“El lunes de aguas” – Learn Spanish and experience the exotic medieval traditions of Salamanca

Lunes de aguas in Salamanca - Image by salamanca24horas.comRiverside picnics. Home made pie filled with pork loin, chorizo and boiled eggs. Families enjoying the sunshine outdoors. With many local businesses closed for the day, town folk and students alike relax on benches and blankets, drinking vino and calimocho, while children run around, laughing and playing. Welcome to El lunes de aguas in Salamanca!

Those scandalous students…

El lunes de aguas today is an exciting and unique Salamanca springtime festivity, which isn’t celebrated anywhere else in Spain. People flock to the banks of the River Tormes for picnics, impromptu parties and socialising. The day’s objective is to eat and drink tasty local fare and enjoy the spring weather in good company.

But, as some of the students studying at the Tia Tula language school in Salamanca recently discovered during a Spanish cultural lecture, this family-oriented outdoors feast actually has rather risqué beginnings! To find out why, we need to go back to the Middle Ages.

Felipe II’s indignation

It was 1543 when the Prince of Asturias, Felipe II, arrived in Salamanca to marry María Manuela of Portugal. Despite being very young, Felipe was deeply religious and valued virtues such as chastity and restraint, and despised those who sought earthly pleasures.

Felipe II had always viewed Salamanca as a city steeped in religion and academia. But, alas, upon his arrival, he was shocked to discover other, rather untoward goings-on.

It turned out there were many drinking taverns and houses of ill repute within Salamanca’s walls. What made matters worse, was that the young ladies who worked in such establishments, were much visited by the students from Salamanca University. This upset Felipe II greatly. The prince instantly ordered a 40-day ban on such distasteful activities during Lent – not to end until the Monday after Easter. The young ladies concerned were duly banished from Salamanca.

Little did Felipe know that his mandate would create a centuries old, curious tradition, today known as El lunes de aguas.

“Monday on the waters”

After Felipe II’s royal order came into force, the students of Salamanca bid a sad farewell to their favourite female companions. The girls had been ordered to cross the River Tormes, which flows through Salamanca, and not to return onto the other bank until Lent was safely over.

Forty days went by and on the Monday after Easter, the ban was lifted. What followed, was a huge celebration. As the students enthusiastically welcomed the banished ladies back over to their side of the river, many of the women were sailed across in boats decorated with flowers. Much drinking, dancing and eating went on by the river that day. Lunes de aguas means “Monday on the waters” – referring to this event.

The tradition now

Hornazo Salmantino - Image by lunesdeaguas.esAs cultural customs do, this medieval celebration eventually lost its original meaning. But the people of Salamanca so enjoyed their outdoors festivities that the tradition of holding these riverside parties remains, even today.

On El lunes de aguas, local bakeries sell hornazo, a pie typical to the Salamanca region. Hornazo is filling meat pastry, usually stuffed with pork, hard-boiled eggs and spicy chorizo. In Felipe II’s times, eggs were not allowed during Lent and they were collected and hard-boiled, to be used later. They still constitute a typical ingredient in hornazo pastries, traditionally eaten after Easter.

Who celebrates?

Nowadays El lunes de aguas means fun for everybody – family and friends, and of course, the students from Salamanca’s schools, the university and the local Spanish language academies, like Tia Tula. For foreign students it is a particularly fantastic experience.

Although El lunes de aguas is not an official public holiday, many smaller businesses shut early, and people who work or study rush out in the afternoon to join the celebrations. And in true Spanish style, the party goes on until late at night.

Study Spanish and discover Salamanca’s colourful customs

If all of the above sounds irresistibly fun to you (and we promise you, it is!), why not come and experience Salamanca and its exiting customs for yourself?

Only a 10-minute walk from the River Tormes, Tia Tula Colegio de Español offers high standard language immersion courses to students wishing to learn Spanish right in the heart of old Salamanca. The school is set in a charming refurbished antique building with elegant large windows and wooden floors, and it offers all the modern facilities, like free WiFi, audio-visual equipment and use of computers. The Spanish teachers at Tia Tula have an excellent reputation for being both experienced and friendly, and the school offers a wide range of language programmes, including fascinating Culture and Civilisation content, amongst others.

Tia Tula also runs a cultural activity schedule alongside their courses, because the school considers fun, free-time learning outside the classroom highly important. There is something for everyone, from flamenco dancing and Spanish cinema, to visiting tapas restaurants and typical wine taverns, sports days and sightseeing in Salamanca – and of course the students and teachers also join in on traditional seasonal festivities, like El lunes de aguas.

Want to know more?

Tia Tula Spanish courses start at only 276€ (£229 or $382) for two weeks, and this price includes 20 Spanish classes every week, as well as many free activities. There are many affordable accommodation options available for students in Salamanca, including home stays with host families or student flats.

Check out all the different courses, prices and activities available at Tia Tula now.

And hey – you’re not too late to get there for El lunes de aguas!

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