Perusing through an open air used book fair can be a grand way to spend an afternoon. Don Quixote anyone?
One street over from El Retiro park, we found a pedestrian walkway known as ‘Cuesta de Moyano’ (Moyano’s slope), lined with old wooden stalls selling all manner of books. This charming street of booksellers opened in 1893 and the permanent site continues to open each and every day. We did spot the occasional book in English and it would have been great fun to return for a second visit.
Museo Nacional de Reina Sofía
We visited and wrote about two of the three major art galleries in the “Golden Triangle of Art” in Madrid in a previous blog. The Reina Sofia Museum is the third part of the triangle and is dedicated to Spanish art from the 20th century. We feel honored to have seen so many outstanding pieces of art by acclaimed masters Picasso, Dalí, Miró, Grid and many more.
However it is Picasso’s “Guernica” that is the keystone of the museum. Guernica (13 feet by 25 feet or 3.9 x 7.77 meters) is enormous and emotional and covers an entire large wall. Picasso’s famous black-and-white painting shows the pain and damage that were inflicted on the town during the Spanish Civil War and brought the attention of the world to the Guernica massacre. Unfortunately Guernica was not the only city to be carpet bombed by the supporters of Franco, with the aim of demoralizing the civilian population. A sad part of Spain’s history that continues to be felt today.
Biblioteca Nacional de España
In our quest to find the National Archaeological Museum we entered the wrong door and found ourselves instead in the National Library of Spain, which includes the National Library Museum.
(The National Archaeological Museum shares the building but the entrance is off a different street)
The Royal Library opened to the public 300+ years ago in 1712. In 1836 it was renamed the National Library and in 2007, the National Library Museum was opened inside the library.
Lucky timing for us, there was a temporary exhibition of Leonardo da Vinci, called Faces of the Genius. Although a fairly small exhibit it is always fascinating to see how ahead of his time his inventions were. There were two original notebooks as well on display that were filled with da Vinci’s writings.
While we were here we decided to pop into the free National Library museum. This museum itself has only 8 rooms. The contents within those rooms were delightful. Exhibitions ranged from the library’s long history in Madrid, a display of ancient old books and Bibles, old typewriters and a 35 year old Macintosh computer, to how mankind has used barks of trees, turtle shells, parchment to name but a few materials, to capture our thoughts.
In 1911, painter Joaquín Sorolla had a house built for himself, his wife and their 3 children. He asked the builder to create a home where he could comfortably live and work and have an outdoor garden space. The museum today is in the beautifully preserved artist’s home and has much of the original atmosphere, creating a warm and welcoming environment filled with a large collection of paintings by Sorolla. The lovely garden outside is peaceful and filled with fountains, low shrubs and flowers, statues and plenty of intimate seating areas.
Plaza de Cibeles
In the center of Plaza de Cibeles sits another of Madrid’s symbols. The Cibele Fountain has a figure of the Greek goddess Cibeles on a chariot, pulled by two lions.
Surrounding this beautiful fountain on two corners are two baroque palaces, but it is the large ornate Palacio de Cibeles, which houses both the town hall and a cultural center that really catches your attention. The architecture in Madrid, in general, is so very interesting but the Cibeles Palace we found to be one of the most outstanding examples. We learned there is an exact replica of the Cibeles fountain in Mexico City so perhaps one day we shall see it as well.
The Spanish word sobremesa does not translate well into English, but it is an excellent word. Sobremesa is the time, more often following lunch than dinner, when the meal is finished and friends, families and colleagues crowd around tables inside restaurants or spilling out on to their terrazas, sitting for hours talking, drinking and joking. The sobremesa is a pleasant and relaxing time that allows for the slow digestion of the meal and a recognition that there is more to life than working long hours. There are never impatient waiters trying to get you to move on.
We need to add the word and more importantly the lifestyle to our North America vocabulary.
The Conde Duque is home to the archives, the historical library and the digital memory library of Madrid. The cultural space has several exhibition halls and this was our destination. We visited a variety of intriguing temporary exhibitions and witnessed a couple more in the process of being set up.
Miguel de Cervantes, (1547 – 1616) is undoubtedly one of Spain’s greatest novelists and we didn’t want to leave Madrid without mentioning him. Apparently Cervante’s book ‘The ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha’ (commonly known as Don Quixote ) is the most published and translated book in history, after the Bible. We have seen literally dozens of statues throughout Spain of both the author, Miguel de Cervantes, as well as his two famous characters Don Quixote and sidekick, Sancho Panza.
If you haven’t yet read it yet, this popular novel is about a man and his ‘squire’ trying to prove that chivalry is not dead and aspiring to be heroes.
As we leave Spain and spend the next few months traveling north, we shall miss seeing these jaunty characters.
Next stop Rome, Italy.
Salud from these Madrileños,
Ted and Julia