Apologies for the recent hiatus. I've been having too much fun traveling and spending time outdoors that I haven't gotten a chance to write. Here's the first in a series of travel posts!
Everyone told me that Barcelona doesn't truly feel Spanish. However, I didn't fully understand what that meant until I went to Madrid for a weekend.
The first thing I noticed about Madrid was the light. Stepping out of my hostel the first morning, I saw the atmosphere change completely. The light on the buildings was extremely pure, almost piercing. Without the softer, diffused light that characterizes seaside towns, I knew we were no longer in Barcelona. Madrid has some of the bluest skies I have ever seen. I don't think there was a single cloud the whole time I was there!
In general, this purity seemed to characterize Madrid. The city was extremely clean, regal, and dignified—a true capitol. If Madrid and Barcelona were a Spanish family, then Madrid would be the sophisticated aunt and Barcelona, the rebellious little sister. I saw people walking down the streets of Madrid in fur coats. In Barcelona, it's all about the ripped jeans and the sneakers.
Even though Madrid is a diverse, metropolitan city, it felt overwhelmingly Spanish. Even at tourist attractions like Museo del Prado, I hardly noticed people speaking any language other languages. I had the same experience when walking through the streets. This was a shock coming from Barcelona, where I'm just as likely to hear Catalan, French, English, and Arabic.
Still, my favorite activity was probably one of the most touristy. My friends and I visited El Retiro Park, a beautiful green space with a pond in the center, and rented a rowboat. The ride was extremely peaceful and a nice break from our constant walking. I also loved biking through Madrid's largest Park, Casa de Campo. Aside from the parks, my favorite experiences included seeing Picasso's Guernica at the Reina Sofia Museum, eating at local Markets, and just exploring by foot.
Prior to coming to Madrid, let alone Spain, I didn't have clear mental concept of Spanish culture. However, when visiting Madrid, something clicked in my brain, as if saying, "Yes, this feels like Spain." If Barcelona is the odd city out, then does the rest of Spain have a similar feeling to Madrid? In the coming month, I will be traveling to Southern Spain. Let's see how it compares!