University’s 800th Birthday

This past weekend, my program had a 3-day excursion to 3 cities around Madrid, Spain. These cities were absolutely fascinating, and I thought I had seen enough cathedrals in Madrid, but in fact, I had not. The cities included in the overnight excursion were El Escorial, Salamanca and Avila.

El Escorial is a city close to Madrid. It is home to the most beautiful monastery. The cultural significance of this monastery is that it houses the underground tombs of past Spanish kings. As well, some kings have died in the monastery itself; these kings used the monastery as a summer home. One king had even made his men carry him on a chair for 30 days from the Royal Palace in Madrid to the monastery. It also holds portrait paintings of past kings and old maps of the “New World”. It was interesting to see these maps that were created by Spanish conquistadors, and how little they plotted of the Western Hemisphere.

We spent Friday in El Escorial then ventured onward to Salamanca. This city is home to Spain’s oldest university, Universidad Salamanca, which is celebrating its 800th birthday. It is astounding to see preserved classrooms from hundreds of years ago – history that we just don’t have in the US. This university has 30,000 students today, and the city is full of these students as well as more historical significance. We visited a cathedral, Plaza Mayor and a famous bell tower on our guided walking tour of Salamanca. One thing that stuck out was the beautiful architecture of all the buildings – not a modern “renovation” in sight! Compared to Pitt, which has its beautiful cathedral (or Cathy), this university has preserved its old campus while adding academic buildings that fit the historical mold and architecture. You can tell because one of the buildings has many figures carved into the facade, and our tour guide pointed out a small astronaut. She also pointed out that there is a “lucky frog” and that if students can spot the frog, they will have good luck on their tests. She also pointed out that there is a “lucky frog” and that if students can spot the frog, they will have good luck on their tests. She also pointed out that there is a “lucky The third city we visited was Avila. Though we only spent a day in Avila, it was something out of a fairytale. The city is covered in walls, which are known as the best Roman walls still standing today. It is a magnificent fortress that has been kept and restored for years. It is known as the coldest city in Spain, however, we took off our jackets because of the heat! It was a beautiful day to tour this old city and stare in awe at its walls.

I am very lucky to be experiencing Spain and learning the history of the monarchy, as well as see history that I have only read about in my Spanish textbooks. ISA is a great program for including these trips in the tuition price.