Our flight on Thursday 30 with Air Iberia was very straight forward. Only 50 minutes door to door by train to the Berlin airport. Our flight was a cheapie so, like our cheapies in Oz, you bought your food. They had a good pasta carbonara in a cup which kept us going for 3.50 euro. It was beautiful flying over the Italian Alps and the Pyrenees, both very craggy, and still heavily covered in snow.
From Madrid railway station we took a train – 20 minutes, then a short bus ride – and got to our apartment before 6pm. The guy from Way to Stay – a very nice fellow – was there to let us in. Mateo, call me Mat or Mathew, he said.
A great apartment just for the night as we had made a mistake about our date of arrival. (Booked the apartment and then changed the date we left Berlin and forgot to change our arrival day with Way to Stay!) But lovely place to land, not far from the centre, and not far to move again tomorrow.
Found a supermarket, bought enough for breakfast then went on a long wander. Found some interesting spots including the Mercato San Miguel, wall to wall tapas. Ended up in the Indian area at around 9.30 as we were starving and needed more than a range of tapas. Very good meal. And low cost. Needless to say we slept well.
The next morning, Friday 31, Al struggled with SIM card issues for a while but finally got them dealt with. Problem mainly that we have a German Aldi SIM card and all the instructions and communications are in German. Up to now, we have done it through our Berlin hosts who do it for us. Anyway, as they were in transit from Oz, Al decided to have a go – and he managed. So we are now set for Spain. Al will iron out a few more things with Rene on Saturday after they arrive in Berlin.
Off to the Museo National Centro de Arte Reina Sofia (named after Sophia, the Greek born wife of Spain’s present King) for 2 ½ hours of amazing art. A wonderful building for a start, very modern, sitting in what was an 18th century general hospital. The glass escalators are all on the outside, adding to the amazing way it looks. It is very light, the work is beautifully hung, very spacious. It is Madrid’s museum of modern art – really 20th century art. We mainly only covered the 2nd floor so of course will be going back – especially as we haven’t got to Picasso’s Guernica yet. The queues were too long. The museum is organised in themes, not artists, so you come across them again and again. There is a strong emphasis on Spanish art – so Picasso, Miro, Gris, Dali, and an amazing woman called Angeles Santos who stormed the Spanish art scene in 1929 by her painting “A World” at the age of 18. She lived to 102! The audio was very very helpful – especially for amateurs like us. We felt we have never understood cubism anything like as much as we did after this.
(If you come here and are a senior, be ready to say you are over 65 and show your passport. We got in for nothing).
To cap it all – an Alexander Calder mobile in the garden.
Then we had a great meal close by. Madrilenes eat the main meal at lunch time – between 2 and 3, and they often eat what they call, a Menu del Dio. They then mainly snack on tapas and wine at night. So we left the museum and found a beautiful one – I think we were the only tourists. The menu of the day consisted of
First plate – we chose a potato salad, and a mushroom hot dish – shared them and they were magnificent.
Second plate – a thin steak for one, and a chicken breast with salad and chips – which I don’t usually eat but they were terrific.
Plus a bottle of red, and a roll. Pleased to be able to say we didn’t finish the bottle!
Each 10.50 euros. Amazing value, cheaper than eating at home. We had to hurry a bit as we were meeting Mat to take us to our new apartment.
Well – our new apartment is unbelievable. It is right in the middle. We will take some shots and send them, but surrounded by the most gorgeous buildings. We feel as if we have fallen on our feet, and it is not expensive at all. We have it for 7 nights and I know now we won’t want to leave.
A note on how we are feeling. Yesterday we reckon we were a bit stunned. Madrid is so different from Berlin. Berlin is very organised, everything works perfectly, it is relatively quiet, very easy to live there peacefully. Madrid is just the opposite. It is extremely chaotic, the traffic is heaving and messy. Few people would risk riding a bike. The people are loud. For example today in the museum there were kids everywhere on school excursions, with teachers trying to keep their voices down as they discussed the art, and kids responding enthusiastically and loudly. Or, when you get in a lift. Everyone talks at the top of their voices, extremely lively. And friendly. Berliners were friendly enough – but Madrilenes (as they are known) are a race apart.
Back to the Reina Sofia
Back to the museum about 5pm. On the way we noticed another piece of street art – where but Madrid, surely! Got in on the same free tickets – and even got our audio guides back at no charge. We went straight to Picasso’s Guernica. There was still a bit of a queue but we were entered within 15 minutes. If you are anything like us you may not know anything or much about this painting. It is basically the centre of the gallery and its most precious piece of art, and everyone goes to see it. Perhaps not little kids as it is pretty gruesome. It is very large – higher than Blue Poles and about the same length. To quote Eye Witness Top 10 Madrid. “In April 1937, at the height of the Civil War, German bombers devastated the Baque town of Guernia in support of General Franco’s Nationalist forces. The attack —- on a defenceless civilian population caused international outrage.”
Picasso completed the painting in 2 months and it was first exhibited in June 1937. It’s first showing was at the Paris World Fair. It is an indictment of war as senseless and barbaric, and largely is about its effect on civilians. Look it up on the web and get more details or I will be tempted to go on. A special exhibition around it opens next week and we will go. It will include sketches which Picasso did in preparation, and photos taken by his lover and muse, Dora Maar, which also were used by Picasso. We will know more about that after next week.
After Guernica we went to see a few other paintings.
Headed off home again, completely done in. On the way we bumped into a little night life in Plaza Sol – the Spanish band and dancer in feature image for this blog. The dancer kept it up for 15 minutes while we were there, and was not a day under 70! Suitably reinvigorated, we bought a few nibbles at the supermarket downstairs, had a cup of tea, and were soon in bed. Despite the impromptu performance, no late night tapas and wine for us after a day like that.