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During my travels, my compensation for free accommodation for one night, was for me to write a daily travel diary. Of how I got to my next location, the people who would host me, the food I was offered and everything else. Below you find the archives of the highly extensive reports. Know that English is not my native language and most reports were written at high speed around midnight. Enjoy.

Wednesday, 12 December 2001
--> Madrid (E)

I travel on foot through the centre of Madrid, talk myself into a museum and stay with Juan and Anna who took me out on a late (read: Spanish) lunch and late (read: Spanish) dinner. Someway everything in this city is happening rather later than I am used to...

At 9.30 Belen Sagrario comes back from bringing Miguel to school. She let´s me stay in her home to write my report on her pc and upload December 10, while she says goodbye and goes off to her work. I thanked her for letting me stay, taking me out and all the rest.

I get online after I had a shower.

At 12.30 I leave the place, heading for the centrepiece of beautiful Madrid. Belen gave me a route to get to Plaza Castilla with a bus and where I had to take the underground metro line 1 to station Atoche Renfe. She had given me 1000 Pesetas for the necessary tickets and there would be enough money to get myself a drink.

The metro has been built in the beginning of the 20th century, but it doesn´t look that old. Above each platform televisions broadcast the latest news and commercials. In the metro I was even surprised by two guitar players who suddenly started to sing an uptempo Spanish song. After two stops, they put the guitar back in their bags and left the metro. Just like that…

At 1.30 I meet up with Anna Mayer, who is an English teacher. We decide to meet up again at 4.30, when she´ll be finished with her work. She arranges that my heavy backpack is in a locker at the station so I can explore Madrid on foot.

I ordered a coffee at one of the open bars at the station before heading off. And one of those chocolate croissants, napolitana. Fascinating, the man next to me orders a beer and his drink comes straight of the tap. And the bar is full of liquor, you can get whatever you want at this public place. I love this country already…

As I seem to be an interesting tourist, I get another café con leche for free with a big smile from one of the young ladies. She looks like a student. I notice people looking at my letmestayforaday-winterjacket, with my logo stitched on it. I hope they don´t know it, no they don´t.

I walked from the big station Atoche Renfe (where all the long distance trains depart towards the south) onto the Paseo del Prado, also known as the Passage of Art, and passed the botanical garden of Madrid and the worldfamous Prado Museum.

In February 2000, on a road trip from Holland to Madrid and Barcelona with my friends, I visited the Prado Musuem before. It was very interesting to see what mankind had been creating the last centuries and fascinating to see how things evolved. We had been walking around there for hours! And suddenly we became those conscious art-loving students that we never wanted to be…

At the Plaza de Canovas del Castillo, across the fakeness of a Planet Hollywood bar, I saw the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, located in this 18th century palace Villathermose, where the exhibition Forma was currently being exposed and what a coincidence! I read about this exhibition in the inflight magazine of the world´s worst airline!

Inside this warm and spacious place, the lady at the ticket office asked me to pay 600 Pesetas for the entrance fee. And that was where I fired a big load of words out in English, talking about being a writer and mentioning Hollanda and the website. And it was easy, because the lady immediately gave me the ticket for free after I added the words periodismo (journalism) and importante.

Probably she became nervous of all that English and to get rid of me, giving me a ticket must have been the easiest solution. However, I was inside!

I enjoyed this exhibition that proposes a new interpretation of the relationship between 19th century classicism and the modern art of the 20th century. And the key of this relationship was, of course, the use of form.

This formalism placed greater emphasism on the forms than on the content of a work of art. The rooms contained works by Renoir and Cézanne, Matisse and Picasso, showing how the form evolved from simple nudism and landscapes to this outragious explosion of lines, volumes, space and composition. And we can all imagine a Picasso painting: it can be whatever you want to see in it. Sometimes.

It was around 4.30 whebn I called Anna, who was now finishing her English teaching class and we arranged to meet up again at 5.30 at the Atoche Renfe station.

I walked through the small streets of Madrid and I must emphasise that it was again very cold. The signs said it was 11 degrees, but it felt much colder of course.

These streets have probably been here for centuries and nothing has changed. Every street has a little pub and I always saw people in them. Every three streets seems to have a pharmacy as I am correct, so it will be okay with the Spanish people´s vitamins level.

Afte 5.30 I walked with Anna to her apartment near the metro station Anton Martin, right in the centre of Madrid, where she lives with her husband Juan Lara. It was Juan who had invited me over long before I started my journey, after reading about me in a little anouncement in El Mundo.

He thought it just was a very good idea, so why not offer his guy a bed?

I found out that Anna is originally Italian and her meeting with Juan was enough for her to settle in Spain and getting married.

I was amazed by their big apartment on the 4th floor of a small street. It´s about 100 square metres, at least! A kid would could safely learn how to cycle a bike in here.

Funny, after the construction of the underground metro web and followed by over 80 years of standing on shaking soil, the house is now standing in a 10 degrees corner, ready to play domino with the neihbours.

A kid would be able to cycle up the hill in this house. What a character it gives to a house.

Anna had skipped her lunch today, so was pretty hungry and took me along to a restaurant called Miau, a few blocks away from the house, where I was introduced with the Spanish dried ham on toast (swimming in olive oil) and tortilla (which is defenitely something different than Mexican tortilla – the Spanish is something like filled eggs, scrambled together in a pizza sized cake).

Anna gave me here home keys as she noticed that I could use a little nap. I could easily find my way back as she would do some shopping.

It was about 7pm and we just had lunch, which isn´t strange for the Madrileno people. I just have to adjust these new timetables.

Christmas lights were lit above the streets and somehow I can stand on a streetcorner in Madrid for hours. Compare this city with Johannesburg and Johannesburg is the most boring place on earth, really! Here people walk on the streets, always chatting and in cozy groups. I hear music from various tapasbars and sounds of TV´s from the balconies. This city is defenitely alive!

Back at the apartment I slept away until Juan woke me up around 8.30. With sleepy eyes I said Hi to him and they were ready to go out for dinner. Packed up against the coldness of this Madrid winter evening, I followed the couple through this maze of streets until we ended in a Spanish restaurant. We shared the plates with different tapas on it for dinner.

Juan was very surprised with the email I sent out a few weeks ago, about my coming visit to Spain. When he told Anna about it, she asked: “Who have you invited?”

I told Anna earlier today that I was experiencing difficulties with my other invites in Madrid, I defenitely would have to get moving out soon. “You look like a nice guy, why don´t you stay another few days?” Juan told me. And Anna added: “You are invited to stay for our dinner party on Friday.” Wow. Hey! If this is the hospitality of the Spanish and the Italians, I´ll be having a great time the coming months!

I was very happy with their offer. I really didn´t want to leave this town that early already. This is Madrid! This is the capital! (And I think I have always been secretly in love with it).

I studied the Spanish menu in the restaurant, where Anna and Juan were helping me out, to understand what I was eating this time. And we talked about the Spanish culture, having a job in Spain, social codes, Sevilla, oranges, Italian food and winter. Yes, we talked a lot…

After walking back home, my hosts were all becoming very sleepy. When they got to bed, I connected myself on their speedy ADSL-internet connection and started typing.

Good night Madrid!


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