Madrid - SPAIN
SUNDAY 15TH NOVEMBER 1998
We survived yet another 6 degree Celsius evening and welcomed the warmth of the morning sun. Again the morning passed quickly by and we found ourselves at the the metro station nearing mid-day. The rush was on as the Centro de Art Reina Sofia was opening its doors free to the public until 2pm.
The gallery wasn't far from the metro station and we found ourselves with an hour and a half to saviour its delights - a grand collection of modern art. Its 13 rooms are centred around a garden courtyard in an old converted 18th century hospital. The collection includes work from cubist and surrealist masters such as Picasso, Dali (whose vivid impressions of the surrealist world blows the mind - they're some of my personal favourites), Juan Gris, Miro etc. The most important piece in the gallery adorns nearly a whole room and is known as Guernika by Picasso. The massive, almost 4 x 8 metre painting was commissioned for the Paris Exposition of 1937 and depicts a rather unfathomable and confusing picture of the horrors of war. It was only a month ago when we passed through the thriving little town of Guernika, home of the nationalists against Franco's oppression during this century's Spanish Civil War. In 1936 Franco (Spain's Dictator) ordered German allies to drop a bomb on Pais Vasco and this painting has become a vivid, controversial statement of condemnation against atrocities committed during the Civil War. Its colours contain stark greys and bright whites, although one would be hard pressed to work out what exactly the picture is depicting. The other "art" contained on subsequent floors in my opinion was modernist crap and not worth a visit (you know the sort - three dots on a canvas and all that!)
The next three to four hours caught us up in a walking tour of almost the entire city, starting from the Puerta del Sol (the centre of town) and finished near our favourite tapas and coffee bar. Some prominent memories of the walk include many Gothic churches; Plaza Mayor (Madrid's most famous square, almost reminiscent of something from Venice); the historic Plaza de la Villa (surrounded by a medieval town hall, mansion and tower adorned in crumbling brickwork); a maze of cobbled streets (now home to locals and tourist-free tapas bars where crowds sprawl out onto the streets); the Royal Palace overlooking the green Plaza de Oriente; the vibe and grandeur of the fountain and atmosphere contained within Plaza de Espana; the tree-lined boulevard of Grand Via; Madrid's favourite roundabout, called Plaza de la Cibeles and the grand boulevard of Recoletos (full of 19th century charm and some of the city's classiest cafes, bars, restaurants and residences).
We went to Plaza de Espana for a slap up Mexican meal and returned to the campsite by 11pm to lay down for a well deserved rest in complete piece and quiet as the bar was closed on the sabbath!