My second day in Madrid was another beautiful one. The weather was perfect and I had a full day of sightseeing on the agenda. However, I had to take care of one tiny blunder—a hostel transfer. Due to my unexpected earlier departure (the life of a non-rever), I had to book a night at a different location. That morning, I checked out, bid Pedro and his colleagues adios, and headed on to my new home for the next few days, a hostel succinctly named “Way”. Thankfully, it was only a few blocks away and was under the same management. It was cleverly camouflaged in one of the minor streets and though I was skeptical at first, I was very pleased with the insides of it. It was clean, inviting, and the reception area was on the first floor! Pao was the guy on day shift and he got me settled. He did not have the same immediate effect Pedro did to me, but…do not think for one second that he was least bit unattractive.
Now that the hostel situation was taken care of, I headed towards the Museo de Sofia Reina, Madrid’s modern art museum. The museum housed the infamous Guernica, Pablo Picasso’s biggest and most meaningful masterpiece. It was created in response to the coup d’etat during Francisco Franco’s reign leading up to WWII. I spent a couple of hours perusing the halls, then I was off to see the attraction I was looking forward to the most–a house turned museum called Museo Cerralbo. Unfortunately, it was not until after a strenuous hike that I found out about its temporary closure due to indoor renovations. That experience reminded me to check and then re-check my itineraries. After I did some re-shuffling, I decided to head to Retiro Park. It is an outdoor recreational area with French manicured gardens, towering sculptures, and a lake where paddle boats can be rented—very much like Versailles or Central Park. People of all sorts congregate here to roller skate, bike, and stroll. Some play football, or simply camp out for a nice siesta. It truly is a fascinating place to be. In addition to the variety of people to watch, the park also houses some of Madrid’s landmarks including the Crystal Palace and a monument dedicated to Alfonso XIII. The former isn’t truly a palace, but more of a huge greenhouse. The architecture is late Georgian and inside it are varieties of fauna all originating from my home country, the Philippines. The latter, on the other hand, faces a man-made lake and is surrounded by towering marble columns reminiscent of the Roman Forum. After a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the city, I walked towards Plaza de la Independencia, one of the many squares around the city of Madrid. This particular plaza is where the Alcala Gate stands. To Madrilenos, it is a symbolic gate to the east side of the city but for me, like all other unique structure, a good photo opportunity.
It was mid afternoon and I was getting hungry so I descended down the metro station and waited for the subway to take me back to Sol where my complimentary lunch awaits courtesy of El Corte Ingles—the Spanish mall equivalent but with a handful more variety and sophistication. My apperatif though, came in the form of serenading Italians and orating Germans. On my way to Sol, football fans came pouring in to begin what would be a 24 hour long fiesta culminating with the Champions League final the next day in Madrid. For those of you unfamiliar with football, the Champions League is comprised of the top four teams within the tier one professional leagues all over Europe. That year, it was the Bundesliga team of Bayern Munich and the Serie A team of Internazionale Milano that made it to the final. The atmosphere was unlike any I have experienced before. It was simply…awesome!
After my brief lunch, I walked around Sol and absorbed more of the growing football atmosphere. Territories have been marked and much of the square was segregated: the east side was Red for the Germans, and the west side was Blue for the Italians. Countless cheering, ranting and singing engulfed the plaza and this continued all throughout the night. My feet were glued to the ground in fascination and had it not been for a pre-booked tapas tour that night, I would have stayed and partied with both fans; I’m Switzerland after all. Oddly enough, our meeting point for the tour that night took me back to Sol. My tour guide came in a form of an English bloke who’s lived in Madrid for half of his life. He spoke a bit about Madrid and the places he planned on taking us to. Our tour was comprised of over four hours of food and wine indulgence. We sampled at least two dozen types of tapas in four different bars, each serving specialties from different parts of the country. It was one of the most enjoyable segments of my trip and one that I would definitely NOT forget, largely in part of what occurred the following day…tbc