Hola from Madrid. I have a new way of approaching a city with unknown everything- language, streets, neighborhoods, really could be any city, home or abroad. In my mind, I’m playing a variation of orienteering. I check out the map, ask often for directions and help with my limited communication skills and try to find the way or the metro that will take me to my accommodations. It works. One reason it continues to get me where I want to go is this: I’ve never NOT found my way, even if it takes more time than I planned. And yes, I use a map. This is not the Camino.
In less than 2 hours, I had traveled on the Metro from the Chamartin train station, (after 6:00 a.m. departure, five hour trip from Santiago) to Puerta del Sol Square. Then I walked to Hostal Los Alpes on Calle de Fuencarral, checked in, found the Hop-on City Tour bus and got off at the beautiful Museo Centro de Arte Nacional Reina Sofia, so I could see with my own eyes, Picasso’s Guernica.
Of course, it wasn’t exactly that easy. It took a while to find the bus and the museum. Yes, I asked directions and checked my map, but I got there. Being a senior, I was granted free admission, walked straight to second floor and a special room, dedicated to this iconic painting by Spain’s beloved artist, Pablo Picasso. I was and am stunned by the size of Picasso’s Guernica. No photography allowed. Put away cameras and look in awe. I stood with a group of other silent visitors to witness how, generations later, art for social change continues to speak to us about injustice and violence, asking us to do something. Something.
Amazing architecture and view from the glass lifts and a grand square are features of this national museum. Many other contemporary Spanish artists and collections are on display.
I am surprised by the size of this capital city and the huge crowds. Maybe because it’s a weekend? No time yet for photos of the fabulous architecture, parks and squares. Pictures here are from bus or walking to hostal. I’m not crazy about the crowds, but braved them to see Guernica. The line for The Museo del Prado was a block long at 3:00 p.m. And that may not be in my itinerary. Strolling in the gorgeous parks, people watching, learning about the history and architecture might be what this trip is about. And the main reason: finding my way back home. First to the airport. My map and compass are in my pocket. And plans to brush up on my Spanish.
My hostal is off of Gran Via, the busiest shopping and night life of Madrid. It’s easy to find, a climb to fourth floor and noisy all night long. Sink and shower in room, toilet down the long hall. Slow walking on the wide mall-like streets is part of the fun for the Madrilenos.
Buenos Noches, amigos.