I need to learn Spanish...

Trip Start Apr 29, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Spain  ,
Tuesday, October 3, 2006

I´ve said it before but I´ll say it again: free shit is good. In this ever-increasingly money driven global environment: free shit is good. After having arrived from Morocco where the locals try to charge you for breathing: free shit is good. And most of all - I'm fucking poor. You know what? Free shit is good. The Madrileños understand this. It may well be the city motto. In fact, let's just say it is (something like - gratis kaka es bueno - so not right). Local cervezerias are the best example of Madrid's motto in practice. All types of traditional Spanish tapa are served with each ultra cheap beer. Tortilla y patatas, chorizo, fine Spanish jamon, sardine bocadillos, calamari, olives, even pig's ears - appear in front of you constantly - for free - as you stand at the bar perpetually anticipating what tasty little creation may accompany the next caña. Brilliant even if you have to pay. But it's all free. Free. I've heard it from somewhere - free shit is good.

The delights of Madrid don't finish with gratias gastronomic genius. Indeed, this aspect is probably overshadowed by the magnificent cultural offerings of this, in my opinion, much underrated city. Madrid is a lot about Museums. Museums, museums, museums. The Museu del Prado, for starters, must be one of the finest museums in Europe if not the world. The Goya works are the highlight; the El Greco words delightful and eternally interesting; the Velazquez words slightly overrated; the Bosch 'Garden of Earthly Delights' the best single work in the entire Prado. All in my incredibly humble opinion - and pretty much lay - opinion of course (but I'm right). Sometimes 6 hours in a museum can destroy your 'museum energy quote' or MEQ. Not in Madrid. Very few cities are so blessed with galleries, both in quality and quantity. Very few demand that you come armed with an MEQ of such astronomical measures. My MEQ not yet exhausted, another afternoon was spend in the Reina Sofia - the wonderful modern art museum featuring a vast collection of modern predominantly Spanish art. Decent. The one thing that made the Prado and the Reina Sofia even better was - on Sundays - guess what? Yep. That's right. Free. Brilliant. Free shit is good.

Madrid is constantly brimming with energy, yet finding a place to relax is easy. Endless plazas - Mayor, Puerta del Sol, Santa Ana, Espana, the list goes on - dot the central districts of Huertas, La Latina, Malasana, Cheuca and Sol; the early October weather providing the perfect environment to sit in their countless alfresco restaurants and bars. And if that's not relaxed enough for you, there's always the enchanting Retiro Park, the monumental, the estanque and the Palacio Cristal brilliant - the game of cricket with Coffs Harbour Garth even better. There's always a bin, a stick and a honky nut somewhere.

To offset this tranquility, Madrid has silly, silly nightlife. Pablo and Bea, the brilliant Madrid locals that I met in Morocco, certainly assisted in my drinking myself to near death, for which I am eternally grateful. But it was the arrival of Pete 'Toothless Pete' Dornan that had me writing a will, just in case. Yes it was silly - like some times in Germany. Indeed, at times of thought I still was in Germany. But I survived. Survival? Brilliant. For the record, I've decided that all of my possessions - consisting of a score of Debussy Preldes, one flay soccerball, a 2nd hand text on the conflict of laws and a pack of chewing gum all go to the weero.

Madrid also has a silly silly market. El Rastro, a sunday-morning only event, is apparently the biggest in Europe. Stretching for blocks and blocks and blocks, it features everything, from your typical hippy market shit to a range of random handyman tools that Bunnings would be proud of. And then there are the people that just sell random shit - stuff lying around the house. "I've got a pillow, a candlestick, an old tape of the Godfather taped from Channel 7, half a bottle of gin, an almost complete deck of cards and two romance novels I no longer want. What will I do? I'll go to Rastro. Brilliant. Silly silly market.

Bullfights are horrific. The fact that the bull never has a change; the taunting; the complete lack of respect for the animal as it stumbles and struggles to a gruesome death all combine to create a hideous but amazing spectacle. Certainly an experience - a one off experience. In its final 5 minutes, blood cascades from the bull's mouth but, instinctively more than valiantly I suspect, continues its charge towards the matador. After the final blow, the fallen is paraded around the arena, dragged on the ground behind a horse-drawn chariot, smearing the golden sands of La Plaza De Toros with a deep scarlet. Perhaps what is most disturbing is that how the event is such a celebration of the heroics of the matador - his excessive bravado and arrogance rewarded by rapturous applause by the predominantly plus 65 crowd. Interesting experience, but I can't say I'll be back...

Ch VI: Of the high adventures by the valorous Don Guan-An de Leeming and his Squire upon reaching the gates of Toledo:

Scarce had the squire, the brilliant Pablo of Madrid, made an end to the rumblings of the automobile, when the renowned Don Guan-An de Leeming - otherwise known as the Knight of Asian Descent - quoth both to himself and his trusty companion 'this city if fucking beautiful'. The history of their adventures relates, although in far less details than the history of Don Quixote in which this account attempts to imitate, that the brave travellers, in search of famous adventures in La Mancha, did attend an exhibition featuring a great many deal of portraits of the ownership of the Museu del Prado de Madrid. Having but a brief afternoon in Toledo, the Alcazar and the Catedral were sought out, both in vain, the great and famous duo being thwarted in both instances by what the Knight of Asian Descent imagined to be an enormous giant, armed with weapons the size of houses, but which, in act, were mere garden-variety doors. Deterred by the presence of the mighty giant, history relates that the brave adventurers fled the town centre through the immaculate and charming paths, in no great haste indeed, and so influenced by the charm of the city that Pablo did so quoth 'Man - check it out hey? Nice' to which the Knight replied, 'yeah.' It was nearly sunset as the two companions escaped the town to a peak far above the city, from where they viewed night befall. The detail of the discourse that occurred during the sunset is somewhat lost to history, although it does relate that the word ´brilliant´was uttered several times before the return to Madrid. Toledo? Brilliant. Don't get it? Don Quixote it up...

I've become so comfortable here in Madrid. It's sad to leave, both the city and wonderful friends that I have made here. Everywhere I have been in Spain strengthens my resolve to return, next time for a much longer period.

So, to the top 5. Tomorrow I go to South America, so it is appropriate to reflect upon this Europeans adventure at this juncture. One's passion for a place is so personal and subjective. To talk about 'best cities' is quite idiotic. To talk about 'cities that have provided me with the most valuable experience, charmed or changed me' is quite ridiculous and convoluted. To talk about 'best cities/cities that provided me with the most valuable experience, charmed and changed me/are just wicked/most enjoyed' is so fucking stupid that I might just get away with it. Therefore, here are the Top 5 such places of the Europeans trip of the devil of the death from hell:

5. Istanbul
4. Barcelona
3. Santorini
2. Madrid
1. Sarajevo

Santiago. Chile. Do it...
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