-day trip to one of the many beautiful destinations you can choose from. For more information ask at the reception desk.

Sunday 12: Fiesta Nacional de España – National day in Spain. Monday 13 is a bank holiday. 

We remind you that you need to sign up for each activity at the reception desk (to reserve your place, the minimum number of participants required is usually three). Also, unless stated otherwise, the meeting point is always the same Tia Tula school. Lastly, if there’s no price mentioned with the activity it means it is free. 

And don’t hesitate to participate in as many activities as you can, they are designed not just for you to have fun (that is guaranteed) but also to improve your knowledge of Salamanca and Spanish culture, and to put into practice the Spanish you learn in class.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Newbie to Salamanca

Hola! My name is Mária and I come from Slovakia. I’ve been asked to write a few articles for this awesome Tía Tula blog. First of all, I think I feel I should tell you a bit more about myself and so my first post will be about exactly that but don’t worry, I will keep it short. I am still less than a quarter of a century old and in my ‘relatively’ short life I’ve managed to live in Slovakia (big surprise), Thailand and The Netherlands and I’ve visited a few more, mostly across Europe. I love old but vibrant cities such as Prague and that is also one of the reasons why I chose Salamanca as a place to improve (or actually ‘start learning’) my Spanish. Before I arrived I could say ‘¡Hola!’ and now after a few days I can add a bit more to it so it became ‘¡Hola! ¿Qué tal?’. But more on my Spanish language skills later. People say I sound (almost) like an American when I speak English which is probably due to the unimaginable amount of hours I spent listening (and sometime watching) Friends and Two and a Half Men

As the title of this post suggests, I am a newbie to Salamanca. I’ve never been to Spain before so I was noticing everything (for example the nice scent of the toilets at Madrid airport – really nice, I am not being sarcastic here). Once I got to Salamanca’s bus station I took out my Google Maps printout and started walking to my apartment. Until I noticed I was supposed to go ‘southeast’ and I had no idea whether that was right or left. So I asked. In English. And I found out I was supposed to go left, in the direction of city centre. As soon as I saw Salamanca’s two Cathedrals (at that point I thought it was just one cathedral), I knew I am going to like it here. But when I saw the buildings in the city centre I fell in love. So once I managed to get my things to my room (which is 2 minutes from the 2 Cathedrals) I decided to get lost in Salamanca (some people prefer to use the word ‘wonder’ or ‘explore’, I say ‘lost’ because that’s how I usually start in a new town). Once I finished my ‘lost in Salamanca’ session I decided to meet up with a friend at McDonald’s at Plaza Mayor which is one of most stunning squares I’ve ever seen. I was surprised by the amount of people everywhere at such a ‘late’ hour. Now I laugh when I realize I thought 11pm is late. I guess I am getting used to the Spanish life style. I can’t say more about it now as I’ve just arrived but if you would like to know more about Salamanca, Spain and Spanish culture from my point of view please stay tuned for more stories! 

To sum it up, my name is Mária, and you will read more posts on this blog authored by…me. My first impressions of Salamanca are positive: it’s full of people, stars some beautiful old buildings, has an awesome garden with an amazing view of the Cathedrals, and there’s always something going on. As I told all my family and friends, you definitely have to come and visit! 

¡Hasta luego! 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Activities 29.09.2014 - 05.10.2014

Today we are celebrating the World Tapas Day! And because we want to honour this very special day we have included a tapas tour where we will visit some of the best tapas bars in the centre of Salamanca. However, that is not all we have planned for this week, please read on to see what else you can look forward to:

Monday 29, 17:30: Film - Spanish cinema session to continue practicing your Spanish. 

Tuesday 30, 17:00 Sport – We’ll play some basketball on one of the courts near the Tormes River. Approximate duration: 1h 30min. 

Wednesday 01, 19:15: Film - We'll watch a movie in its original version at the Van Dyck cinema (the movie depends on the current offer). 

Thursday 02, 18:00: Exhibition – We’ll go to see the exhibition “Marginal Intersection” at the Experimental Art Space Fonseca. Approximate duration: 1h. 

Friday 03, 19:45: Tapas tour – We’ll go to several downtown bars to test the most typical Salamanca tapas. Approximate duration: 1h 30min. 

Saturday 04: Excursion – For more information ask at the reception desk.

Sunday 05: Excursion – For more information ask at the reception desk.

We remind you that you need to sign up for each activity at the reception desk (to reserve your place, the minimum number of participants required is usually three). Also, unless stated otherwise, the meeting point is always the same Tia Tula school. Lastly, if there’s no price mentioned with the activity it means it is free. 

And don’t hesitate to participate in as many activities as you can, they are designed not just for you to have fun (that is guaranteed) but also to improve your knowledge of Salamanca and Spanish culture, and to put into practice the Spanish you learn in class.