All of us got up bright and early this morning to get on our 8:00am van to Madrid! When we met up at Mester (like usual) most of us felt like we could go right back to bed. Since we were all so tired, the two and a half hour (212 km) ride seemed to go by pretty quickly.
Once we arrived in Madrid, we hopped out into the nippy 4°C air (39°F) at the Plaza de España, one of the most famous sites in Madrid. From here, we could see el Edeficio España (Spain Building) which, as of 2014, is owned by a Chinese real estate company, as well as one of the tallest buildings in Madrid, el Torre de Madrid (Tower of Madrid). According to Carlos, the people of Madrid have another name for it – something along the lines of the F*** Building (but in Spanish), which expresses how hideous some think it is.
Since we were all shivering in the cold, Carlos decided it was time for us to stop at a coffee shop to warm up before visiting El Palacio Real de Madrid. After grabbing some churros with hot chocolate and warming up a bit, we walked a couple blocks to the Palace. The building is positively huge – it has over one million square feet of floor space on the inside – and is incredibly nice on the outside, despite it approaching 300 years old. The royal family doesn’t actually live here anymore; instead it’s used for “state functions,” we’re told.
A little up the sidewalk from the palace was La Catedral de Santa María la Real de Almudena – quite a mouthful, I know! When the capital of Spain switched from Toledo to Madrid in 1575, plans to build a Cathedral were discussed, with a priority of building the world’s biggest cathedral at the time. Though plans were discussed early on, this building was built FAR after Madrid became the capital – in the year 1879. I’m not sure if it holds the title of biggest cathedral in the world, but I’d bet my money on not.
After checking out the cathedral from the outside, we passed briefly through a market in the center of town, then arrived at the Plaza Mayor of Madrid. We’re all used to the Plaza Mayor of Salamanca, and compared to that, this one is quite a bit bigger and far more crowded. It probably didn’t help that we visited on a Sunday… From here, we walked another few blocks to La Plaza del Sol (Sun Square), which is sort of like Madrid’s equivalent of Times Square. It’s in a nice spot, but the number of people posing as statues in an attempt to make money struck us as a bit strange.
We then had some free time, so we all returned to the Plaza Mayor to eat our lunches and do some shopping. After we finished (around 2:00pm), we met back up with Carlos and Anna and walked to the Museo del Prado, considered Spain’s most significant classic art museum. The museum is enormous – the amount of content housed by the place is mind-blowing. It was cool to walk through and see paintings by such artists as El Greco and Francisco Goya, especially after learning about them only a few days earlier.
By the time we finished up around 5:00pm, we were all feeling pretty ready to head back to Salamanca. From the sound of it, most of us liked Madrid, but a city with 6 million residents definitely isn’t for all of us.