Thursday, 7 April 2011

Madrid, Spain

In Cairo I bid adieu to sister #1 and flew to Madrid to visit sister #2 who is teaching English at a Spanish secondary school.

Spanish secondary students.

Sister #2 teaching them English.

Besides a brief sojourn in Rome when I was 17 and a handful of layovers in the Amsterdam airport, I´ve never set foot in Europe.  Madrid was a great place to begin.

Plaza de Sol.  This is the center of Madrid.

I love Madrid´s impeccable architecture...

Plaza Mayor.

...the one Euro glasses of tinto de verano (red wine mixed with lemon fanta) and the wine, in general...

Soooo dangerous.

...the racks of jamón (ham) and other food stuffs...



And more food.

And more food.

And even more food.  If it´s not obvious, I currently have a LOT of junk in my trunk.

...the scores of flirtateous men...

I dig a man with musical talent.

Oh male body how I love thee...

and the scantily clad ladies on Calle de la Montera...

About the latter:   instead of general ¨people watching,¨ sister #2 and I dabbled in a bit of ¨hooker watching¨ one evening.  I know, I know...we´re kind of bad girls sometimes.

Since this is a blog about travel, and travel revelations, I want to explain one ¨revelation¨ I´ve had lately about travel:  travel increases the imagination. 

Palacio Real.

Once upon a time, I used to shy away from books set in other countries because, from the vantage point of my All-American upbringing, it was difficult to imagine what abject poverty really looked like, it was difficult to imagine what crowdedness and hopelessness and fear and civil war really looked like...

It was even more difficult to to imagine that these less ¨desirable¨ attributes could coexist simultaneously in a place along with things like compassion, open mindedness, generousity and a zest for living. 

Madrid by night.

I think it was India that most challenged my world view and, in doing so, shoved my imagination into new domains I never knew existed.  After being in India I now feel that I can imagine almost anything.    

I haven´t really made an itinerary for my (brief) time in Europe.  I want the freedom to follow my intuition about a place and to go where I please.  But I find that I have a penchant for the more far-flung, less traversed parts of the world.  People say to me, ¨You´re in Europe.  You´ll be wanting to visit France, England, and Italy, right?¨ Nope, I´d much rather see Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary. 

A famous bear statue in Plaza de Sol.

I like the idea that these are places that people don´t necessarily know a lot about (well, myself, at least).  I like the idea that people might need to consult an atlas in order to figure out where these places are located.  I like going to a place that I have only a vague, usually inaccurate, preconceived notion about (e.g. the Balkan peninsula as a somewhat unappetizing, war-ravaged region) and to have my worldview challenged and altered. 

An interior shot of Palacio Real.

So, that´s the general direction I think I´ll be heading to after Spain:  to eastern Europe and the Balkan peninsula.

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