This is what happened on a weekend in May
It must have been a few minutes after 11PM as I reached Madrid, rather late on a Friday evening. In front of the airport a Spanish dude was kindly helping me to find the right bus which would go into the city. Google maps is one truly helpful thing (it recommended to take the 203) but in the end it always takes a person to translate it into the offline.
As I got off two stops later at Plaza Cardenal Cisneros, right in front of me was a building of such beauty displaying a sign with the message “refugees welcome”, just beneath the Spanish flag. Quite moving on the emotional level, it really felt like standing face to face with a higher dimension. Clearly, I walk through life enjoying my own little hurts and pleasures but that moment felt like something bigger appeared. I was thinking of the political debates between countries with regards to the recent Syrian immigration story. Living in England and being German, sadly I’ve heard of quite a few anti immigration opinions, so seeing the welcoming sign here in Spain was wonderful.
As I walked down Calle Gran Via, one of the main high street of Madrid it seemed, I couldn’t help but give in to this amazing feeling which was sneaking in. It was dark and I could have taken the bus to get to my accommodation quicker, but I felt safe and new they would be open 24 hours as I had called in advance. As I was walking down the street, the facades were all lit up in yellowish light. Couples, families and the innocent looking gangsters were passing by and I recognised the first Spanish snippets in various dialogues. My eyes met those of many and they all seemed to mirror the same message back at me: Where are YOU from? Why are YOU smiling like this? I didn’t mind and kept walking and walking the street. I was in trance with the magical feeling when walking a street for the very first time, appreciating it all.
The next morning, I woke up to an enormously high ceiling at Hostal Lamalonga, getting ready to roll in a reasonable weekend hour. Out on the street fresh Spanish morning vibes were awaiting me. Everything felt different and I loved it all instantly. My first mission was to find a hipster breakfast place. Thanks to Foursquare this no longer seemed to be a challenge, just kidding as you just have to follow your intuition and actually many places are quite hipster. Not going into the argument here what hipster actually refers to. So I found a place called Café de La Luz. Such a cute little place as it turned! It didn’t aim to be anything like many main places share these days, such as shiny tiles or Aesop soap in laboratories. This place was a work of art and detail coming from an individual. All was strangely unique and cosy. The waitress recommended to try ham on baguette with my coffee and fresh orange juice. Even though I try to cut meat out of my diet, Madrid wasn’t really a place to try that. The special version of ham was part of the culture as I had seen it in a couple of shops. Turned out that it was indeed worth it. It became my standard breakfast in the city later on.
I kept on walking, passing a couple of prostitutes on the way and wondering about their life circumstances. It’s quite strange how they overdid the sexiness with showing more boobs or wearing such tight pants that you could basically see them naked. I wondered about their facial expressions what they were saying but eventually had to move on. Soon I bumped into some loud noises coming from a protest. Streets were closed and people were making loud quirky sounds with whistles. Some men were firing guns to demonstrate the impotency. Maybe the sound of guns is the only sound which would actually capture people’s attention because it has something to do with danger. A police officer tried explaining what the protest was about. He was funny as he spoke holding his hand in front of his mouth, not sure if it was because of his breath or his teeth. Unfortunately I didn’t really understand what he was saying and assured him that I would Google the matter later on. Turned out that the protest was about Forum Afinsa, something with regards to the national stamp company and some economic discrepancies.
At Círculo de Bellas Artes I found the most beautiful view across the rooftops of Madrid. The entrance fee was four Euros but totally worth it. Their was a bar up there as well and dolby surround sounds were throwing inspirational tunes into the air. The music underlined the feeling you have from looking down onto the city. I think one of the songs was by Ed Sheeran but maybe you still get the point.
Next I walked towards the Parque del Retiro. On my way I found a sign from the protest I saw earlier. It said !Justicia!. I picked it up because I found the message so important that it wouldn’t do right if it would be dying there on the floor. Surely you can argue that the person who left it intended to leave a message right there but I had to honour it more. So I brought it into the beautiful garden and placed it in the flowers beneath one of those ancient statues which remind you of the past and which will survive likely many more decades than you and I ever will. I would claim that I’ve seen quite a few gardens by now or parks or whatever you may want to call special places with lots of greens. The Parque del Retiro was different though. Some of the main roads within the garden were named after different geographical locations, such as Nicaragua street. The ancient statues seemed to remind of something important, something higher. Also the park was split into many small gardens by walls which added an extra layer of greens. It actually seemed a bit like a maze and a bit “dark” at times because there was just soo much green. Maybe the cloudy weather had their share in this as well. I’m not complaining at all, the incredibly fresh and flowery air was really a gift from heaven. You were not just breathing; you were breathing a special kind of air. Ultimately, I have to admit that I first was a bit sceptical to visit a park of greens in a foreign land, thinking green is the same colour everywhere. No, it is not true. Green looks different in different places.
I kept on walking and south of the park I bumped into a cute little used book market. I loved seeing all those books with titles in Spanish. I’m not entirely sure why but it felt like a new layer of truth was opening up because obviously some of those books which were displayed would only exist in Spanish.
Eventually I reached the train station Atocha. Particularly in foreign countries train stations reflect a cultural perspective and being among other travellers who are going places even more unfamiliar, it really gets my blood moving. What I noticed especially at this train station, however, was that water was dripping from the ceiling. It made me think once again about the economical situation in Europe again. Not so sure you would find that in Germany in the same extend. Also there were a tarot and esoteric shop at the station. I guess we need to wait a few decades until this level of awakening will ever reach the UK or Germany, even Sweden. (Maybe Paulo Coelho has something to do with the awakening in Spain. Or who knows if he was just influenced by the spiritual vibes)
The other day I roamed around the Templo de Debod, obligatory Jardines de Sabatini and the nearby Palacio Real de Madrid. It was raining all day long and being soaked in Spain (in May!) was also quite the experience. I hopped from several fruit corner shops to the next and enjoying various sorts of peaches while holding the umbrella.
Hasta pronto, España!