Difference between revisions of "Zamora (Spain)"
Revision as of 09:43, 9 January 2008
The town of Zamora lies on a rocky hill in the northwest of Spain, near the frontier with Portugal and is crossed by the Duero river, which some 50km/30mi downstream reaches the Portuguese frontier. With its 24 Romanesque churches of the 12th and 13th centuries it has been called a "museum of Romanesque art".
The nearest commercial airport is Villanubla, located just a few kilometres out of Valladolid, the capital of the Castile-Leon region. Valladolid lies some 90 kilometres from Zamora. This small airport is served by flights run by Iberia, Air France and Ryanair. The low-cost carrier travels to and from London-Stansted airport, Brussels-Charleroi airport and Milan-Malpensa.
Long forgotten by all governments, no highways connected other capitals to Zamora until a few years ago. It is now possible to get to/from Valladolid (and therefore Madrid). The construction of other highways linking the town with Benavente, its neighbour Salamanca, etc. are now underway.
The city is not too big to see on foot, especially the main attractions, which are fairly close to one another. For slightly longer journeys there are two taxi companies, and several bus routes - tickets are cheap, and you can buy them directly from the driver on board or for longer stays get a travelcard from one of the branches of the bank Caja Duero.
There is also a good bus service to Salamanca, Valladolid and Madrid among other destinations.
A wise stop before going sightseeing would be the local Oficina de Turismo, located halfway in one of the main arteries of Zamora, Tres Cruces Avenue. Hard to miss, as it's opposite the beautiful Caja Duero's Bank main office. You can get free posters and maps of the town, province, etc as well as directions and suggestions on where to go and what to visit. Contact details:
Oficina Municipal de Información Turística Plaza Arias Gonzalo Tel. and Fax: +34 980 53 36 94 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
For further information and pictures, check out the English Wikipage on Zamora.
The combination of Castile-Leon's reputation for pure Spanish and nearby Salamanca's reputation of learning due to its respected university, makes Zamora an excellent place to inmmerse yourself in the culture and improve your Spanish. A little fluency in Spanish will get you a long way, as you should only expect English in tourist places like the Parador and other 4-star hotels. If you're eating out, fitting a basic Spanish-English dictionary into your bag would be an excellent idea.
As the local saying goes: "Zamora no se ganó en una hora" (Zamora was not conquered in an hour) so forget your car and take a stroll around Zamora. Shopping areas are mainly centred on Tres Cruces Avenue, Santa Clara Street and parallel-running San Torcuato. If you prefer Malls, the biggest one is the Centro Comercial Valderaduey, named after one the local rivers or as it is known by locals, Eroski. The other one is called 'Vía de la Plata'. Almost all shops in town accept major credit cards (Visa, Master Card, Spanish 4-B and 6000). There are plenty of Cajeros Automáticos or ATMs scattered around town. Most ATMs will allow you to withdraw money with your credit card, but you'll need to know your card's PIN for that. Notice many stores will ask for your passport, driving license or ID card before accepting your credit card. Although somewhat awkward for people from Eurozone countries that do not have an ID Card, this measure helps avoid credit card robbery and fraud.
Typical souvenirs include items featuring elements from Semana Santa or Easter. Local wines and cheese, as well as chickpeas from Fuentesaúco always make a good buy. If you're more into the vintage-style buying, check out the weekly mercadillo, a street market held every Tuesday morning. The traditional site was just outside the Train Station, now moved to the parking lot of the Football Stadium Vía de la Plata (either a good 30 minute walk from downtown Zamora or one of the only occasions where local transport would be worth it). The mercadillo is set to return to its original location outside the Estación del Ferrocarril, but no deadline has been given as of May 2007.
If you happen to visit Zamora at the end of June, pottery would make an excellent souvenir too, as Viriathus Square is filled with stands from all over the country selling their creations. You can find items both for everyday use and for display. The 'big day' of the San Pedro festivity is June 29th. You can buy some of these products and other souvenirs, cheese or wine at the store Aperos y Viandas (literally "Farming implements and Food") which is on the way to the Cathedral or at some the shops in and around Ramos Carrión Square. These cater especially for tourists, but you can find many local products -especially wine-at any supermarket (Mercadona, El Arbol, Eroski, etc).
