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Published: August 31st 2007
StatuesBack in the old world
Watching the goings-on in busy Gran Via.
Soon after landing in Madrid we could smell it. The smell of the old used land. The smell of leafless trees and a winter breeze. The smell of ancient kingdoms and venerable churches. And as we moved on we could smell the smoke and the coffee in the allyways of the old town. The smell of heated shops and busy people moving between them. The smell of Europe. Modern ancient Europe. We were back. Has anything changed? Nothing has changed. Not in two years anyway. Public transport works mostly well but people like to traffic jam. To drink a coffee in a cafe nearly ruins you and Real Madrid is about to sack their next manager. Any other problems?
We are overcome with a strange feeling as we stroll along paseo de Bolivia and into Avenida Peru. This was one of the very centres of imperialism. After having spent most of our travelling time in formerly colonised countries we are now on the other side again. The dark side, the enlighted side. Whatever side. Moving side is as easy as visiting your neighbour these days. Things have changed. But some consequences remain.
The Royal Palace
Official residence of the King of Spain.
news is that there is a wealth of culture to be seen and marvel at in a metropolis like Madrid. Many beautiful churches, squares and town houses have been built with gold from overseas. Furthermore, the fact that there have been people 300 years ago who could afford to collect art (and not do much else) brings us marvellous exhibitions to admire today.
The bad news is that Bolivia where at least some of the wealth originated, people are still mad at the white man and above all don't always have enough food. Although there are no longer ships bringing gold across the Atlantic imperialism continues until today. Money travels lighter these days. As the miners in Bolivian Potosí are busily trying to scrap the remaining mineral resources out of their Rich Hill, most of the profits miraculously land in some American or European bank account.
So here we are in Madrid, hoping for more equality in the world but not having a plan on how to achieve it. Still, we decide to enjoy the beautiful palaces and the great museums. On a daytrip we take in the nicely situated old town of Toledo and then after realising
that a train ticket to Switzerland would cost us about three times the amount of that of an airplane seat we reluctantly board a plane home. After two years on the road this will definitely be the last leg of our journey. At least we have already scented the smell of Europe now.
Find more stories and pictures on our Lovelyplanet-Homepage
. Planet Portrait
- Top 3:
The many alleys and nice houses in the old town.
The art museums.
The metro. Cheap and efficient.
- Our route: Madrid
- That was bad: We realised that our great trip was nearly over.
- Recommended guest house: Hostal Lucense near Plaza Santa Ana.
- Money saver tip: Free entry to the museums. Reina Sofia on Saturday afternoons, Prado on Sundays.
- We paid for a meal: 3 Euros.
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