A Street Called Silence

En la sombra del catedral, la calle Silencio…

One of the many pleasures of going back to the northern Spanish city of Salamanca was rediscovering the ‘secret’ garden at the side of the cathedral. It’s called the Huerto de Calixto y Melibea, and it’s only secret in the sense that it’s tucked away where not many tourists would find it. Inevitably, of course, it now has a Google entry, a 4.6 star rating, and 37 reviews, but don’t let that put you off: on a hot day, it provides welcome shade and, despite the busy traffic on the main road circling the old town below, an oasis of peace and quiet. Significantly, most of the Google reviews are in Spanish, suggesting those who know about it are local (or at least Spanish!)

And yes, the street that leads to it is really called Silence:


This sense of the garden being hidden in plain sight, tucked away in the centre of the city like an open secret for those in the know, stayed with me after our previous visit. Salamanca is a well-to-do, beautifully maintained, university town: I always describe it to people as ‘the Spanish Oxford,’ because it has that same sense of long tradition, wearing its academic trappings lightly.

It’s not without its problems, of course, and you can’t sit in the many outdoor cafes without being panhandled by various beggars, some of them clearly victims of the current economic crisis, some addicts of various kinds. However, when I got a Spanish-style guitar figure in my head, months later, it was a different kind of contrast that came to me: the story of a passionate affair, conducted by means of secret liaisons, at first in the garden, and then, perhaps, somewhere more convenient in the long hours of siesta.

The ‘Cavalcade,’ incidentally, isn’t meant to be literal, but rather the paseo of the well-to-do, respectable sorts, taking their early evening stroll through the jaw-droppingly beautiful Plaza Mayor, perhaps stopping at a cafe there for a drink before strolling along the main connecting street, the Rua Mayor, to the cathedral to pay their respects. Meanwhile, in the garden down the side of the cathedral….



















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