Ew ew ew ew ew ew ew ew!
let´s see, how can I best put this?... Madrid sucks. I am posting a few good pictures from there, but I really didn't like the city overall.
Whoever has ever enjoyed or recommended Madrid, must not have been here recently. Maybe I should have been tipped off when I actually read in Rick Steves book on Spain, that prostitution is quite big in Madrid, and he even listed prices (Ahh, Rick!! that´s so not like you!!)
I did notice when I got in last night that the metro smells intensely like piss, and they have no escalators or elevators for (lazy) people like me with rolling luggage, and that teenagers seem to have a favorite hobby of making out in the filthy corners of the metro stations, and I was willing to let my bad first impression go, a little. But after walking maybe 10 miles of the city during the day today, even when it was sunny, no me gusta. Eww.
I can understand the potential for some charm in Madrid. My friend Sara in Barcelona had explained to me that there are beautiful statues and monuments all throughout the city´s parks and plazas, that blend in with the busy city if you don´t stop to notice them. This is the same in Moscow, and I remember especially that the locals would stare at you for taking pictures of their streets. Well there are some really beautiful, old buildings are hidden amongst the Dunkin´Donuts and KFC´s, along the walk to Puerta del Sol, but even in the grassy parks, the sidewalks were very black and grimey, and there´s trash everywhere. The entire city smells like a dumpster, especially the metro.
Another essential phrase that´s not in the language phrasebooks, but I had to learn earlier today is, "Where is the closest H & M store?" because after going through the metros today, my pants were semi-drenched from muddy puddles. Several people directed me by saying, "It´s right under El Corte de Ingles (the Spanish big department store) on La Gran Via." Well that´s funny, because there´s actually 8 different El Corte Ingles stores on La Gran Via, and 6 of them within a half-mile of each other. Weird. It took me forever to find "Ache y Eme", and then they didn´t have any good pants. Just linen. Grr.
The museums in Madrid were the one thing that was good though...
When I left the hostel in the morning, it was pretty chilly (storm clouds were literally over just half the city, pictured) so I figured it´s "good museum weather" which was my plan anyway. I went to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum first, because I remember tons of paintings from this museum are in my Sister Wendy´s 1,000 Masterpieces book (shut up - I like Sister Wendy) and I knew The Prado would be really crowded on a Saturday.
For some reason, Thyssen-Bornemisza doesn´t get the fame it deserves. It´s probably only the third or fourth most popular museum in Madrid, but it is an enormous private collection of almost ALL the famous painters - you name him, he´s here, and of course one "she" too, one of my favorites, Georgia O´Keefe. The collection spans many varying periods and styles, so I really enjoyed it, especially the expressionist and modern art, which was every famous name you can think of - Chagall, Gaugin, Degas, Monet, Manet, Pizarro, Picasso, and almost every country you can think of is represented. The entire museum must be close to 1,000 works because it was about 70 rooms on 3 floors.
An unexpected highlight at Thyssen-Bornemisza was a temporary exhibit of Russian Avant-Garde artists, on loan from The Russian Museum in St. Petersberg which is the one musuem I didn´t have time to visit last year in Russia. One of my favorite modern artists is Wassily Kandinsky and they had a whole room of his paintings on loan from Russia.
While I was in the museum, the lights flickered a few times so I assumed it was still raining, but I was a little shocked when I went outside that it was completely sunny and warm like a new day (although this happens in Denver all the time, it's unusual elsewhere), but much weirder, when I started to walk down the street, one side street had little balls of hail all over the ground, piled up like snow in front of the store, but only on this one corner. It´s like a hail cloud was just over the one street.
I took pictures, because it was too weird for you to take my word for it.
I kept thinking, how do you say ¨WTF¨in Español?? another essential phrase not in the phrasebook.
After Thyssen-Bornemisza and some walking around the Plazas, I visited The Prado (Madrid´s much-more-famous art museum) at about 4pm, hoping to miss the crowds. Note to iPod junkies: India.Arie makes a great soundtrack for art museums.
They have a HUGE sign outside The Prado with their hours posted in, like 800 size font, which made me laugh outloud, it's like a loud-and-clear message that they are sick of answering the tourists who call to ask about their hours.
Turns out, the Prado is great for Spanish art and great if you love Renaissance art too, but for me, it felt like a BIT of an overdose on Catholic themes. Honestly it felt like it should be called "The Museum with 1,000 Paintings of the Crucifixtion of Christ". Or "The museum which is 70% GOYA, and 30% other semi-important artists, like Raphael and Ruebens". ha.
I´m exaggerating of course, but they are very proud of Goya, it even seemed like they only sell postcards of Goya in the gift shop. I like Diego Velasquez much better personally, of whom they also have the best collection. The Prado has about 70 rooms too, so it took a couple hours, and I did enjoy it quite a bit, but it is discomforting that the museum allows flash photography of the paintings, or at least they do not discourage it. That seems disrespectful and is super distracting when admiring the paintings.
Now I promise - tonight I walked all around my neighborhood, trying to find a cute, local Spanish cafe to get dinner in, and I swear to you there is nothing but Starbucks, Pan & Company (like Subway), McDonalds, and KFC´s within 20 blocks from my hostel.
I really cringed to do this but I went to McD´s finally and ordered a yogurt with berries, and a happy meal with apples and fruit juice - to try to find something healthy! - but oh my god, the line took 40 minutes and the tables and floors were so disgusting, it looked like maybe they clean it once a week or less. Never been so glad I brought hand sanitizer. Ewww.
Amy: I am totally buying you a zebra-striped fan for a souvenir, it´s so so sexy.
all that being said...Yay... Cordoba tomorrow. Staying in a really cool hotel there at last, even a hotel room with my OWN bathroom, imagine that. check out the place here: http://www.hostallineros38.com/