On the 26th of June, a day after swinging by Weimar, I headed to Madrid to visit a friend of mine from high school. Small how the world is right? I had the pleasure of landing, once again, at Barajas Airport, where my friend was there waiting for me. We took the metro (newly renovated; all trains are modern and have AC) all the way down to Bilbao/Terminal metro stop. Everything in this city seemed smaller than in Berlin. Food was brought in small plates (tapas), beer was brought in small glasses (canas), the streets were smaller, tighter, denser than those I experienced in Berlin.
Once you get through the laberynthic streets, you occasionally find yourself in a glorious town square, filled with overpriced restaurants and a sea of tourists. I guess im not used to seeing this many tourists in Berlin. It felt a little too crammed for my taste. Going to Sol, for example, you have to mentally prepare yourself as if you’re going to battle your way through the ocean of tourists, as true Spaniards avoid Sol as if it were the Plague. Similarly, when you leave the city center by metro, you have to condition yourself to rub shoulders with many strangers. I hear pickpocketing is really famous in Madrid, and I can understand why. There are just too many people.
The 26th of June was the last day of Solar Decathlon Europe. My friend had to run some errands for her work so I proceeded to visit the houses from some of the top international schools focusing on Sustainable residential design. Im guessing that the Virginia house, from the USA, won, as they were placed first in the scoreboard. The line to their house was immense, but it really was a spectacular house to see from the outside. Other highlights, in my opinion included:
That night, we headed to a Flamenco show. Flamenco is a dance characterized by strong footwork, powerful (perhaps even angry) faces, and fancy dresses. It’s a dance that is fueled by passion and intensity; a cultural trait that has permeated in the everyday culture of the Spaniards.
The old guard (i.e., old people), patrol the streets and curse the younger generation for having it too easy. Rightfully so. They don’t politely ask if they can sit in the metro, they scream at you if you do not stand up for them (didnt happen to me, but certainly happened to a person a few feet away from me in the Metro). Old people tend to want to speak to you. Most of the time you can’t understand what they are saying, nonetheless they still speak to you while you are forced to attentively listen. You can’t simply walk away with fear they’ll explode.
Madrid is a beautiful city, however it wasn’t THE city for me. I feel you have to live in Madrid to RAVE about Madrid. I found it a little too dirty for my taste. The young crowd is dressed funny, and they really endulge themselves on having a stranger haircut than the other. When you go to a cafe, it’s customary to throw everything on the floor – food, cigarrette butts, used napkins… in other words, don’t wear flip flops. And maybe it was because I was there during the Metro Strike, but there were simply TOO MANY CARS on the street. it just felt a little bit too congested: with trash, tourists, cars…. just too much “stuff”
I did, however, enjoy watching the SPAIN-PORTUGAL game in Madrid. That was great. So far, I’ve had the fortune of watching some great games in some great places: Brazil-Chile in Bilbao, Spain-Portugal in Madrid, and Germany uber alles in Berlin. I missed the soccer culture I grew up in in Brazil, that just wasn’t prominent at all in the USA. It’s great to see cities brighten up their spirits following such a powerful event. My friend put it perfectly: People tend to forget about the bad things when they have smiles on their faces and are cheering for something greater than themselves. It’s the idea of unity that matters with the World Cup.