Before I visited Madrid, if you asked me what my favorite cities were I would have quickly said Sydney, then I would add a haphazard list of cities that I had recently visited and enjoyed. I guess I want to give every city a chance and appreciate a city that someone else has fallen in love with and see what they saw. But that’s not really realistic is it?
Visiting Madrid made me realize one thing. Sydney is still my favorite city in the world, the city that I’m longing for another chance in. But there was this inkling all the while that I could see myself settling in Madrid for an undefined time period as well. Yes, Madrid had joined Sydney in it’s honorary ranks in my list of top cities. Don’t ask me to explain how three days in this city could make me believe that it should be added to my list, but there it is, and I guess that says something about it.
It all started when we arrived and were so warmly greeted by our Argentinean hostel host. He was so excited that we were there and greeted us and directed us in his best mix of Spanish, Italian and English. He even came knocking on our door to inform us that the organized drinking games were starting if we were interested in joining. That’s caring about the well-being of your guests.
The next day we elected to take the three-hour FREE walking-tour of Madrid. We had taken a similar tour in Amsterdam and been both entertained and respectfully educated about the culture and history of the big city. In these three hours, we were graced with the presence of the ever-excited, happy and theatrical Catiya. She started the tour off on the right foot as we stepped into Sol Square she stated her personal disclaimer that she was an unofficial tour guide, therefore offering her unofficial opinion. She began talking about all the world’s major cities and major city monuments, focusing on the Eiffel Tour and it’s significance in the Paris skyline. She then revealed that Madrid had it’s very own Eiffel Tower right in Sol Square! She did a little dance and pointed us to the disappointingly puny bear and Modroño tree statue. She then described it’s significance to the city of Madrid and added her little punch line about the natural fermentation of the berries on a Modroño tree, therefore meaning Madrid’s little bear mascot was just another lush. This explains all the drunken bear souvenirs you can find throughout the city.
The whole tour kept up this way as our group of twenty-something backpackers became enthralled with the history we didn’t even realize we were learning. She pointed out interested facts and historical signs, such as this artistic interpretation of Arnold Schwarzenegger reincarnated as a bull. Describing that in the early times when citizens didn’t know how to read they instead used pictures to interpret street signs and shops, many of which are still on display today.
She also did a great deal of explaining development of the city of Madrid and the racial and religious turmoil that it ensued as is transitioned from the Moors to Catholic and, like much of Europe at its time, eventually fell under Habsburg rule.
I’ll leave the rest of the tour and history a secret so that you can discover that all on your own and in your own way but I’ll officially give this as my glowing recommendation to try out these Free Walking Tours, I mean they are FREE, why not?
Florence is a beautiful city and it’s full of beautiful and fascinating architecture, all kept carefully renovated true to it’s original facade. I can appreciate this but I have to say there is something about a city that can so seamlessly mix history with the modern world, as Madrid has.
We wandered along Gran Via and marveled at the, well marvelous, array of shops and the astonishing sizes of each one. I reveled in the abundance of Starbucks available, and give me a break on this one, Italians don’t believe in Starbucks or anything resembling it. I love Italian coffee but I long for two things, a coffee culture that involves more than taking shots of espresso bar-side and iced coffee… mmmm. Plus, inside Starbucks in the warmth of the artsy atmosphere I was able to take this shot of my obscure artist surrounded in his arty element.
Three days could never warrant Madrid all the credit I am sure I would give it, therefore, I must go back and see it all over again. I’ll add that to my growing list.