Madrid: Art and Bullfighting

The BEar: Symbol of Madrid
 Madrid is one of the cultural capitals of Europe. Although dwarfed by the likes of neighbouring Paris and the flashy Milan, expansive London or glitzy Rome, Madrid does carry itself well. As one arrives from Valencia by the superfast Ave trains that clock 300kmph, the Madrid Atocha station seems at first unassuming. The walk to take the cab is a long one or perhaps we took the wrong exit. Its only once you climb out of the concourse can you imagine the gigantic proportions of the station and the nearby stunning architecture. The fact that Madrid has been the capital of Spain and its world encompassing colonies for nearly a millenia (albeit interrupted by Moorish conquests) has rubbed off on the attitudes and atmosphere of the place. So while Barcelona looks fresh and even bubbly, Madrid to a casual visitor is officious, almost New Delhi like! But don't be fooled. Like Delhi, it hides in its massive stone buildings one of the largest collections of art. Numerous art galleries abound. The tickets are stiff. Be aware that there are days and times when the entry is free. Like the Thyssen Bornemisza collection is free on every Monday 12 to 4 pm. The venerable and massive Reima Sofiya is free after 7pm. A careful itinerary scheduling is required if you are an art buff and want to save a few euros. Notwithstanding these scheming mechanisms, the wide promenades of central Madrid with Gothic buildings are a pleasant walk at anytime.
Madrid Skyline with the legendary Metropole building on left

As the capital Madrid hosts a variety of art and cultural events which showcase perhaps what is the best of Spain. But it comes a huge price. Expect to pay Euro 50 or more for a Flamenco show. Instead, we try the other more controversial Spanish obsession: Bull fighting. The las ventas bull fighting stadium is easily reachable by the Ventas metro station. It has a guided tour which takes one around the stadium, explains the rules of the "game" and ends in a large museum. Of course it does not include viewing an actual fight. After doing this exhaustive tour we are very curious. So after much thought and leaving the kids alone at the hotel we land up again at the Las Ventas at the Bull Fight time in the evening. Alas! the tickets are all sold for the fight. But we do manage to find a wheeler dealer who sells us two tickets for 40 Euros, which are originally priced at 11. The atmosphere is palpable right from the metro train. The station is crowded, not by the tourists or the commuters but by the fans of bull fight. It turns out we have got the worst seats. Up above the and in the sun which at 6 pm is shining harshly right on the face. But none of it matters. all the 25000 seats of the stadium are taken and it is like Wankhede Stadium on an India Pak One Day cricket match.
La Ventas packed with spectators for the Bull fight

The crowd is phenomenal. We sit on the concrete. All around us there is cheering. Soon it begins. I will not like to go into the gory details but it is a very clear calculated method of killing the bull. He does not stand a chance. The crowd falls silent as the matador performs a particularly dangerous manoeuvre. In one of the fights the Matador is actually thrown up by the bull. But the ending is certain. There are certain curious rules. I try asking my neighbour, who is wearing a large somberoro and smelling of beer and tobacco. He speaks fast Spanish, and manages to say only "no ingles!" He explains to me in what seems like a vivid detail after each of the manouevres only I cannot understand a word of it! Each "match" has six fights. After the fourth bull has been slayed we decide that enough is enough and trudge back to our hotel. I had been much affected by the animation movie Ferdinand. Seeing a real bull fight in one of the largest arenas in Spain gives me the other perspective. There is only one word to describe the passion of the people for this "sport": Crazy. Earlier in the day, during the guided tour, the host was at pains to describe how the event is an "art" and respect for the bravery of the bull. It does seem like a merciless killing of a peaceful animal and at times one cannot but empathise and marvel at the skillful matador. I don't know where does the truth lie. Wherever it does, its not an easy place.

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I have always been charmed by Spain. I wish to travel there someday. Specially maybe around La Tomatina
Sonia Dogra said…
Spain has never been on my list but your write-up tempts me. And that arena is huge. It looks awesome!
Unknown said…
Madrid, the capital, is a vibrant city with intense, cultural, artistic and intellectual activities (as i have read). The bull fight arena seems to be similar to wankhede experience at Mumbai. One city which i plan to visit soon. Thanks for the insight.
A Lady Lawyer said…
I really enjoyed the two days I spent in Madrid a couple of years ago. The city is steeped in historic charm.
Noor Anand Chawla
ED said…
Nice read.
Some information about the famous bull fight....never knew they were actually slayed.
Would love to visit the place.
Interesting write up 👍
Shreeya Sharma said…
Spain has always fascinated me. As an art buff and a dancer, Spain is a place I wish to visit once.
Judy said…
Woahh that's such a cool thing to do in Madrid. We are planning Spain soon. Bull fighting show is now in my list of things to do.
Ninu Nair said…
I have never been to Madrid but hopefully someday...and as you mentioned, even I am so fascinated by Ferdinand. Great Post!! And, happy to see blogger platform...otherwise I was feeling so obsolete hopping from one wordpress site to another.
Vartika said…
I went to Barcelona but missed Madrid, your post makes me want to go back to Spain and explore this beauty :)
dev thakkar said…
Your travelog is so good and specific, defines the place and giving justice to its beauty
Spain is on my travel bucket list:)
Vartika said…
I have been to Barcelona and stayed there for three days but didn't visit Madrid for some reasons but it indeed looks like a beautiful city in Europe. #vartikasdiaryreading #myfriendalexa
Prerna Wahi said…
I loved my visit to Madrid and enjoyed everything about it except the bull fighting. It left me shocked and disgusted. I would never recommend it to anyone!
arv said…
Over the last few years, Barcelona has taken a march over Madrid. But the essence of old town charms of Madrid is too strong for Barcelona to take over Madrid.

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