Friday, April 24, 2009

¡Olé España! Part 3 (Madrid)

After another long bus ride, we arrived in Madrid around 11pm on Thursday night. David Weiss from high school was meeting us in Madrid with some of his Army friends and were planning to spend the weekend together :D The 4 boys had rented two apartments in the center of Madrid for the weekend and invited us to stay there for free, so we were pretty happy about that!

When we arrived we were a bit tired, but powered through and found some good bars in Madrid but didn't do anything too crazy. Instead, we slept hours and hours and woke up refreshed for Friday. Our whole trip we had been avoiding bad weather by about a day or so, but in Madrid it caught up with us, and as we were sightseeing around the city, it got very windy and sort of drizzly. We managed to get to kilo zero though (the center of Madrid and all of Spain). As a result we headed over to the Museum of Jamon - basically just a bar with a lot of pig legs hanging from the walls - very Spanish ha. What started out as one beer turned into a drinking contest: who can drink a pitcher of sangria the fastest??? Ohhhhh my! Good thing the sangria at the Museum of Jamon didn't have much wine in it, because a pitcher is quite a lot of liquid! It was a pretty funny contest and I ended up getting second - all my sangria drinking practice in Spain paid off I guess ha. After such hard work drinking sangria we decided to hang out in the apartments until the rain left and rest up for the nighttime. We found a few new bars but the best part of the night was when Cassie and I demonstrated the symbol of Madrid together. You might remember from my previous Madrid blog a long time ago that the symbol of Madrid is a bear grabbing onto a tree. After a dispute in the 13th century, it was decided that the church owned the soil (tree) and the people of Madrid owned everything on the land (bear). This coming together is symbolized by the bear touching the tree. Kind of weird, but we were happy to imitate it!

The next day we wanted to check out the famous Prado Museum. Madrid has 3 very popular museums, and last time I was there I visited the modern art one and saw the Guernica by Pablo Picasso and a bunch of Salvador Dali peices, but this time we wanted to check out more classical Spanish art. It was so fun to go with Cassie and Dave because we all were in the same Spanish classes in high school so we learned about the same Spanish art and were all equally excited about finally seeing what had spent so much time studying! While you probably aren't as interested in Spanish art as we were, we were most excited to see: Diego Velazquez and Goya. We studied thier art for a good amount of time in Spanish class and after seeing a poster or an image in a book for so many years it is nice to see it right in front of you!

With our dose of culture we headed off to do what the Spanish do ham! We found a cute restaurant close to our place and got plates and plates of ham appetizers ha. Dave complained that when they went back to Germany they were going to have to go on ham detox. After living here for so long now, I think I will go into ham withdrawls once I get back to the States haha. I love it!

That night we checked out a few bars in the Plaza Mayor area - the best being a bar called Toro del Oro - The Gold Bull. It is a famous bullfighting bar and has a few bulls heads mounted! It also has a huge amount of framed 8x10 photos of well-known bullfighters (matadores) in action. There are even pictures of when things go wrong and you can see up close what it looks like when a bullfighter gets gored and hooked with the horns - gross. It was a nice prelude to the next day because we were going to see a bullfight!

The night ended early and the boys woke up pretty early to head back to Germany. It was sad to see them go, because we had such a fun weekend with all of them! Since we were staying with them, as soon as they left, we were made homeless (we preferred to be called gypsies ha) and spent most of the day trying to find things to keep us occupied. We visisted the Reina Sofia - the modern art museum, had another Starbucks (even got them in the mugs for staying in the Starbucks!!!) and checked out the botanical gardens blooming in Spring! Around 5 o'clock we headed over to the gorgeous bull ring and crossed our fingers that there were still tickets! We got lucky and got amazing seats for only 15€. While I had told Cassie the day before that they kill the bulls in the end, we really weren't prepared for the whole chain of events.

At a bullfight (corrida) there are really 3 stages. The first is where the bull comes out and runs from side to side of the bull ring - running towards multiple bullfighters who use pink capes. When we saw this we were confused because we thought that they were always red, but those come later. After making the bull angry, a horn sounds and a horse with armour comes trots out and a man sitting on him gets the bull's attention, and then as the bull charges the horse the man stabs the bull in the neck to prepare him for the next part of the fight. This part was particularly hard to watch because the bull gets so mad and pushes and rams the horse (who is blindfolded) and it just breaks your heart. After that, the bullfighters and thier pink capes lure him back into the center of the ring for the second part of the fight: the banderillas (decorated darts). At this point, different bullfighters take thier turn running straight at the bull, stabbing him with colored darts into his back and somehow avoid getting horned! After a few sets of darts, the bull is bleeding pretty badly and is getting tired and that is when the horn sounds again and the 3rd part of the fight starts: the matador finishes the bull off. This is when the red cape is brought out and the bullfighter has 10 minutes to kill the bull. He wears an amazingly sparkly jacket, matching spandexs and little ballerina slippers. He flashes the red cape, letting the bull run so closely to him on the side and eventually tires him out and then proceeds to stab the bull in the head. The bull, so stabbed and losing blood rapidly, dies and collapses to the ground. As a way to ensure the bull is dead and spare him any more hurt, they stab him in the head with a little dagger and then hook his hoofs to a line of horses who drag him out of the ring, leaving a trail of blood.

The first fight we saw, the bull was very strong and put up a good fight, and so it was rather shocking when he buckled down to the ground. We were both kind of in awe, but Cassie (a huge animal lover) started crying when everyone stood up to applaud. This photo sort of shows our first reactions to bullfighting - me cheering, pretty excited I am finally seeing a bullfight, and Cassie with the tears running down her face in shock! After getting over the brutality of the inital fight, we became good fans, shouting things like 'yea, here come the big swords!'. The only way we could convince ourself that watching this and cheering was acceptable was that it was CULTURE. After 6 bulls, the fight was over and the stands emptied quickly. Still kind of in shock we followed the crowd and headed to dinner.

After dinner we stopped by the Museum of Jamon for one more sangria and then were on our overnight bus trip to our last destination: Barcelona!


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