Madrid and Toledo, A Weekend TripBarcelona, Spring 2011
Madrid is big, bad, and beautiful. It is the most populous city in Spain and has twice as many people as Barcelona. I happened to visit the city over Carnival weekend, which I did not realize was a big deal in Madrid until I arrived. Hostels were brimming with students, and it was a challenge to find one with space still available. Carnival felt a lot like Halloween. The streets were crowded with people in costumes that included everything from star troopers (see picture below) to cross-dressers (sorry, no pictures, but use your imagination). I had mistakenly assumed Carnival was contained largely to the city of Stiges, which is famous for its Mardi Gras-style parade, but even when I took a day-trip to Toledo, Carnival decorations lit up the city at night.
I thought the best sites in Madrid were the art museums. The Prado and Reina Sofia museums housed enormous collections where I easily spent four hours at each. I could have probably spent twice as long and still not have seen every gallery. With a good map and guide, though, I was able to see the most famous works by Spanish Painters like Velázquez, Goya, El Greco, Picasso, and Dali. I was also pleasantly surprised by the works at Madrid´s Caixa Forum, which among other collections had an experimental film gallery. I recognized the intriguing work of the video artist Omer Fast from a gallery back home at the Cleveland Art Museum. At the end of my last day in the city, I took a quick walk from Madrid´s museum district to the enormous city park El Retiro. The perfectly trimmed gardens, attractive monuments, and calm lake full of rowboats was a relaxing antidote to a busy weekend.
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