Madrid.......insanity embodied

Trip Start Sep 19, 2006
Trip End Oct 06, 2006

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Madrid...the capitol of Spain and a huge, busy city. My voyage *to* Madrid...wasn't exactly flawless, but I guess it got the job done. Relying exclusively on Petarma, I had no idea where I was going to stay in Madrid, no did I have any elementary understanding of Madrid's layout. I was planning on arriving in Madrid via plane at 5pm, walking and looking for a place to stay. One two hour boarding delay and one two hour take off delay later (two delays total for people who can't read so good), I arrive in Mardid at 9:30...yet in actuality, I arrived at the Madrid *airport* at 9:30...a mile walk and 20 metro stops later, I arrived in downtown Madrid at no earlier than 10:45. It would have been much later, or never, if it weren't for the help of a nice Peruvian man who decided to take me under his wing. He gave me directions, and when he saw my Spanish was limited to just a bit more than "Yo quiero taco bell," actually lead me to the place...nice guy really. Celebratingly, I stroll into the youth hostel at 11:00pm. Triumphantly, I asked for a room..."completo," he said...what is completo...possibly a suite upgrade? "Oh I get's the same is 'complet' in French which means.....FUCK, FULL!!!."

So, here I am, this goofy white guy, obviously a tourist, this massive backpack and this stupid papermap that doesn't mean a god damned thing to me, and the first thing I think is, being an American optimist and all, "this can't possibly get any worse." Then it starts to rain...and it keeps raining harder and harder. Finally, it's 11:45, I'm starving, I'm soaking wet, I'm miserable, I'm wishing to be back in Lyon and it's only been a handful of days...that was my first experience in Spain. Joyous, no?

Madrid is actually a cool city, full of life and I mean that quite literally. I came to France with a bunch of crazy stories, picked up a few more in France...and they were all blown away by the sheer insanity and stupidity of some of my actions in Madrid. Yet, I regret nothing I did in this city, and I picked up a slew of memories I will cherish for the rest of my life.

The city itself is undergoing a facelift (as is the rest of the country) with a brand new Metro system and bike paths and things of that nature. It gives the city an almost anarchic, dirty feel to it, but I found to charming. The buildings are very tall, beautiful architecture graces the roofs and facades of several buildings, and most important every single large American chain can be located within a few minutes by walking. Actually, miserable soaked and starving, my first authentic Spanish cuisine turned out to be Mcdonalds. And I can proudly say, it was the best fucking Mcdonalds I've ever had.

I saw some cool cultural things in Madrid, the most impressive of which was irrefutably the Prada Museum. In it is the *premiere* display of Spanish artwork (meh, don't know much about Spanish art work to be completely honest), which is an incredible display and collection of talent and beauty. The real wonder of my experience actually took place in the northerner section...completely by surprise I bumped into three things that all appeared on either my Art History midterm or final exam. The Garden of Earthly Delights (which is absolutely amazing in person), Descent from the Cross, and a painting by Van Eyke...all his insane details and all. I stood in these three rooms for nearly 2 hours I reckon, absolutely amazed that these very things I had seen via projector, in books, and movies were actually directly in front of really brought the idea to life, that they aren't just cultural icons, but real paintings that exist and, maybe quite obviously, were painted by a person at one point in time. It was just as humbling, and maybe more so, as the first time I saw the Mona Lisa...the Palacio Real was impressive also, and it resembled Versailles a great deal. A much heavier emphasis on tapestry and porcelain though, and obviously built and decorated for a predictably warmer climate. The palace felt very fresh, and I'm glad I went there, even if it was more as an afterthought.

Welcome to the craziest night of, not that I will be able to do it justice through words alone. I went out with my first Hostel friend, a Maltese guy named Bert. I didn't even know what Malta was, and asked him if it had something to do with the Maltese Falcon...good ol American ignorance I suppose, but at least good for a laugh. This guy had dated and hooked up with chicks from at least 15 different countries, and we shared a great conversation talking about all our experiences, good and bad alike. We went to a bar, where we met two helpful Spaniards. They gave us the lowdown on the Spanish and Madridish nightlife, as well as suggestions for several bars. We weren't paying too much attention, however, because of the absolutely *stunnning* Spanish chick serving us beer. I mean this girl was amazing...beautiful dazzling every word I can think of and more. After throwing down 5 beers a piece, and getting charged for only half that, we were ready to start our night.

We went to meet Bert's two other Maltese friends, a guy I know only as "M" and his girlfriend Jessica. Watching the three reunited as a trip in itself. The Maltese language is so fast, and is such a fluid combination of so many different types of sounds...and they really are truly exotic looking people. Wild too, as the Maltese night life is a great deal similar to the Spanish nightlife, or so they told me.

We spent the next three or four hours bar hopping, drinking heavily, and talking about life. We touched on cultural stereotypes, international politics, dick politicians (Bush), and compared each other's social lives and normal routines. It was exhilarating; this was my first experience with another culture. And the more drunk we got, the deeper we went. At long last, nearing the hour of 4 AM, the bars started closing. You'd never guess the hour, based upon how many people were in the streets...nor would you guess a police entity existed in this country, as the scene was complete chaos. People peeing everywhere, everyone drinking and smoking, prostitutes running rampant, Chinese entrepreneurs selling beer at vastly inflated prices...and people eagerly paying for it. The world felt like a dream, and for some unknown reason, I felt no danger of any kind.

Then, my newly adopted Maltese brethren decided they wanted to smoke, the substance of their desires I shall not post here. Needless to say, we spent the next three hours adventuring through the slums and mazes of Madrid, looking for one such entrepreneur. Hammered to the point of oblivion, I remember only vaguely what occurred during this time. They have an amazing effect, fatigue and alcohol, when combined...though I dare so it is very hard on one's system. Yet, I remember meeting a ton of people, talking to them with my broken but superficially confident Spanish skills, and kissing many girls on the cheek. I was an American and living the dream right now, there would be other times to be modest and shy.

At long last, we found what we were looking for. We retreated to one of the public plazas, as did nearly everyone else, to partake in the spoils of our plunder, and enjoy what was left of the morning. I saw my first Spanish sunrise in a public square, smoking and drinking with my Maltese friends and this random group of Portuguese whom we met in our travels. The cultural seminar, and the language exchange, that took place that morning was quite simply amazing. I learned some Portugese, Italian, Maltese, and Spanish, while teaching English and French in return. If I hadn't been as tired as I was, I would have been sad at it's end. I enjoyed my two hours of sleep, before having to leave the hostel, immensely. My night was incredible.
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