Week 5: 20th to 27th May
After 3 weeks in Sevilla learning Spanish, I travelled up to the historical city of Salamanca for my first Workaway experience. Workaway is a website that facilitates work exchanges – up to 5 hours of help a day in exchange for room & food. It’s great for travelling on a budget, but also to get to know a place more in depth than you can as a tourist, and for language practice. HelpX and WWOOFing are two similar websites, but HelpX didn’t seem to have as many placements in Spain and WWOOFing is just farm work.
You can browse all the placements on Workaway without a membership, filtering by location and help needed and dates available. The help varies a lot but there are some common themes – cleaning / reception work in hostels, chores / childcare / English practice with families, farmwork, volunteering with charities. It requires a level of trust on both sides, like couchsurfing, but there is a feedback system to help with this so you can see what others have thought of previous stays. After paying £30 for a year’s subscription I could create my own profile and send messages to potential hosts to introduce myself, suggest dates and say what help I could offer. You have to persevere and send a few messages as you won’t always get a response.
Salamanca was the first placement I organised, just for a week with a music teacher called Eva. I spoke English with her the entire time I was there to help her practice, and also did food shopping and cooked meals, plus a bit of cleaning and computer help. In return I had a room in her flat in walking distance of central Salamanca, with all meals provided. We visited a few different places together – Sunday markets and Barrio Oeste, a revitalised neighbourhood full of street art, plus her parents invited us for dinner.
I had been to Salamanca once before, three years ago during Semana Santa (Easter). It’s a popular city with tourists due to its historical centre and easy access from Madrid, with a big student and international population. It’s one of the most popular places in Spain to learn Spanish as well because of the clear accent.
As far as tourist attractions go I didn’t visit that many because I had already seen quite a bit last time. I went on a nocturnal tour of the cathedral tower (Ieronimus), but it was entirely in (fast) Spanish and sometimes it was difficult to hear. It was still worthwhile though to see a light/sound show inside the cathedral and for the night-time views from the top of the tower.
I went up La Clerecia tower (excellent views, I believe it is actually taller than the cathedral) and visited the civil war archives. I also had quick visits to Cueva de Salamanca, Plaza Mayor and Casa de las Conchas. At the end of my stay in Salamanca, FACYL started – Festival de las Artes de Castilla Y León, which meant free concerts and theatre all across the city. And, of course, I went skating around Salamanca as well.
I had a great stay in Salamanca and can highly recommend Workaway (especially now I’ve just finished my second placement and am on the train to my third). But for my sixth week in Spain I moved onto Zaragoza.