Madrid, Spain

Madrid is the capital of Spain and the third largest city in Europe. The name Madrid is thought to be a combination of the spanish words for strawberry tree and bear (madrono), which has been the cities coat of arms since the middle ages. Jeff and I made our travels to the magical city of strawberry loving bears from Paris, after spending the long weekend at a tournament in Amsterdam. We took a night train, and since the Paris trains do not have coed shared cabins, we had to get a first class family car in order to stay together. In the confusion of getting on the train, a few people thought our cabin was theirs and opened the door to find us sitting inside. The funniest one of these was when an older midwest/southern American women opened the door, looked at us, closed the door, and loudly exclaimed outside our door “Oh my god, there were people in there!” Hopefully that was not the most exciting thing she saw in Europe. We spent the night drinking wine and eating cheese and baguettes watching the french scenery slowly turn into Spanish scenery. The travel took about 12 hours.
We were only going to spend one night in Madrid, so after we found a hostel we headed out to explore the city. The weather was kind of crummy and we were both tired from our train, but we managed to check out some of the western part of the city.
Statue in front of Palace of Communciations
Statue along the Calle de Alcalá

We didn’t have any agenda for the day, so we wandered around the city until our friend Hermann was done working and could entertain us. We eventually stopped for lunch and I had a Cafe Bonbom, which is a shot of espresso with a shot of condense milk. It was like adding too much sugar to your coffee, making the drink very sweet, but also thick and syrup-like. I know I’m not painting the best picture, especially for seasoned coffee drinkers, but it was really good and is worth trying once. 

One of the best parts of Madrid was the tapas. Not the tapas that you order from a menu, which were good of course, but the tapas that come whenever you order a drink, free of charge. We were ordering mojitos, and with every drink comes potato chips, olives, or some other small snack. One place we went to just had a buffet of random snacks that once you ordered a drink you could eat from. It was a beautiful thing.
That night we went out with Hermann and his friends for drinks, but what we didn’t know until we arrived was that it was actually Hermann’s birthday. We stayed out until 2 in the morning, talking with the many native-english speakers that were in Spain teaching English or studying. I was extremely jealous at their fluidity of spanish. I have been learning German for nearly two years now, and while my comprehension is definitely better than any other foreign language I tried to learn, (4 years of High school/college Spanish) I still can’t speak worth a damn. Many people say that German is much harder to learn though, so I’ll grasp onto that excuse for now.
We walked home from the bar, which was maybe a kilometer or two from our hostel, and we had one of our repeated arguments. Jeff and I like to argue about the safety of walking home in foreign places at night. I typically am the big scaredy cat, and assume that every corner and shadow holds a big thug with a gun who wants to mug us. Jeff doesn’t think this way. I know that in the end, I am being the silly one, and while many might phrase my caution, I am learning that this is no way to live. I think I am beginning to agree with this blogger about his opinion.
The next day we had a bit of a late start but we saw much more of the attractions of the city. Madrid is the more business city of Spain, while Barcelona is the more touristy and artsy city. Yet, one of the most famous pieces of Spanish literature was written near Madrid, and has a monument to it in the city. The novel Don Quixote is what I’m talking about of course, the story of the crazy knight who attempts to revive chivalry. Seriously, who doesn’t love the story of Don Quixote?
Don Quixote monument in Madrid
Then there is the Royal Palace of Madrid. We saw some guards dressed in traditional grab and riding horses. That, in my opinion, would be a pretty awesome job to have. I just imagine sitting in a bar, and the person next to me asks what I do for a living, and being able to say “oh, I’m a royal guard” is definitely in the top ten responses… I’ll have to compile that list some day.
Crest on the Royal Palace
Royal Palace of Madrid
Across from the Royal Palace is the Amuldena Cathedral. It’s a pretty building, and supposedly the story is that when the capital of Spain was moved to Madrid, the seat of the church of Spain stayed in Toledo (previous Capital), which left the Capital to have no cathedral, which was highly unusual for a religious country. Thus Amuldena Cathedral was built. 
 
Amuldena Cathedral
The Royal Palace and Amuldena Cathedral from afar.
The last cool place we visited in Madrid was the Temple of Didot, but I don’t have any photos. Back in the day, Egypt was going to build a dam and flood a river, but there was an ancient egyptian temple on the river bank that would be lost if they built the dam. Spain lent them a hand, and helped Egypt move the temple so that it would not be lost in the flooding. In thanks for the help, Egypt gave Spain an egyptian temple. You know, because they had a few extras lying around, and that is what countries give as gifts. Temples. 
That night Jeff and I took another night train to Lisbon for a frisbee tournament that weekend. Hermann and a few of his friends saw us off at the train station, all over the world, the Ultimate community is the best.
Madrid Street Art. Saw a few of these around the city, white paint over graffiti to make more art. Great idea.

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