The excellent raw materials used in the local cuisine really stand out. Staple ingredients include the pulses, the famous chickpeas from Fuentesauco or 'garbanzos', the exquisite cheese made from sheep´s milk, honey from Sanabria, asparagus from Guareña, peppers from Benavente, steak from Aliste, mushrooms, game, cold meats, cakes and sweets... Apart from the tasty roasts, also worth tasting are the rice dishes from Zamora. Traditional dishes include bacalao a la tranca (a cod dish), el pulpo a la sanabresa (an octopus dish), dos y pingada (two fried eggs with fried ham, usually served in Easter) and '"presas de ternera" (a veal dish). For dessert there is the rebojo Zamorano, a very tasty though hard type of bun, and "las natillas almendradas" (Spanish style custard with almonds).
In general, tipping is not always expected but always appreciated. There's not a fixed rate, just leave the spare change or a few euros, depending on where you eat. There are several quality restaurants can be found in Zamora. Just to name a few:
Tapa culture in Zamora is deeply-rooted. To further promote it, the contest De Tapas por Zamora was established in 2006 and is held in May-June. Participating bars create an appetizer or tapa for €1 especially for this contest, and locals have to choose a winner while entering a raffle sponsored by local businesses.
The best-known tapa in town is the pincho moruno, grilled pork meat with herbs on a skewer, served at Bar Lobo, between San Torcuato Street and Tres Cruces Avenue. It has the ability of drawing people from all over the country merely to get a taste of it.
Another excellent stop would be Dolfos, with both loads of sweet and sour options to choose from. Just mind the steep flight of stairs on the way in/out.
The Toro wines (very dark, almost black, nowadays made using modern techniques - with a rapidly growing reputation for their taste and quality). Popular local brands include Colegiata, Bajoz and Fariña.
The city has 18 hotels, 4 of them in the four-star range.
Zamora is one of the most quiet and safest places in Spain. Beware of pickpockets at street markets, long queues, etc and do not flash too much cash, fancy mobile phones, expensive jewelry, etc. Do not walk alone in poorly lit areas, parks or near Valorio at night. To sum up, use your common sense or as you would when travelling.
In the health department, the town of Zamora is served by two well-equipped public or state-owned hospitals: the Hospital Virgen de la Concha or "El Clínico" to locals. It is now undergoing a comprehensive reform, since it was built during the Franco Regime, that is, some 50 years ago. Works are expected to end in 2008. The second, smaller hospital is the Hospital Rodríguez Chamorro or "El Provincial" to locals. It is also being reestructured. For first-aid you could also go to the nearest Centro de Salud or Clinic. Though well-equipped and attended by very professional staff, some patients requiring complicated treatment are tranferred to hospitals in Salamanca, Valladolid and Madrid. If you are a EU citizen, always obtain your E-111 form before you leave. Be respectful and patient with queues, as most hospitals in Spain are understaffed.
Tap water is generally safe to drink, but not particularly good. It is considered hard water or "agua dura", so if you don't like the taste, you can always buy agua embotellada. Popular bottled water brands include: Lanjarón, Fontvella, etc. The province is from time to time subject to draughts and the subsequent water restrictions, but these rarely affect the capital.
Dial 112 for emergency services like ambulances, fire brigade and police.
As in the rest of Spain, medicines (not even aspirins) are not sold at supermarkets, they're sold at 'farmacias' (chemist's), identified with a green cross or a Hygeia's cup. Opening times are something like 9-14.00 AM and 17.30-20.30 PM. If that particular farmacia is closed, look for a sign indicating the nearest 'farmacia de guardia' or on-duty chemist's. Their staff is made up of well-trained professionals and will provide proper advice on minor ailments. Should you require specific treatment, always go to the nearest hospital.