It’s hard to believe that I have been here in Spain just over a week now, and didn’t have the chance to make the 35 minute train ride down to Madrid until yesterday. This city is, without a doubt, one of the most architecturally exquisite places I have ever seen. Now don’t get me wrong, I am ceaselessly enchanted by the colorful mosques of Turkey and stunned by the temples of Mesoamerica, but there is something striking about the way Madrid is composed. Not only are there medieval ruins from the 10th century, but there are buildings standing from all ages, some directly adjacent to one another.
Plaza de la Villa, which is meagerly tucked away amongst the many buildings that crowd each other in, is considered an “architectural museum” because its sides are made up of buildings from the renaissance period, los musulmanes, and through the 16th, 17th, and 20th century. (Sorry the dates are hazy…trying to understand a rapid spanish dialect and taking in all of the grandeur at the same time can get a bit overwhelming).
We passed through La Calle de la Pasa, and as legend has it,
“quien pasa por la calle de la pasa se casa” (who walks down calle de la pasa will surely get married)
If the legend says it, then it must be true, right? If a Madrid local ever directs you to this street, then it’s obvious that you are in desperate need of some help. I seriously feel so bad (yet incredibly impressed) for the one girl in our group who got engaged literally TWO DAYS before she left. Talk about torture.
We spent the ENTIRE day walking around Madrid (man-calves, anyone?), literally from 9am-8:30pm, and we didn’t even brush the surface of what the city holds. I carried around my little red notebook all day trying to take notes and remember things, but not that I look back, I am beginning to realize that I could go back to Madrid every day for the next three months and still not be satisfied. Thankfully it is conveniently close, and we plan on returning at least a few times a week to explore.
We tried to visit a convent that houses nuns that sit around all day playing the piano and making candy that they are famous for, but unfortunately it was closed because it was Saturday, which means we will definitely be returning to get some delicious, pure, righteous candy.
There are a ridiculous amount of statues everywhere you look throughout the city. The scenery is absolutely amazing and the history is extremely rich. One of my favorite statues, near the Palace of the Kings, (unfortunately I didn’t get a picture because my MEMORY CARD WAS FULL), was engineered by Galileo Galilei, which happens to be the FIRST and ONLY statue (up to that point in time) in which the horse was standing on its two hind legs. He constructed it using special amounts of lead in the legs and back end of the horse so that the statue did not fall over after it was built.
I have been learning a lot about how to be a savvy tourist and how NOT to be robbed. Everywhere I go, I overhear conversations about Spain being in crisis but it’s hard for me to see any changes that have taken place because I don’t know the norms of the country. As of today, the government passed a law that raised the taxes, and as my profesora said it, “the poor are poorer and no one is happy”. While we were in Madrid, we witnessed two attempts at pickpocketing, and they were rather exciting actually.
The majority of the thieves are Romanian, who were driven out of their country due to poverty and starvation from a corrupt government. Although there are all sorts of techniques that they have developed to perform their crimes. Often, small groups of 3 or 4 teens or young adults will walk around disguised as tourists, with cameras around their necks and maps on hand. They come up beside you and one pretends to look at a map, blocking your view from behind, and another will quickly reach into your bag and take out whatever they can reach. Apparently if they are caught (as we witnessed), they actually love a fight because it creates a ruckus that causes more distraction and allows further opportunity to grab belongings off of the victims body.
They love street performers as well (there are so many and they are all incredibly talented – one man was playing The Nutcracker’s “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies” using goblets filled with water, and another played the fastest song I have ever heard on the accordion) because while people are gathered around, entranced by the music, the gypsies reach around and grab things out of bags while there is a distraction.But worry not your little hearts because there is a solution for everything 🙂
We also visited El Prado (which is another place we will to which we will surely return, especially because as students, we get in for free or at a reduced price to most museums) and were lucky enough to be there for the Rafael Exhibition as well. I could have spent all day inside, looking at all of the works of Goya, Rembrandt, Durer and El Greco, and still would have not had sufficient time to see everything. When we left the museum, we walked straight into a HUGE crowd of Real Madrid fans who were piling into the plaza to celebrate a win that had just happened and greet the players that were going to walk out of the field, but unfortunately we missed seeing the beautiful Cristiano Ronaldo by just a few minutes. Eventually….maybe….
So, not to worry anyone (cough…mother…cough), but let me QUICKLY update you on a few things that you may be wondering about. Yes, I did happen to pass out and crash onto the floor and be rescued by the bishop while I was at church this previous Sunday, but I managed to walk away unscathed and relatively emotionally unscarred, even though I was absolutely mortified. Thank heavens it wasn’t while I was in sacrament meeting or during the passing hours when everyone is out in the hallway.
Also, I have a stalker. Legitimately.I have a picture of his face but it’s on Kari’s camera unfortunately so I can’t upload it right now. For record’s sake though, he looks strangely like a less-attractive version of Daniel Craig from James Bond. Bald head, piercing and small blue eues, a scorn on his face. In all honesty, this is one creepy dude. A few days ago while I was walking around the Feria (during broad daylight, mind you), I saw this guy a few times and was a little weirded out but didn’t say anything. I was talking to Lauren and all of a sudden he passed again and we were both like, “did you see that guy?” Apparently we had both been noticing him but hadn’t made a big deal about it. Anyway, for the next hour or so, he followed me and the three other girls I was with around everywhere, despite our efforts to lose him. We would stop and take pictures, go into shops, let him pass us, but he always ended up right behind us. It was FREAKING us out, to say the least, but since we are so sly and savvy, we managed to take a few pictures of him and eventually lose him by walking in the middle of the parade surrounded by those huge creepy puppet float things.
As Alex and I were walking down our street towards the main road to walk to church, we saw him.
Walking slowly towards us.
Staring at us.
We passed him, and he stopped walking. When we got to the end of the road, I turned around and he was just standing there.
In the middle of the road.
Yeah. Talk about creeper status.
We talked to our directors and are taking precautions, so don’t worry about us. (hah like that’s going to happen. sorry mom…)
Well on that note, hope all is going well and I miss everyone! If you’re ever bored too… send me a letter! Yeah. That would be nice. *my address isNavarro y Ledesma, 13 5 C 28807 Alcalá de Henares Spain