I moved into my new piso about a week ago and have really enjoyed it. I’ll be living with two Spaniards and one guy from Finland. So far it has just been the Fin and me and we have gotten along great as we both struggle with our Spanish vocabulary and grammar. The piso isn’t huge but it’s homey and comfortable. And, after a long, long Sunday at Ikea (the Ikea in Madrid is a little ways outside the city center and the area is essentially a shopping oasis. Unfortunately, I don’t really like shopping and thus was less than amused when we spent 3 hours wandering aimlessly in Ikea), I have sheets and blankets. Nearly everything else was included in the apartment and the transition has been very smooth thus far…
I open the fridge and find that I’m lacking food. Thinking it would be better not to steal my roommate’s food this early in our yearlong stay together, I reach for the eggs that I have left. They suffice and quench my hunger for the time being. Unfortunately, the four that remain, along with the potato chips in the drawer above, with likely have to suffice until tomorrow since the markets are all closed on Sunday.
My phone rings and I receive a message from one of my friends in the program. It’s his birthday and we are planning on meeting up for tapas before we go to a Real Madrid soccer match. I leave my place and take the metro north towards Tetuán. I step out into the midday sun and call to be let in. Unfortunately our attempt to text in Spanish has led to a little miscommunication and we are actually going to my piso, which I just left. I decide to take the metro to the transfer point and walk the last mile or so back.
I walk east along Calle de la Reina Victoria, near the dorm I lived in during the first two weeks of the program. The streets are relatively empty. Sundays are typically quiet and midafternoon is the hottest time of the day when most Madrileños take shelter in the shade for a café con leche or have a siesta until it cools off. I pass Parque Isabel del Canal a massive park, which has a driving range, soccer field, kilometer long track and pool. The place is empty now but once the sun begins to drop in will be packed, and the track starts to resemble a Mario Kart course with all the people that have to be dodged. I pass the park and continue onwards towards Calle de la Princesa, a beautiful street lined with trees and restaurants with tables outside. The apartment buildings above the restaurants provide sufficient shade, and I turn off of Princesa onto my street, Altamirano
I grab my camera for later tonight and then head towards the center to town to the tapas place where we are meeting. The restaurant is called Cien Monteditos, or “one hundred little sandwiches”. We sit outside for a while and enjoy the one-dollar menu that is offered on Sundays. After about an hour we walk down Gran Via where we catch the blue metro line north towards the stadium.
The metro is packed as hundreds of people flock towards the world famous Estadio Santiago Bernebau. We exit about 10 minutes before kick off and begin trying to decipher what our tickets say and where the best place to enter the stadium is. We enter and begin to ride escalators. Since none of us are famous or have real jobs, we bought the cheapest tickets possible, which puts us hundreds of feet in the air. By the time we reach our level the game has begun. I step off the escalator and walk up the final steps that sit in front of the door. The buzz hits me first. Nearly every seat in the four levels is packed and you can hear it. Even the quietest moments of the game produce a baseline noise like a lawnmower. When Getafe, the opponent strikes first, the stadium erupts in boos or frustration. Later on when Madrid equalizes, then takes the lead, the noise is almost unbearable. Chants of “Viva Madrid” and “Ronaldo” follow shortly after. The fans are impatient and passionate. Star forward, Benzema, misses three point blank opportunities and hears the combined displeasure of 80,000 people, but is cheered for his effort when he is subbed out in the eightieth minute. The final tally is 4-1, with Madrid pouring it on the last half. After observing the atmosphere in this blowout, I can’t help but imagine what “El Clásico”, the legendary match between Barcelona Madrid, would be like.
We opt to walk back rather than use the crowded metro. The streets are packed and Madrid begins to come alive. People here begin their nights much later and things are usually buzzing around 10 or 11. The walk is beautiful with the fountains in every roundabout glowing with light as cars whiz by. The walk is long and by the time I get back I am ready to relax. I finish the last of my eggs and head to bed.