Monday, October 24, 2005

The Cathedrals


It’s the beginning of my last school week in Salamanca. I was not really looking forward to classes this morning, but they passed quickly enough. It’s still exasperating having teachers contradict one another on identical points in adjacent classes, and there is always plenty of evidence “from the streets” that one or the other gives an unnecessarily academic rendering of word meanings. We’re usually encouraged to use el diccionario to augment our homework, but most of the time I get blank to hostile stares when using the one and only Spanish word offered as translation for an English word. Apparently “a sport practised on tracks in a stadium” can only be athletics (el atletismo) and not sprinting, because – amongst other problemos – sprinting means that you’re running very fast… ¿Que el f***?


It being my last week here I’m now playing catch-up with some of the local sight-seeing that I was going to stretch out over another 5 weeks. First stop is “the cathedrals”. The interior of the “old” – XII-XV centuries - cathedral is very similar in layout to that in Segovia, but not nearly as richly appointed. However, you do get the opportunity to visit the upper reaches of the building-including the adjoining “new” – XVI-XVIII centuries - cathedral, and venture out onto an open terrace. Some of the exhibits are over 900 years old, including a cloth emblem worn by El Cid.


I learn that these buildings were affected by the great earthquake which levelled Lisbon in 1755. Tuesday week (Nov 1) is the 250th anniversary of that event. Is it commemorated somewhere: a fatalistic Mardi Plat‡?
Late in the afternoon, I sit with Bondi in the Plaza Mayor. It’s a glorious day, and the changing light across the golden stones is a warm accompaniment to the final pages of my book. Now is a good time to watch people, as siesta time yields to the “real” afternoon. There is no hum of traffic to overwhelm the falter of human activity, a smaller version of the dance of the heavenly spheres, enacted in this square not forty-eight hours earlier†. Back down to my table, (and casting aside purple prose), it’s again the sound of parents promenading with their niños (my computer handwriting recognizer thinks “winos”), students connecting after class, tourists collapsing into red wine & beer, others wandering the square for eye contact, while yet others sit quietly and invisibly, with only the memory of eye contact. Bondi yawns, crosses one paw over the other and looks up … expectant? content?

‡ yes, the original event was on a Saturday, give me a break….would you prefer “Flatterday”? No, I thought not. Hush. And no, I’m not interested in your Portuguese puns – get your own blog.

† I think Philip Glass’ soundtrack to the nature documentary Anima Mundi would have been a preferable audio accompaniment to this ballet.

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