26 March 2009

Moving through Madrid

Arriving in the Spanish capital on Sunday, I came just in time to experience the city's rituals for that day of the week. The first was El Rastro, a sprawling second-hand market that covers street after street near the center city. Vendors sold everything from gas masks to potted plants. Next up was a stroll through El Ritiro, one of Madrid's most famous park. The wide expanse of greenery and flowing water provided shade and fun for thousands of MadrileƱos. The last special activity of the day was a bull fight.

The fight took place in the main arena for such sporting events, the Plaza de Torros. I learned a lot about this famous Spanish tradition. There were six fights in all, and each fight is supposed to have three stages.

In the first stage the matador and his assistants wave their capes at the bull, as the images of a bull fight likely are in your head, and at the same time two men on horse back stand-by. When the bull charges one the horses the rider spears it in the neck with a long lance. Waving the capes tests the bull's courage and aggression, using the lances starts to weaken the animal.

For the second stage, the matador and the other men on foot hold smaller spear-like weapons. When the bull charges them the intent is to again thrust the spears into the bulls neck, though this time the spears remain lodged in the bull, flailing as he runs. By this point, the bull's blood is steadily dripping to the arena's brown sand.

In the final stage the matador alone waves his cape at the bull for some last dramatic charges. Then, once the bull appears tired out, the matador withdraws a sword and waits for one last charge. When the bull comes, the matador attempts to stab the bull again at the neck and push the sword into the animal's body as much as possible, hopefully cutting through the spin to bring a quick death. For most of the six fights that I saw, though, the bulls ended up convulsing on the ground; the matador or one of his assistants was forced to either use a short dagger to finish the animal or jostle the sword in the bull's neck until the blade met the spin. Two of the bulls did not show enough aggression and left the arena before the reaching the third stage. At times I did feel sorry for the bull. In the end, though it is more of a bull killing than a bull fight, this tradition at the heart of Spanish culture provided a fascinating experience.

On Monday I visited one of Madrid's famous art museums, and on Tuesday I took a day trip to the nearby town of Toledo for a look at Medieval Spain.

Yesterday was the highlight of the past few days however, as I actually returned to Cordoba for the day in order to visit a friend. I met up with Olga, the Spanish girl who I got to know duirng my study abroad year in Eichstaett. Nearly two years had passed since we had last seen each other. We failed to meet during my first time in Cordoba, and a little over a week ago I thought that I would likely never again be in that city, but luckily we were finally able to make a plan. We spent the day walking around her home town and relaxing under the bright sun.

Tonight I leave Madrid and Spain behind for France. I will head to a town southeast of Paris called Fontainebleau. There I will stay with another friend from Eichstaett for a number of days until at last returning to Germany.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Glad to read, you where able to see Olga again.