Once I was back in Madrid, I just took my time getting lost through the city day after day. I kept finding new neighborhoods and different beats, finding different routes back to a lot of the main hot spots I’ve visited before. So here are a few more stories from Madrid…
A Brief Moment to Worry
Every aspect of flying has felt fairly safe to me. Everybody on board the plane had to provide a negative COVID test. Vaccinations are the norm in Spain and Portugal – 80%/90% vaccinated rates. Mask usage was 100% during my layover in Lisbon, and well over 80% on the streets of Madrid. Nobody, it seemed, was at the American conservative level of irrational anger towards masks. My heart skipped a beat first landing in Madrid. I walked towards baggage claim and I saw a woman wearing a mask that had ‘Puta Virus’ written on it. Was I actually making a mistake taking this trip? It turns out no, not at all, but for that brief moment…
Museum of Contemporary Art
One of the days I ended up visiting the Museum of Contemporary Art which would be a dream environment for artists to show at. Utilizing an old building that housed barracks that featured two interior plazas, there was art of all kinds all over. The first exhibition I visited was a car crash – a car cut in two that was at the bottom of a staircase into the darkly lit basement of the building. The building also featured some fine brickwork and incredible arches – everything about the space was just perfect for showing art and I’m glad this place exists. A lot was closed when I visited, but I saw three shows and an exhibition of 100-200 year old maquettes of various Spanish cities and forts built around Spain and the New World. The craftsmanship was stunning.
Meanwhile, Back at the Prado…
I also spent another day at the Prado, it was kinda like getting a second jab just to firm up the experiences. Goya’s black paintings still shot a shiver down my spine, and I did have another great moment while looking around in awe. A woman came into the dark gallery with her 7-8 year old son. The son immediately was repulsed by everything he was seeing and grabbed his mother’s leg tight. She simply covered his eyes with her hand, continued to look at the Goyas, then moved to the next gallery where life for both of them bounced back to normal. Velasquez’s paintings still looked like he never sweated when he painted, and I spent hours just enjoying the revisit.
A small side note about the Prado – they don’t allow photography in the museum. It’s the most refreshing policy ever. No tourists just snapping pictures of the famous paintings, no selfies, just people looking at art. It was amazing.
How Times Change
The last time I was in Europe was December 2019, the month before Covid hit Europe. I was taken back at some things I never thought I’d take for granted, and all of which played big parts of my trip:
– The amount of food deliveries that restaurants were doing in Paris. Who would want restaurant food delivered to their house?
– Sweden’s insistence on moving to a fully cashless society. Every purchase, no matter how big or small, would be made on a card. (especially tapping a card to pay – it’s so easy!)
– Museums switching to online timed, ticketed slots to cut down on lines and paperwork.
– Governments using apps that allowed driver’s licenses to be stored on a person’s phone. I used my phone to get into Spain this trip.
– Museums pushing visitors to download and use online maps. No more big, oversized unfolding maps that most likely ended up in landfills across the world.
The Museo de Cerralbo
I was literally in the neighborhood so I popped into the Museo de Cerralbo. It was teh home of a 117th century politician, and featured jaw dropping grandiose rooms that only the upper crust could imagine. In one room, there was a Caravaggio behind a set of drinking glasses set on top of some furniture. I walked through the entire house, each room having its own flamboyant themes, from the library filled with books from floor to ceiling to the weapons hallway, it was a trip!
Catholics and the Inquisition
So much Spanish painting – religious or not – is brutal and visceral. Every cathedral I visited possessed bloodied Christ figures, sculpted and painted, and the walls of the Prado ached with dark religious visions from Spanish painters. Outside the modern National Cathedral was a sculpture of a homeless Christ laying on a bench, his feet stigmatized. One of the centers of Madrid was the big Plaza Mayor – it was all decked out with Christmas lights, decorations, music and local craftsfolks selling their Christmas wares. On my second day in Madrid, after visiting the Plaza Mayor, saw this painting of the inquisition happening in that very plaza.
So many cathedrals I visited were built on the grounds of old Mosques, ancient Jewish cemeteries and old synagogues were points of interest for tourists. The Spanish Inquisition lasted for over three hundred years. Behind so much of the history and beauty of Spain is a wild brutality that’s hard to comprehend.
I’m a sucker for seeing products displays in store windows. In Europe, it always seems to be a high number o wig and pantyhose shops (especially in Paris), which are among my favorite sites. Art supplies in storefronts are also a colorful highlight. Of course, the wig display pictured below is some nice foreshadowing for one of my favorite stops that comes up in Lisbon…
There’s always more stories from Madrid…
Madrid’s been wonderful and the history of Spain astounds me. From the Spanish Inquisition to Franco and seeing so many different sides of it in person has been super cool. There are a ton of stories from Madrid I can tell you, and more I’d like to learn as well. I’ve got my bags packed and I’m gearing up to be on a coastal city once again. I haven’t been to Portugal, so I guess I’ll figure that out when I get there. Here’s all the other stories from my trip:
- ¡Madrid, Spain!
- ¡Toledo, Spain!
- ¡Segovia, Spain!
- ¡Back in Madrid!
- ¡Lisbon, Portugal!
- ¡Sintra, Portugal!
- ¡Lisbon Sidewalks & More!
- ¡Bilbao, Spain!
- ¡New York, New York!
- My End of 2021 Trip
Here are some extra pictures from the hundreds I took in Madrid: