Hola from Madrid! We arrived bleary-eyed and comatose jet-lagged yesterday, after 3full days travelling via Dubai, to stay with our friends Maria and Rodrigo. How fascinating to see how people live on the other side of the world! Coming from New Zealand, where most people live in houses with gardens, we were surprised to see so many people living in apartments. We are staying in the older part of Madrid on Calle de Valderibos. The length of the street is lined with row upon row of apartments, with the ground floor dedicated to shops of every description!
There are baby clothes stores, tiles (azulejos) to paint shops, hunting and shooting to footwear, make up and health stores, supermarkets and even a traditional market, all underneath these apartments. Today we walked to see the Prado Museum and all the amazing artworks from all the masters of long ago; the biggest collection of Goya (of course). We walked through Retiro Park, a famous botanical park and wondered at all the specimens and exotic birds, but by far the most exciting activity was passing by a giant refuse bin in the street which was being filled with the apartment above’s unwanted goods!
We learned from the guy dumping it, that the apartment was being renovated and they were just throwing away all of the owner’s old goods. I think the old owner must have passed away, and that is why everything was being dumped, rather than treasured. There were masses of Spanish books and I started to sift through some of them. I was gutted I could not bring the intricately carved, gold embossed picture frame which must have been about half my length! Wouldn’t have fitted in my suitcase! But I did find some lead soldiers and military horse models which I asked permission to take , and then my heart skipped a beat when I carefully pulled out an old original painting, probably at least 100 years old!
Mike scowled at me and grumpily questioned why I was scrounging around in a dusty old rubbish bin and what on earth I thought I was going to do with the painting. After all our walking and touristing, he just wanted to get home and have a cuppa tea, so he did not appreciate my fossicking in a rubbish dump while passersby looked on in amusement. I walked home with a renewed bounce, eager to present Maria with the gift. When I showed her the painting, I mentioned casually that I had stolen it from the Prado Museum! For a minute she looked shocked and when I told her about my find, she was keen to come dumpster diving with me, so armed with 3 large bags, we went in search of more treasures and came home super excited! What a shame we could only reach the top of the goods, who knows how many more treasures lay way down below, covered in building rubble!
We found old photographs, documents and even the original architectural drawings for a countryside house! Now I know why they called them blueprints, this one was printed on blue paper! We spent the afternoon pouring over the photographs and cleaning dust off of all the old books. We may return tomorrow to see what else they will dump!
I love history, to feel it, to see it. Why were these precious things discarded? Did this old man or old lady who owned this apartment die with no close relative to sort through his or her worldly possessions? Why was it left to builders to gather up, and throw down a shute into a rubbish bin? It’s going to keep me awake tonight, as I ponder this, and feel grateful that I dared look into a rubbish bin and fossick around and keep this bit of history out of landfill!