NEW YORK -- Most people's college years are a mix of learning and
fun, and as Spain's oldest university town, Salamanca -- one of two
European Union cultural capitals for 2002 -- has been an expert at
both for hundreds of years.
Spanish tourism officials are counting on that dual vocation to
drum up interest among foreign visitors as cultural events spring
to life across the city this month.
"Salamanca's university is one of Spain's most famous, and that
means lots of students -- and lots of fun," said Alvaro Renedo,
director of the Tourist Office of Spain in New York.
"I'm sure the city will be very easy for U.S. travel agents to
market, even with the difficult transatlantic travel climate.
"Still, we do hope that the European capital of culture status will
help us increase arrivals," he added.
Although Salamanca is already popular with Americans who want to
study the Spanish language abroad, the beautiful Castilian city,
located three hours northwest of Madrid, normally is not included
on U.S. tour operators' escorted itineraries to attraction-filled
Spain. The country's tourist offices in the U.S. will work to
rectify that situation, Renedo said.
"I'm going to have a meeting with tour operators as soon as I
return to the States, giving them incentives to market Salamanca
along with several other routes in Castile and Leon," he said.
Renedo also said he plans to promote the city heavily in his
U.S. advertising efforts in 2002, and the provincial Castilian
government is launching a $5 million awareness campaign in the U.S.
this summer that will include four art exhibitions and a June 11
concert in New York to benefit victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist
Set in stones
Salamanca -- said to have been founded by ancient Celtic tribes --
fell under Roman domination as early as the second century B.C., as
visitor sightseeing favorite, the Roman Bridge, attests.
Most itineraries begin in the city's spectacular Plaza Mayor, or
main square, and then proceed to churches, such as the 12th century
St. Martin's and 16th century New Cathedral; civic structures, such
as the University, built between 1415 and 1433, and the
Gothic-style Casa de las Conchas, or House of Shells; as well as
myriad sights along the popular Calle Zamora.
The refurbishment of a city's architectural patrimony has become
a traditional preparation for Cultural Capital status, and
accordingly, much of Salamanca's old historic center -- a Unesco
World Heritage site since 1988 -- "has been tremendously restored,"
according to Renedo.
Among the historic spaces refurbished for cultural purposes are
the Liceo Theater in Plaza del Liceo, an Italianate structure that
will seat 700 for performances of repertory and classical theater
and operas; the 14,000-square-foot Salamanca Art Center -- formerly
the city jail -- and the 4,000-square-foot Santo Domingo Exhibition
Center, for contemporary art shows; and, to open by fall, the
Commercial and Industrial History Museum, home to long-forgotten
cisterns once used by the city's fire brigades.
City officials also are erecting a new edifice, the Center for
Performing Arts, alongside the existing Salamanca Art Center to
commemorate this year's events.
The largest performance space in the city at 1,400 seats, the
new building will host major dance, theater and opera events as
well as top popular concerts.
So what's going on at all these venues? Quite a bit, as
Salamanca proffers a full menu of 52 painting, sculpture and
photography exhibitions; several cultural conferences; 120 opera,
theater and dance performances; and 100 concerts. A sampling of
• "August Rodin," throughout March, Santo Domingo Exhibition
Hall. Sculptures, drawings and photographs by the French artist on
loan from the Rodin Museum in Paris.
• "Tapestries from the City of Bruges," April to May, Santo
Domingo Exhibition Hall. In tribute to joint cultural capital
Bruges, Belgium, a display of masterful 16th and 17th century
• "War Propaganda," October through January 2003, Castile and
Leon Conference and Exhibition Center. Collections of printed
materials from the Spanish Civil War, including posters,
photographs and publications.
• Early and Religious Music Festival, until March 27, sites
across Salamanca. Focus on Baroque works by Bach, Handel and
• Europe and the New World, Oct. 20 to Nov. 10, at sites across
Salamanca. Explores mutual influences of Native American and
Baroque Iberian music during the European colonization of
Theater and opera
Dramatic offerings at Salamanca's historic bullfighting ring
include a June performance of Georges Bizet's "Carmen"; a July
presentation of "The Threepenny Opera" by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt
Weill; and works by Chekhov, Strindberg, Shakespeare, Euripides and
Arthur Miller, among others.
For more information on Salamanca 2002 and tour operators
offering packages to Spain, visit the Tourist Office of Spain on
the Web at www.okspain.org.
Agents also can call the tourist office in Chicago at (312)
642-9817; in Los Angeles at (323) 658-7188; in Miami at (305)
358-8223; or in New York at (212) 265-8822.