MADRID: ART (DEL PRADO), SOCCER (MADNESS) & MUSIC (LISZT) – THREE HIGHLIGHTS OF SPANISH CAPITAL
We felt as if we have been circling around the Spanish capital like an eagle slowly spiraling down to its prey. Not that we intended Madrid any harm. More like savoring its delicious flavor.
This circling continued the morning of May 24. Unwittingly. Madrid lay less than 30 miles southeast of El Escorial where we started our May 24 day. Yet we took over an hour to get there. Our map of Spain did not have a city map for Madrid. So we kept guessing which exit to take from the freeway. And we kept being wrong.
Eventually, we entered Madrid from the east even though El Escorial, our starting point, was to the northwest. 🙂
Since we did enjoy our “NH” (hotel chain) El Escorial hotel, we decided to do the same in Madrid. So we booked Paseo Del Prado hotel, right next to the famous museum we were hoping to visit.
In fact, while planning this trip back in February, the only thing we had intended to do in Madrid is go to Del Prado.
When I was in the Spanish capital the last time (in 2007), I was really bummed out that the museum was closed for renovation. And Elizabeth had never been to Spain before. So we were both looking forward to Del Prado, a virgin visit for both of us.
Then about a month or so before we left on this trip, I read somewhere in the news that on May 24 the European soccer club championship final will take place. And that both teams playing for the title of the best club in Europe are from Madrid – Real vs. Atletico.
So I decided to look up on our itinerary where we were supposed to be on May 24. Turns out – Madrid! Can you believe it?
When I told Elizabeth about it, she could not believe it, either. And neither could my chiropractor-friend in Scottsdale who is a former professional soccer player.
The first question he asked me when he heard we were going to Europe in May was, “where will you be on May 24?” 🙂
Anyway, so here we were in the Spanish capital, primed for Del Prado and its art treasures, when all around us madding soccer crowds were already starting to form. The above pictures were taken during a short walk from our hotel to Del Prado.
That’s where we also witnessed this interesting concept – a bike-bus in which all passengers are also drivers. They pedal together. 🙂
Once inside the museum, we were immediately struck by a multitude of Phillip II paintings and portraits.
Even though taking pictures was not allowed inside the museum, I figured I’d give myself permission to do so. After all, the museum never asked for my permission to hang those paintings. 🙂
This portrait was made by Antonius Mor after Mary’s July 1554 marriage to Philip II of Spain. The queen wears a wedding ring and a jewel given to her by Philip in June of that year. Mor accompanied Philip to England and his talent impressed the English nobility. Mary was 38 years old when this portrait was done. She died four years later (in 1558).
The painting on the right is a detail from the only painting of Phillip and Mary together. The larger painting of which this scene is a part hangs at Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire, England.
We spent about 2-3 hours at Del Prado before taking a walk along the city streets. Our general direction was Plaza Mayor, the center of Madrid.
Even though the Real-Atletico game was more than four hours away, the streets were teeming with fans. They wore their team’s colorful shirt and/or shawls. Some were already into drink and song and dance.
Both Plaza Mayor (left) and Casa de America Plaza (right), another big Madrid square, were also decked out in team colors and various memorabilia. At the latter plaza there was also a big screen being set up, presumably for a public broadcast of the game this evening.
It was very easy to get caught up in this soccer madness. Elizabeth has never experienced anything like it. I have not either, on this scale (Madrid is Europe’s third largest city – after London and Berlin), though I have seen soccer fever at other venues and times.
Perhaps you will get a better sense for it from the video at the end of this story.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth and I felt we needed a break. So we sat down at one of the bistros near Plaza Mayor on Calle de Alcala (see the map), and ordered some delicious treats. Later, Elizabeth was to say that this was one of her fondest memories of our special day in Madrid.
Once we got to Plaza Mayor, a group of mostly Real Madrid fans saw me making a video. Suddenly, they surrounded me and seem to adopt me as their mascot. As I was filming them, they lined up both with me and in front me taking pictures of us together.
One of them, the guy in red-and-white striped shirt wearing diapers took my Espana hat and put it on his head. Overall, it was a very spontaneous scene. It was refreshing to see the fans of two opposing club mingling and partying together.
And here you can see yours truly proving that point – wearing a shawl with both teams insignia which Elizabeth bought for me from a your British (!?) street vendor at Casa de America plaza.
On May 24, Madrid was definitely the “soccer capital of the world,” as some of the signs claimed. Hopefully you will also be able to get a sense of some of that special atmosphere in the video below.
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After all the hoopla as preamble, I was afraid that the game itself might be a letdown. It was not. It was as exciting as soccer gets.
The underdog, Atletico, led 1-0 all through the regulation time. But Real tied the score in 93rd minute, three minutes into extra time, to send the match into overtime. Real scored again in 115th minute. After that, Atletico defense fell apart. Final score – Real 4, Atletico 1.
What followed an all-night party in the streets of Madrid. As we were checking out of our hotel around 8 AM, the hotel clerk told me that when she came to work at 7 AM, there were still some revelers left in the streets.
And you thought soccer was about kicking a ball around? Soccer is Passion, Ecstasy, Agony, Dance and Music… all in one.
In other words, the Joy of Living. And nowhere was that more apparent than in the “soccer capital of the world” on May 24.
ALL-NIGHT STREET PARTY
Check out these still images…
Nor is soccer passion limited to Madrid or Spain. Check out this example of it at a game today at the World Cup in Brazil.
Sadly, we Americans don’t get “soccer madness.” We have been brainwashed to think of sports the same was as wars – combat between two teams. American footballs looks more like the Roman-style gladiators out to kill each other than a friendly sport contest.
The rest of the world knows better. Modern Romans are aware of the ancient Romans’ brutality and want no part of it. They remember that the ancient Greeks STOPPED ALL WARS during the Olympic Games. Ditto re. the native Hawaiians’ Makahiki games (see Elizabeth “compete” in the downhill sliding event). That’s when adversaries competed with each other in a FRIENDLY contest, the way Real and Atletico soccer teams did on May 24.
Win or lose, the fans of BOTH clubs had a great time that day (and night). And so did Elizabeth and I.