Wednesday, 24 December 2014

My 2012 Madrid Visit

"Always leave something to wish for; otherwise you will be miserable from your very happiness" - Baltasar Gracián y Morales, Spanish Philosopher.

Nick of time at Madrid Barajas Airport on arrival. Time to departure again: 8 hours flat!

by Kudakwashe Kanhutu 

I made a mistake when I went to Madrid. I must have already told you about it when I wrote about my trip to Milan last year. No? I will tell you again, just in case: I did not properly record what I saw and did there because I (fallaciously) thought I would be returning to Madrid very soon. It's been two years since my last visit and the truth has just sunk in: I may never see Madrid again. Money, time, other competing destinations, you name it... My trip there was very short - too short - because that very same week I had also been invited by the NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) to his Command in Mons, Belgium. So the Madrid trip was just a quick break from my preparation for the NATO HQ visit. On 17th January I was in Madrid and on 19th Janury I was in Amsterdam en route to my meetings at NATO HQ, Mons.


Flying over Bordeaux, France en route to Madrid
I travel to countries so that I can immerse myself in their cultures, hear their stories and learn their peculiar ways of doing things. This goal is usually difficult to achieve even given a lifetime, to then attempt this during a day trip is futile. My mistake then manifests itself in this manner: firstly, I can't tell you anything useful about what I saw in Madrid because I thought I would do that after a proper visit. Secondly, I can't claim to have immersed myself in their culture or learnt how they do things there because I didn't. There is salvation yet because, next year I will be travelling to Barcelona for slightly longer, so will be able to tell you how they do things in that part of Spain. Meanwhile, I can only introduce you to the book I am reading in preparation for my visit. It is reputed to be the best literature book of all time to come out of Spain. A nation's literature goes to some length in capturing its population's pecularities either by describing them or by setting the gold standard that everyone then aims at. Below are the opening lines from Don Quixote followed by my photo essay of the few things I did in Spain.


The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha

CHAPTER I 

Which treats of the character and pursuits of the famous gentleman Don Quixote of la Mancha:

In a village of La Mancha, the name of which I have no desire to call to mind, there lived not long since one of those gentlemen that keep a lance in the lance-rack, an old buckler, a lean hack, and a greyhound for coursing. An olla of rather more beef than mutton, a salad on most nights, scraps on Saturdays, lentils on Fridays, and a pigeon or so extra on Sundays, made away with three-quarters of his income. The rest of it went in a doublet of fine cloth and velvet breeches and shoes to match for holidays, while on week-days he made a brave figure in his best homespun. He had in his house a housekeeper past forty, a niece under twenty, and a lad for the field and market-place, who used to saddle the hack as well as handle the bill-hook. The age of this gentleman of ours was bordering on fifty; he was of a hardy habit, spare, gaunt-featured, a very early riser and a great sportsman. They will have it his surname was Quixada or Quesada (for here there is some difference of opinion among the authors who write on the subject), although from reasonable conjectures it seems plain that he was called Quexana. This, however, is of but little importance to our tale; it will be enough not to stray a hair’s breadth from the truth in the telling of it.

You must know, then, that the above-named gentleman whenever he was at leisure (which was mostly all the year round) gave himself up to reading books of chivalry with such ardour and avidity that he almost entirely neglected the pursuit of his field-sports, and even the management of his property; and to such a pitch did his eagerness and infatuation go that he sold many an acre of tillageland to buy books of chivalry to read, and brought home as many of them as he could get. But of all there were none he liked so well as those of the famous Feliciano de Silva’s composition, for their lucidity of style and complicated conceits were as pearls in his sight, particularly when in his reading he came upon courtships and cartels, where he often found passages like “the reason of the unreason with which my reason is afflicted so weakens my reason that with reason I murmur at your beauty;” or again, “the high heavens, that of your divinity divinely fortify you with the stars, render you deserving of the desert your greatness deserves.” Over conceits of this sort the poor gentleman lost his wits, and used to lie awake striving to understand them and worm the meaning out of them; what Aristotle himself could not have made out or extracted had he come to life again for that special purpose. He was not at all easy about the wounds which Don Belianis gave and took, because it seemed to him that, great as were the surgeons who had cured him, he must have had his face and body covered all over with seams and scars. He commended, however, the author’s way of ending his book with the promise of that interminable adventure, and many a time was he tempted to take up his pen and finish it properly as is there proposed, which no doubt he would have done, and made a successful piece of work of it too, had not greater and more absorbing thoughts prevented him.

