Tunas are groups of university students who wear 17th Century minstrel costumes and sing/play old Spanish songs in public places. Each faculty has its own tuna, and each tuna has a different colour sash, depending on the faculty. They sing songs, play instruments (guitar, bandurria, tambourine, accordion, bongo drums, etc.) dance, perform stunts, and do whatever they can to get people's attention. They're also well-known for being flirty with the ladies.
Tuna groups often have competitions between each other, and travel a lot. They have a big cape with patches all over it from the different places they've vistited. The cape also has ribbons from girls (girlfriends, fans, even their mothers). A guy usually goes through an apprenticeship before joining a tuna, and once he becomes a tuno, he's stuck with them. Once a tuno, always a tuno.
Some guys hate the tunas and say they're silly. Personally I think that they're just jealous because the tunos are probably cuter and get more girls. :)
All-girl tunas exist, and they wear the same costumes and sing the same songs as the guys, but they're often looked down upon. Being a tuno is considered a guys-only thing in Spain.
If you see a tuna, enjoy the show they put on. It became an addiction for me! :)
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A typical Spanish custom is the two-cheek kisses, specially when a man meets a woman though women also kiss each other. On the other hand men shake hands or embrace if they know each other. In Spain people don't keep the distance when they meet or talk, people are warmer than in other places and physical contact is very common.
In addition to this, people talk to each other while having a drink or in the street, even if they do not each other. To have a drink in a pub is a good chance of meeting people and the Plaza Mayor of Salamanca is the best place to do it.
The frog over the skull
The university of Salamanca is well-known all over the world, every year thousands of Spanish and foreign students go there to study. The architecture of the University is really impressive, its style is Plateresco, typical from Spain, apart from this, the university of Salamanca, which was founded by the king Alfonso X el sabio, has a legend which can be true.
In one of the true pillars, in the right pillar, there is a skull which contains a frog over its head. The legend says that the student who finds the frog, will pass the exams, and if you are not a student, you have to ask for good intentions and they will come true. When I saw the frog I asked for good intentions and I hope they will come true.
Las tunas de la universidad de Salamanca
The most romantic thing I have ever seen is 'Los tunos'. It is a group of men, most of them studying at the University of Salamanca or at the Universidad Pontificia, who sing in the Plaza Mayor every night. They sing songs for women and they do it very well, in addition to this, los tunos, are very nice and friendly, this is why I highly recommend everyone going to Salamanca to see los tunos sing in the Plaza Mayor.
The best tunos are those who belong to the Facultad de Medicina.
Churros con chocolate
After having tapas - or just when you're in the need for something sweet I would highly recommend Churros con chocolate! It's a dough - something between pancake and waffle - formed as "fingers". At the side you get a small cup of really thick hot chocolate that you have to use as dip for the churros - it's sooo good! Slurp!
TAPAS!! Yum yum!
Of course everyone (more or less...!) knows this fantastic Spanish invention, but don't miss the tapas when you're in Spain! At Plaza Mayor - on the first floor (unfortunately I don't know the name...) there's a fantastic tapas bar - and it's really authentic - me and my compagnions were some of the very few tourists. And I loved it! There was a LOT of noise - yelling and screaming and laughing - we were standing up eating our tapas just looking with teacup size eyes - great! :-)
Did I mention that the tapas were really tasty...?
The Spanish love to start their day with a handful of "Churros" - fried batter sticks, and a cup of thick hot chocolate in which to dip them. Students love them to round off their nights out, first thing in the morning while other more mature people can use them as a sugar hit first thing in the morning. The best cafe serving them is on the street halfway between the Plaza Mayor and the Cathedrals, also an excellent site to people watch first thing in the morning.
The hidden frog
A frog hides on the façade of the university. Locals say that if you can see it by yourself, this will bring you a lot of good luck.
Of course, being half-blind from an eye, I didn't find it, but I photographed the column where other students said they had seen it. I hope I could find it looking at the picture, but I still haven't discovered where it hides. Well, it doesn't matter...
Specialites of Salamanca
Salamanca is fairly well-known for their roast suckling pig (toston) their garlic soup (sopa de ajo) and their serrano ham, but I was more interested in these sweets I saw in a store window along Rua Mayor. Mmmm. I had a few cookies and they were delicious.
There are also some interesting tapas here such as Patatas meneadas, which are potatoes with paprika and bacon). When locals go out for tapas, they simply say, "ir de pinchos" or "salir de pinchos" (to go or to leave for snacks).
Traditional Spanish Costumes
I was lucky enough to visit Salamanca on a Saturday, when a wedding was taking place at the Cathedral. I thought this would be a disadvantage, because I would be intruding on the ceremony. However, when the guests came outside to throw the confetti, I had the opportunity to see local people wearing traditional Spanish costumes and for once not just for the tourists. I only wish I had been dressed a little more formally!
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Spanish Meal Times
The first meal a Spaniard has is breakfast, or "desayuno," which is normally around 8 am. Breakfast is very small and normally consists of a cafe con leche (coffee with milk), or tea, magdalenas (small muffin like item), galletas (cookies), or toast.
Around 10 or 11 Spaniards duck into a bar or cafe and have a small snack. Most of the time they order a cana, which is a small beer which includes a free tapa to help absorb the alcohol.
Lunch, or "la comida," is typically around 2pm. The streets, which were once bustling will empty out as people return to their homes to eat. During this time all the shops close and do not reopen until 4 or 5. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day and normally consists of at least 2 courses.
Around 6pm it is typical for children to have a snack, called la merienda, which is normally a small sandwich or a piece of fruit.
Dinner, or "la cena," is normally between 9-11pm and is much smaller than lunch. Dinner is often eaten outside of the home at streetside restaurants with friends and family.
Traditional Spanish Greeting
The traditional Spanish greeting consists of 2 kisses, or "besos," one on each cheek. First the right cheek and then the left. It is important to note these kisses are not directly on the cheeks, but rather grace the cheeks and do not last, but for a second.
For those who do not wish to accept kisses it is perfectly acceptable to hold out your hand for a handshake instead. In fact, the latter may be recommended for the people you meet at night in the clubs, because the men may purposely try to make one of the kisses land directly on your lips.
Dealing with the heat
A lot of Spanish women carry a fan with them and use it when the day gets hot. Nice hand-painted fans can be bought in any souvenir shop in Salamanca, as well as in some cheaper stores. One of the teachers of the courses I took told the class once that in the olden days, there was even a "fan language" - women would wave the fan a certain way or make certain gestures with it as a way to "send" a message to someone without actually talking to them, but I think the fan language has died out... But if you want to blend in with the Spaniards, use a fan during the hot summer days!
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Markets and street vendors
Usually around the Plaza Mayor, there are street vendors selling things like jewelry, local craft, scarves, books, balloons, toys, etc. Occasionally, there are some outdoor markets in certain plazas where they sell local craft. There is also the gypsy market in the outskirts of town. Most of the vendors aren't usually too pushy, but I've been told to be careful at the gypsy market, because of pushy vendors and pickpockets.
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On my birthday, me, my professor, and Josh (a guy from my university who came to Spain with us) went to a cafe, where my prof bought me a glass of sangria. Then, she told the waiter that it was my birthday, and he proceded to pull my earlobe 21 times (because I was turning 21). Then, he got someone from another table to do the same with my other ear.
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