Monday, August 31, 2009
Hola from Espana!
Wow. Wow. Wow. I like Spain MUCHO! (But as is instantly apparent I'm sure, my Spanish needs some work). The food, the people, the streets, the buildings, and the general sense of vitality that this place exudes is intoxicating. Madrid is a total melting pot, but with seemingly a unifying flavor of excitement and sauciness.
The past few days have certainly been a whirlwind of meeting new people and attempting to examine the endless nooks and crannies of Madrid's streets. There really is a lot to see, ranging from ancient castles and churches, to skyscrapers and temples. The first day I got into the city I had to take 3 metros and walk a good deal before I got into my hostel, rendering most of the day burnt up my the trivialities of travel. But I, being probably too overly ambitious and not wanting to waste a second, I threw my stuff into my room and jetted off to the allegedly best sunset watching place in all of the city: the Egyptian Temple dedicated to the goddess Isis. I don't know what was more shocking the fact Madrid, a rather cosmopolitan metropolis, has an ancient temple juxtaposed with a freshly constructed Starbucks, or the sheer magic of the sunset that evening. It was BEAUTIFUL! The sun here is really a spectacle, although at times an unwanted one due to the insane amount of heat it produces.
The next day was my museum going day. I've decided after about 9 hours of aimless wandering in and out of old Flemish paintings, Spanish art is much more aesthetically appealing to me than a lot of other masterpieces known in the Western world. Everything just seems to be more juiced with color (the obvious exception being kind sir Goya himself). I went to Reina Sofia in the morning, known for housing some of Salvador Dali's most famous works and one of my favorite paintings of all time: Guernica. Ever since using this piece in the play "Us and Them" that I directed in high school, it has been a favorite of mine. It was amazing to stand next to it in awe. The other thing that gave me a serious "awe" sensation was running into a fellow Goucher student, yet again. I feel like in every obscure place I go in life Goucher people follow, may it be a hippy commune in Tennessee, biking through Virginia, or in a random museum in Spain. Weird.
After a siesta from art in the botanical gardens and a nice floral scented nap, I made my way to Museo del Prado, one of the most extensive museums in Spain. I ended up meeting a guy from Kansas who was studying Art History and Spanish for a year in Madrid, but was an English and Cognitive Science major (so obviously we had a lot to talk about). It was nice having some one to educate me about Spanish art/translate all of the written text about the paintings. I am surprised how time flies in museums, they are like portals of misrepresented time, while as you're simultaneously shipping yourself off to different time periods, time in the present seemingly dissipates at a higher rate than usual. Lovely. I also got to see another of my favorite paintings: The Garden of Earthly Delights.
Last night I had my first tapas bar experience, as well as a private performance of flamenco in a back alley way. One minute I was cooking beans and cutting avocado slices for dinner, and the next I was friends with 15 people who had met a local person who had invited us all over for the dancing and drinks. It was AMAZING! Not only did I get a show of a lifetime, but I also got to learn a few dance moves (as well as execute them poorly). Afterward I met two girls from Michigan who I adored. :) They were SO much fun. We decided to find the most authentic tapas bar we could, eventually settling with the one with a gigantic pig foot jutting out of the plates on the bar table and mounds of pearly white cheeses. We got a bottle of complimentary aged cider from the bar tender and munched on tapas for hours (people in Spain stay up until like 6 or 7 in the morning) talking about American political problems with two guys from he Canary Islands.
Today I took a train from Madrid to Toledo, one of the former capitals of the Spanish Empire, as well as the birth place of El Greco. The train ride out there was very interesting, enabling me to get out of the big city a bit and see the country. This part of Spain resembles much of what a geographic conglomeration of New Mexico, Arizona and Kansas would look like. Very arid and general goldeness about it. It is beautiful...but HOT! Toledo itself was breathtaking. Being an old Moorish city and a cultural fusion point for Jewish and Christian communities, there are countless old churches, ancient buildings and castles all stacked up on a mountain surrounded by a stone wall and moat-like river. I LOVED everything about Toledo. It was one of the first places that still felt authentic to me (although still had a fair share of tourist oriented things). But I could really imagine lace clad women with fancy fans strolling down the cobble stone streets. I sat in the plaza munching the infamous Toledo marzipan for a good chunk of time first watching an old man in a top hat feed the birds pieces of crumbled bread, and eventually taking part in the act once he saw me being intrigued by the effort. There was something tender about that moment.
Tomorrow my overall objective is to nourish my overly excited and geeky desire to go to the Santiago Ramón y Cajal museum. Santiago Ramón y Cajal basically was a pioneer in documenting the structure of neurons in the human brain, and radically reshaped the way we conceptualized our neural networks.....meaning he= kelly's hero. So yeah. I am REALLY excited for that. I think I am going to wake up for sunrise, which according to the Hungarian girl in the room next to me, is incredible from the Plaza del Sol tomorrow morning.
One more day in Spain and then off to London. I am starting to get anxiously excited to start school in a few days. I am definitely thirsty for knowledge and meeting friends I'll know more than a few hours. :)
Besos por todos.