Day 1 in Madrid and I woke up before dawn in spite of sleeping very late. That’s not as impressive as it sounds actually - for one thing, the day dawns pretty late in summer in Spain- and for another, I was still on India time.
The hotel room was really tiny - Bombay level tiny - to quote Circuit from Munnabhai - ‘ye room to shura hote hi khatam ho Gaya!’. But it was neat and clean and had an en suite bath and even had a balcony! What more do you need anyway?
The shower was so small that I kept bumping in to the tap and turning the warm shower into either a scalding lava fountain or a freezing torrent - and the shower curtain would lovingly drape over my wet body and surround me like a shroud.
(Though that is more of a comment on the size of my butt than the size of the shower stall, I suppose…)
I sat around writing a blog and suddenly realised with a start that I was almost late for my date with the Prado museum! SHE WHO MUST BE OBEYED had booked a ticket for 10 AM and I quailed to think of what she would say if I was late for my very first booking!
I quickly got ready and checked with the hotel dude as to the best way to reach Prado - Bharathi had babbled about metro lines and how I had to recharge that one day card with 10 rides and all that stuff. But the hotelier said that it was just a 10-15 minute walk, and gave me a map and marked the route on it.
Well - to go down to the metro, add the 10 trips on a machine, go down to the platform, wait for the train, get out to the street level, etc would probably have taken more than 15 minutes. Anyway the weather was very nice and a walk sounded most agreeable.
And no time for breakfast! ‘What?!’ My tummy squealed ‘…but …we didn't have dinner either yesterday…’
‘Oh shut up…’ I said ‘A fast will do you good.’
I enjoyed my walk to the Prado and got there in time. The museum opens at 10 and Bharathi had booked me the very first slot. She was perfectly right, of course…the museum filled up so much later that it was just like being that plaza yesterday!
I deposited my bag and went inside. The Prado - or rather the ‘Museo Nacional del Prado’ is the main Spanish art museum, and has one of the worlds finest collections of European art - it is essentially the king's royal collection which has been taken over by the government - so is the best collection of Spanish art. It has all the big Spanish names - Goya, Velasquez, Heironymous Bosch, el Greco and even a large Rubén’s collection (you know…the guy who painted fat naked women… led to the word ‘Rubenesque’ as an euphemism for fat women. But when I saw the paintings, I realised with a sigh that even Rubens would have quailed at painting me! I would be a double Rubens!)
The paintings were huge! I suppose the king had giant walls in his palace, and so smaller paintings would just get lost in the space. These were humongous paintings!
After some time I mentally separated the paintings into a few categories - dead white dudes, scenes of various people dead, dying or being executed, Christian motifs of either lachrymose people looking sad for some reason or the other - Mary, various saints and so on- or disgusting and gross Christian paintings of various people being tortured to death, or scenes of hell and torture in the afterlife, or gross pictures of devils and monsters.
The other two categories were pictures from Greek and Roman myths - naked people either about to have sex or just had sex or virgins/Sabine women about to get fucked or had got pregnant from having sex with Jupiter or some other god - and finally common people living common life.
Velasquez was a royal painter, so his stuff is mostly dead rich white dudes. Bosch specialised in disgusting torture stuff - ‘The garden of earthy delights’ …a delightful name for a most gross picture. Rubens was mostly into Greek myths and naked fat women - and Goya was into normal people because the king himself waspresumably sick of all the other heavy stuff and requested ‘jocose and pleasing’ scenes on the new tapestries in his palace and Goya was told to get on with this job. (Heave a sigh of relief)
I was roaming around - when suddenly I got accosted by a dragon dressed in museum uniform!
‘WHERE IS YOUR MASK?’ She thundered.
‘Eh?’ I said, quailing. ‘I am wearing it…’ I pointed to the buff which I had over my nose and mouth. I had been wearing these cloth buffs ever since masking became a thing, But no - here it was not at all acceptable!
‘NONSENSE!’ She thundered. ‘THIS WILL NOT DO! WEAR A PROPER MASK OR GET THE FUCK OUT!!!!’
Eeeek…I quailed again.
‘GO IMMEDIATELY TO THE INFORMATION DESK AND GET A MASK!’
Ok ok … I went off to search for the desk…and found that the dragon had walkie-talkied a male dragon who was waiting for me and went off into a torrent of Spanish.
‘Will you wear a mask - or will you Salid?’
‘LEAVE! WEAR A MASK OR LEAVE! SALID!’
‘Ok ok … I will wear a mask. Don’t get so excited.’ I wanted to tell him that there was no difference between a mask and a cloth buff, but did not have the language skills - and frankly he would not have been interested in my opinion.
They gave me a free mask and he waggled a finger at me.
‘YOU HAVE TO WEAR A MASK ALL THE TIME YOU ARE INSIDE!’
‘Oh all right…keep your chuddies on…’
I was quite irritated - if they had such a problem with my buff they should have told me as I entered the building and not made such a huge fuss half way into my visit. Idiots. They took my luggage, x-rayed my stuff, patted me down, checked my ticket - the whole security interaction was pretty long - they could easily have told me about the unsuitability of my buff at the entrance itself. I was carrying a whole bunch of N95 masks in my bag - i would worn it there and then.
But all’s well that ends well, I suppose… I went back up and completed my tour - though i started like a frightened fawn when I saw that dragon. I quickly took off my jacket so that she wouldn’t recognise me from afar!
It took me 4 hours to see the whole museum and I was thoroughly overdosed with art when I came out - my feet were paining like crazy! Luckily there was a nice cafeteria in the museum and I had a nice cubano sandwich and a coffee, so my tummy was not complaining along with my little piggies.
No one seemed to care about masks once outside the building - so I took it off with some relief. I put it carefully in my pocket though - it was clear that I would need to mask up whenever I entered any establishment!
‘YOU IDIOT!’ I could just hear SHE WHO MUST BE OBEYED laughing derisively at me. She had told me clearly that no cloth masks were accepted in Spain and a proper ‘mask’ mask was compulsory. That is why I was all stocked up with N95s.
‘I TOLD YOU SO!’
I went to the El Retiro garden to relax and chill out in greenery - or rather i thought that I had gone to Retiro, but actually went to the Jardins Botanique - the royal botanical gardens next to the Retiro. Oh well, that was OK too.
In fact, it was very nice. The deserted and green garden was a great relief after the crowded Prado and I enjoyed relaxing amidst the trees.
I will try and do the Retiro when I visit the Thyssen museum across the street.
I made my way back to the hotel - I was very tired, but elated - I had seen one of the great art museums of the world!
I blog about my travels - and the thoughts they set off! Sometimes the simplest destinations can be the most thought-provoking!