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Published: September 30th 2010
Sunday morning. A Madrid hangover often involves a coffee in a bar while your fellow party animals carry on sinking cervezas
. Not surprising as a working mans breakfast here often involves a beer or two.
Madrid's markets are a Sunday ritual as much as Catholics have church and I have hangovers, and Madrid comes out on the street to stroll, see, sell stuff and just generally be part of their city.
The Rastros - table-top sales and flea markets are around the south-west of the city. The main streets around Calle Toledo have the sellers of trinkets, football scarves and discounted homewares, whereas the dusty back streets are where the old men and women set up rickety tables and pile them high with piles of stuff.
Some people call this stuff junk and sell it cheap, some people call this 'vintage' and crank up the price.
The old guys sit there all day, stoically guarding the tables of ancient nick-nacks. Their wifes chatter together, shouting across the lanes and occasionally taking the money if anyone actually chooses something.
Generally, for all the noise, people and goods on display, not much actually seems to get sold here.
art pictures, old spanish books, crusty furniture and dusty ceramics feel like they are dragged out and plonked there every week, along with the pock-faced old men and aside the old ochre walls of Madrid's back streets.
Just being here seems enough for everyone, just being part of the city.
That is, until i stroll into a wide open square. i'm not sure of the name of it but it should be renamed 'The Square of the Football Card Traders', for the only thing to buy here was the small trading cards that young boys love to collect and trade when they are obsessed with football and football players. The vendors stand and call out the names of the best cards they have, and teenage boys and their dads peck from trader to trader, trying to complete their sets for the best price possible. A true market-square with all the hustle and blag of city share traders. I'm sure many of Madrid's best businessmen have learnt a few tricks in this square.
I spent my hungover Madrid Sunday strolling these crumbley streets, nibbling pastrys and coffees on corners and absorbing the city for hours. Just being part
of the city.
One pleasant surprise for anyone visiting madrid is that their biggest, loudest and proudest museum is FREE in the evenings, just for a few, short hours .
Which is handy really, as thats all anyone should be allowed to absorb when it comes to the antiques and the dusty stuff stuck in museums.
For some reason, travelling abroad seems to fire up a strange desire to go and look at big oil paintings of old religious scenes. Nearly every voice I heard in The Museo Prado was american, french or ozzie.
I guess we all feel a little bit guilty when we leave our hard working families and friends and we just jaunt off on a global jolly. Looking at a bunch 400 year-old Venetian paintings perhaps dissolves a bit of that guilt, allowing ourselves to prove to our friends back home that we didn't just imbibe our way through the cultures of the world, but maybe we learnt something on our way.
But what do we learn?
Oil painting was loved by those rich Venetian traders as they began owning huge piles of money, and they challenged the old ideas of ownership
and possessions. The paintings allowed them to 'own' their possessions and also to 'own' their families and memories, much as we take pictures with our cameras these days.
I raised my camera, no flash, no sound, and took a snap of Jesus on the cross.
Poor guy, stuck up there being ignored by hordes of backpackers clattering past.
'NON!!!' said one of the guards. No photography.
The Museo Prado 'owned' the picture of Jesus now, so they must have been afraid of me 'owning' Jesus for myself, no matter how small and digitally different it was from the original.
Instead, I was steered toward the gift shop where lots of postcard versions of Jesus were for sale.
Owning Jesus meant more money could be made, and the museum was keener to sell their wares than the back lane market traders out in the streets.
I stepped back outside, ready to be part of the city for the rest of the day. Hangover cured. Thank you, Madrid.
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