What a culture shock! Overcoming jet lag of 2 whole days travel from New Zealand via Melbourne and Dubai, we are currently living in one of the older barrios (neighbourhoods) of Madrid, with friends. Madrid, the city of Statues and Water Features! We have been using our feet a lot, and I am learning how important practical footwear is! A bewildering array of historical architecture and history! We have been to Prado Museum, housing some impressive array of masterpieces by Bosch, Brueghel, Titian, Tintoretto, El Grecco, Mengs, Velasquez, Rembrandt, Rubens and of course, Goya. Brain overload and 3 hours later, we hastily exited the museum in search of sunlight and fresh air!
A day later, we strolled leisurely around Retiro Park, an incredible 24 hectares of tranquility and historical buildings. My favourite being the Crystal Palace which was once a green house but now forms the function of art exhibition space. Another day was dedicated to cultural exploration of the Palacio de Real Madrid, the royal family’s palace, recently vacated by them and now open to the public. I now understand why; it is a museum of total excess! After 2 hours, we were starting to choke on all the pomp, lavish excess and opulence! At first one is astounded by the decorative interiors and the eyes desperately devours the opulent details, with little hope of actually digesting the information overload, but then after several rooms, the brain simply shuts down and refuses to take another bit of excessive sensory information!
The Palacio Real de Madrid is a symbol of excessive wealth and splendour in the extreme. No wonder the royal family probably chose to vacate it in favour of less elaborate, modern digs. One could lose one’s own children and search for them for an entire week within its 3,184 rooms! By the time you’d find your child, it may have even starved to death! In the old king’s bedroom, several families could have lived quite comfortably! Each room has incredible ceiling frescoes, fit for the Cistine Chapel, and each has a different theme, colour and artists depicted. It’s information Palacio de Cibeles and no corner is left spared. One room boasted a ceramic theme, with ceramic 2D relief tiles covering its entire surface, each tile interlocked into the other. Suffocating, to say the least!
I am naturally drawn to churches and cathedrals (must be my Catholic upbringing), so we also entered the Almudena Cathedral and wandered around in awe of the incredible statues and stained glass windows. There is a tangible air of reverence, prayers and pleas of so many followers and worshippers contained within. It just forces you to whisper, walk softly and observe with humble respect!
After all our walking and observing, we had to make a mercy dash into a pastry shop to drink a cup of life saving tea and sample the most delectable almond pastry EVER!