Many an argument did he have with the curate of his village (a learned man, and a graduate of Siguenza) as to which had been the better knight, Palmerin of England or Amadis of Gaul. Master Nicholas, the village barber, however, used to say that neither of them came up to the Knight of Phoebus, and that if there was any that could compare with him it was Don Galaor, the brother of Amadis of Gaul, because he had a spirit that was equal to every occasion, and was no finikin knight, nor lachrymose like his brother, while in the matter of valour he was not a whit behind him. In short, he became so absorbed in his books that he spent his nights from sunset to sunrise, and his days from dawn to dark, poring over them; and what with little sleep and much reading his brains got so dry that he lost his wits. His fancy grew full of what he used to read about in his books, enchantments, quarrels, battles, challenges, wounds, wooings, loves, agonies, and all sorts of impossible nonsense; and it so possessed his mind that the whole fabric of invention and fancy he read of was true, that to him no history in the world had more reality in it. He used to say the Cid Ruy Diaz was a very good knight, but that he was not to be compared with the Knight of the Burning Sword who with one back-stroke cut in half two fierce and monstrous giants. He thought more of Bernardo del Carpio because at Roncesvalles he slew Roland in spite of enchantments, availing himself of the artifice of Hercules when he strangled Antaeus the son of Terra in his arms. He approved highly of the giant Morgante, because, although of the giant breed which is always arrogant and ill-conditioned, he alone was affable and well-bred. But above all he admired Reinaldos of Montalban, especially when he saw him sallying forth from his castle and robbing everyone he met, and when beyond the seas he stole that image of Mahomet which, as his history says, was entirely of gold. To have a bout of kicking at that traitor of a Ganelon he would have given his housekeeper, and his niece into the bargain.

In short, his wits being quite gone, he hit upon the strangest notion that ever madman in this world hit upon, and that was that he fancied it was right and requisite, as well for the support of his own honour as for the service of his country, that he should make a knight-errant of himself, roaming the world over in full armour and on horseback in quest of adventures, and putting in practice himself all that he had read of as being the usual practices of knights-errant; righting every kind of wrong, and exposing himself to peril and danger from which, in the issue, he was to reap eternal renown and fame. Already the poor man saw himself crowned by the might of his arm Emperor of Trebizond at least; and so, led away by the intense enjoyment he found in these pleasant fancies, he set himself forthwith to put his scheme into execution. 

The first thing he did was to clean up some armour that had belonged to his great-grandfather, and had been for ages lying forgotten in a corner eaten with rust and covered with mildew. He scoured and polished it as best he could, but he perceived one great defect in it, that it had no closed helmet, nothing but a simple morion. This deficiency, however, his ingenuity supplied, for he contrived a kind of half-helmet of pasteboard which, fitted on to the morion, looked like a whole one. It is true that, in order to see if it was strong and fit to stand a cut, he drew his sword and gave it a couple of slashes, the first of which undid in an instant what had taken him a week to do. The ease with which he had knocked it to pieces disconcerted him somewhat, and to guard against that danger he set to work again, fixing bars of iron on the inside until he was satisfied with its strength; and then, not caring to try any more experiments with it, he passed it and adopted it as a helmet of the most perfect construction.

He next proceeded to inspect his hack, which, with more quartos than a real and more blemishes than the steed of Gonela, that “tantum pellis et ossa fuit,” surpassed in his eyes the Bucephalus of Alexander or the Babieca of the Cid. Four days were spent in thinking what name to give him, because (as he said to himself) it was not right that a horse belonging to a knight so famous, and one with such merits of his own,  should be without some distinctive name, and he strove to adapt it so as to indicate what he had been before belonging to a knight-errant, and what he then was; for it was only reasonable that, his master taking a new character, he should take a new name, and that it should be a distinguished and full-sounding one, befitting the new order and calling he was about to follow. And so, after having composed, struck out, rejected, added to, unmade, and remade a multitude of names out of his memory and fancy, he decided upon calling him Rocinante, a name, to his thinking, lofty, sonorous, and significant of his condition as a hack before he became what he now was, the first and foremost of all the hacks in the world.

Having got a name for his horse so much to his taste, he was anxious to get one for himself, and he was eight days more pondering over this point, till at last he made up his mind to call himself “Don Quixote,” whence, as has been already said, the authors of this veracious history have inferred that his name must have been beyond a doubt Quixada, and not Quesada as others would have it. Recollecting, however, that the valiant Amadis was not content to call himself curtly Amadis and nothing more, but added the name of his kingdom and country to make it famous, and called himself Amadis of Gaul, he, like a good knight, resolved to add on the name of his, and to style himself Don Quixote of La Mancha, whereby, he considered, he described accurately his origin and country, and did honour to it in taking his surname from it.  

