Time to reflect and start writing “My Madrid Notes” at the Miami Airport.
Time to reflect and start writing “My Madrid Notes” at the Miami Airport.
As Winter Term 2013 draws to a close I know I’ll be missing Madrid and our adventures in the months to come. Madrid proved that a city can be full of history and full of future and new life. I think I’ll remember most the Puerto del Sol, Plaza Mayor, and the Prado. All these places showed me that you can never tell what kind of past a place has by looking at it now. Amazing and terrible things occurred at each of those locations, but just walking into Sol today and seeing a man dressed in a Spongebob suit is a hilariously off-target representation of the Puerto del Sol’s past. This is a lesson Madrid teaches endlessly, it’s not what it seems at first, but it’s definitely unique.
One of the most interesting times of my trip to Madrid was the tour of Historical Downtown Madrid. It was really cool getting to learn about the history of the areas that I frequented to hang out and disfrutarme. Right in the area around Sol metro took place battles and events that helped shape the city into what you see today. The area was filled with monuments and plaques to commemorate these events such as the March 11, 2004 terrorist attack and the May 2, 1808 battle with Napolean’s troops. You can also find there Kilometro 0, the point from which all distances in Spain are measured. I particularly favored El Oso y El Madroño, although technically it should be La Osa. The statue represents a widely used symbol for the city that portrays development, success and fertility. The Madroño tree is of course made out of wood that is needed to construct buildings and develop a city. The female bear represents power and fertility for the city and its inhabitants.
Grateful enough to have been in Madrid, I knew the experience would be unlike any other. The first day we were given a metro pass that was instantly worth gold. With a little card, I could explore all of Madrid and wander to my heart’s content. This as well as Sean’s (my roommate) travel skills allows us to scout out parks, stadiums, and monuments alike.
On one of our explorations, Sean and I were hustling to a metro in hopes of a swift ride back home. We stopped and tracked out our route. We were off! As we were walking there became an obvious difference. We were almost at the speed of a light jog! We two slow southern boys were walking at the pace of a Madrileno! As the trip progressed, Sean and I found ourselves snickering at the poor souls who weren’t fast enough. There were many times that we questioned people’s sensibility; did they not have some place to be? We did! It was great to be in a place that always had an adventure in store.
Our second day trip found us in a cold San Lorenzo de El Escorial. About an hour bus ride away from Madrid, this town is quite colder than Madrid because of the elevation difference. On arrival we moved off the bus to a local café. Having only had the traditional toast, orange, and coffee for breakfast at the time, I decide it was time to splurge. I ordered fried eggs, bacon, sausage, and patatas. “Comida los dioses” is a phrase to describe such a breakfast; it means food from the gods.
Our trip to El Escorial involved taking a tour of the massive building. The UNESCO World Heritage site is home to a library, a cathedral, paintings, quarters, courtyards, and countless spare rooms. The structure felt endless and was astonishing. As we exited the building, snow began to fall. Our wishes had come true! Having lived in Florida my whole life, it was special for me just to see snow moreover in Spain!
Madrid has always played an important role in Spain’s formation and development as a country. Being the most populated city and home to the capital, Madrid is a hub for Spanish culture and tourism. Madrid finds its beginnings back in the 9th century. It was originally occupied by the Moors, whom found their way to Madrid via Morocco and Southern Spain. The Islamic Moors were pushed out by Christian troops later in the 9th century. In remarkable feet, an assassin managed to climb the citadel wall. He later assassinated the head of the Moors. He climbed the wall with such agility and speed that it was like he was a cat, a gato. This term has transcended time; most residents of Madrid are called “Gatos” in homage to this incident.
Our tour of downtown Madrid started in one of the most notable parts of the city. Sol is located in the thick of the city, surrounded by shopping, bar strips, and historical statues. The plaza was once a gate, which had a massive sun on it (thus providing the name Sol). The plaza itself held many symbols of Spanish power. The crest of Madrid consists of a female bear clawing to the top of a tree to eat berries. Sol has a statue of the crest, which represents fertility. This is an ideal held by many Spaniards; many feel that development is essential to life. Sol is also the location of the battle of the 2nd of May, 1808 in which the Spanish fought off the French. This dramatic event fueled Spanish pride, and led to famous artwork like Goya’s depiction.
There are many advantages to living in a city as old as Madrid. Having been developed before the car, all of Madrid is with-in walking distance (depending on how dedicated you are!). This allows for a healthier and fitter population. The architecture is unlike anything I’ve ever seen! I have been taking snap shots through-out.
Shortly after arriving in Madrid, we participated in a Spanish Christmas! We were able to give our host mother our gifts, which helped the initial meet and greet. El Dia de Reyes translates to the Day of Kings. It is interesting to the note the differences between an American style of a gift giving holiday and the Spanish. In the states there is a wide range of celebrations, which all generally fall in the month of December. The most celebrated is Christmas. The holiday is based around Jesus Christ’s birth (Dec. 25th). Like El Dia de Reyes it is celebrated with parades and gifts, but in slightly different ways. The gift-giver in Christmas is good ol’ Kris Kringle commonly referred to as Santa Claus. He makes a journey around the world stopping by children’s houses stocking their socks with toys and candy.
Spain and some other Latin-American countries like Mexico celebrate El Dia de Reyes. Celebrated on January 6th, the Holiday focuses in on the journey made by the three Kings: Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthazar. In the Bible, the three kings made a voyage to give gifts to Jesus after his birth. This is still the tradition of “gift-giving” for children through-out these countries. The children leave their polished shoes out in hopes that the kings traveling by camel or donkey will stop and leave gifts under their shoes. Just like Christmas, if a child is deemed to have been bad in the past year coal is received. Another similarity between the two is that refreshments are left for the busy gift-givers. Santa is left the traditional milk and cookies, while the Kings are left with wine and an assortment of fruits. The Kings are also sometimes left Roscon. This pastry known as the “King’s cake,” is only eaten on the 6th. It is a sweet and soft bread cake sprinkled with sugar and sometimes filled with a paste. Our mom gave us some!
We were lucky enough to see the traditional parade in Madrid. I was so stoked! Professor Molina had seen this same parade as a girl, so it was almost coming full circle. It had many floats, but a message accompanied all the fun. This year’s theme was Children’s reading. More than just Spanish too, there has been a recent push for children to begin learning English at a young age. As the Kings entered the plaza, a message was delivered followed by fireworks. It was a great experience and very eye opening realizing that I was possibly going to be shoulder to shoulder with people the whole month!
Going to the Museo del Prado was like a dream come true for me as an art student.
Spring semester ‘12 I took Professor Gliem’s Art of the Western World course where students study many of the works featured in the museum, such as Fras Angelico’s Annunciation and Roger van der Weyden’s Descent from the Cross.
Seeing these pieces that I hand only ever seen on the overhead projector or on the pages of my text book in person, full-color, with so much depth was breathtaking. I remember MacKenna trying to keep up with me as I ran, flailing a bit admittedly, back and forth between paintings as inconspicuously as possible.
During our tour, I remember awing at Velasquez and Greco but once we got to the room of Goya’s “Pinturas Negras” I was a kid in a candy store. On my first day of Classical Mythology with Barabara Weinlich, she showed us Saturn Devouring His Son, inspired by Pedro Pablo Rubens (Peter Paul Rubens) whose own picture was in a hall located nearer to the Weydens and Angelicos. I remember thinking, “How gruesome…” not knowing that in a years time I would be face to face with it. I don’t think any image has ever scared me the way this painting did when I saw it in person.
it’s no wonder there’s a statue of Goya directly outside of the ticket kiosk. I don’t know any better way to sell tickets myself.