Madrid has grown on me. There´s nothing like watching yesterday´s eclipse (or rather, not looking at the eclipse) in the company of a large crowd of locals and tourists in the gardens of the royal palace to make you appreciate a place.
I took a train Saturday morning from Barcelona to Madrid. The person I sat next to was blind, and I don´t think he had the most exciting trip. He didn´t speak much English, I don´t speak much Spanish, plus he couldn´t appreciate the incredible and various scenery flying past. The colors of the Spanish landscape, lush greens and beautiful white sands, contrast with the rich blue Mediterranean sky, and the effect is gorgeous.
They began showing a movie on the train. What could it be? Some unknown Spanish melodrama, with noble peasants, forbidden love and an evil priest who can fly? Some lame Rob Schneider vehicle, dubbed? Nope. It was "Witness for the Prosecution" an Agatha Christie courtroom drama with Charles Laughton and Marlena Deitrich. Never in a million years could I have predicted that.
When we got to the train station, I headed to the tourist info booth. I saw a long line and thought "Great. Guess this is it." Wrong. As it turns out, there was no line at the tourist info booth. This long line was for the cigarette booth.
As mentioned before, after checking in, I went straight to the Prado. The Metropolitan Museum is larger, and the Louvre has incredible work, but the Prado has the highest ratio of both masterpieces and little known paintings that are nonetheless fascinating. Almost no crap. Unfortunately, while I was there, they also had no Carevaggios. I asked a guard, and was informed that their entire collection was on loan to a museum in...Barcelona. Dóh!
I got yelled at by one of the museum guards. Twice. I was in the Bosch room in front of "Garden of Delights" and using the zoom lens on my videocamera to see small details of the painting. I had been doing this for a few minutes, when a security guard sternly explained in Spanish that you are not allowed to videotape the paintings. I don´t have the language skills to explain, so I simply said (in English) that I was not taping, that I was just looking through the lens to get closer. No deal. I asked if I could look through my regular camera. That was okay.
So, after a minute or two of zooming in through my regular camera, she came over and yelled again. She pantomimed that you can only lift the camera, focus, take a quick picture, then put the camera down. (To her credit, some digital still cameras can take brief videoclips, although that was not what I was doing). I suddenly could see myself getting into an argument which would blossom into an international incident, and end with me being banned from a museum I had crossed an ocean to see. I had to content myself with studying Bosch´s vision of Hell, convinced I would see the security guard in there somewhere, no doubt instructing other demons on the proper way to watch the sinner´s torments.
to be continued