So then, his armour being furbished, his morion turned into a helmet, his hack christened, and he himself confirmed, he came to the conclusion that nothing more was needed now but to look out for a lady to be in love with; for a knighterrant without love was like a tree without leaves or fruit, or a body without a soul. As he said to himself, “If, for my sins, or by my good fortune, I come across some giant hereabouts, a common occurrence with knights-errant, and overthrow him in one onslaught, or cleave him asunder to the waist, or, in short, vanquish and subdue him, will it not be well to have some one I may send him to as a present, that he may come in and fall on his knees before my sweet lady, and in a humble, submissive voice say, ‘I am the giant Caraculiambro, lord of the island of Malindrania, vanquished in single combat by the never sufficiently extolled knight Don Quixote of La Mancha, who has commanded me to present myself before your Grace, that your Highness dispose of me at your pleasure’?” Oh, how our good gentleman enjoyed the delivery of this speech, especially when he had thought of some one to call his Lady! There was, so the story goes, in a village near his own a very good-looking farm-girl with whom he had been at one time in love, though, so far as is known, she never knew it nor gave a thought to the matter. Her name was Aldonza Lorenzo, and upon her he thought fit to confer the title of Lady of his Thoughts; and after some search for a name which should not be out of harmony with her own, and should suggest and indicate that of a princess and great lady, he decided upon calling her Dulcinea del Toboso - she being of El Toboso - a name, to his mind, musical, uncommon, and significant, like all those he had already bestowed upon himself and the things belonging to him.**

Photo Essay:


At London Luton Airport for a very early morning departure

Boarding my Airbus A320 or A321 for the 2 and 1/2 hour flight to Madrid

Golf - Echo Zulu Echo Zulu

Sunrise over Bordeaux, France

Now flying over the Bay of Biscay

Flying over the snow covered peaks in North-West Spain

The strangest sight I have seen in years. Looked like clouds or foam filling that great big gully below, or something...

Finals onto Madrid Barajas Airport

Thrust reversers engaged, we have arrived!

Entry into Madrid

Entering the Metro at Barajas Airport for a quick 8 hour tour of the city before leaving Spain on the same day.

Getting my bearings right, well, sort of...

My first ride here, it is ever so different from the London Underground I will tell you that for sure.

Arrival at my first stop - one of the holiest places in the footballing world.

A Place of Worship

Quietly impressive


The author at the Santiago Bernabeu


Tithe paid

Tithe receipt

One of the biggest derbies on planet earth

A full view of the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu

Madrid to the world!

The World Greatest Footballer ever - bar none.


I am from over there  - Zimbabwe!

The best Real Madrid team ever by a country mile

The best player never to play for Real Madrid

Midfield Maestro

Real Madrid Club de Futbol


Calm all the time


Cometh the hour, cometh the super sub!



"For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these 'It might have been'" - John Greenleaf Whittier

Next stop?

The Europa Towers

Puerta de Alcala or Alcala de Puerta. One of the two anyway.

I think this is the Parliament Building but I won't swear to it


Puerta de Europa Towers. Plaza de Castilla. Madrid.


Puerta de Europa Towers. Plaza de Castilla. Madrid. 


Policia!



Real Jardin Botanico - The Royal Botanic Garden Madrid


Just outside the Botanic Garden

The Central Park in  Madrid



Walking in the Central Park whose real name I have since forgotten

Puerta de Alcala or Alcala de Puerta. One of the two anyway.


Real Jardin Botanico de Madrid



Entrance to the Royal Botanic Garden, Madrid



The Main Prize in Madrid  - Museo Nacional del Prado



Prado Museum, Old Entrance.

Old Entrance


"Roman Charity." Perhaps the most beautiful story ever put on canvas. A story of filial devotion: the daughter who would not let the father, imprisoned by a certified tyrant, starve to death. 

Atalanta and Hippomenes: "When men who were struck by Atalanta's beauty watched her run through the forest, she became angry and told them "I will race anyone who wants to marry me! Whoever is so swift that he can outrun me will receive the prize of my hand in marriage! But whomever I beat - will die." Atalanta raced all her suitors and outran all but Hippomenes, who defeated her by cunning, not speed. Strategy before strategy was a field of study!

There is a Ministry of Social Equality?

NOTES:

**De Cervantes, Miguel (1922), The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha. Translated by John Ormsby. Pennyslvania: Pennyslvania State University, Available online:  http://www2.hn.psu.edu/faculty/jmanis/cervante/quixote.pdf