Saturday, August 02, 2014

August 2, 2014 -- Madrid

Yesterday it seemed to me that my leg was improving enough that I would take the train back to Sahagún on August 5 to resume the Camino on August 6. This afternoon I am not so sure. I walked around the central part of town a few miles today, and my left leg did not like it at all and let me know it with jolts of pain that became more frequent as I pushed on.

I first walked from a subway station to Madrid's Atocha train station with the intention of buying a railway ticket in advance. I had forgotten that today is Saturday and there would be long lines of people at the ticket counters seeking to escape the city for the weekend. I had no desire to stand in one of those lines.

When I left the train station, I walked north along Alfonso XII Street with the Royal Botanical Gardens to my right on the other side of the street. Here's a picture of the main entrance to the Gardens.

My goal was the Puerta de Alcalá, which I had seen the day before from the tour bus. The gate is so named, because it once stood on the road to Alcalá and reportedly replaced an older, shabbier-looking gate in the city wall. I have also read that at one time flocks of sheep were driven through the gate into the city, although with the heavy traffic circling the gate these days, I wouldn't give a sheep much of a chance of survival out in the middle of the traffic circle where the gate is presently located. I had to wait for a break in traffic to take this shot.

The fountain below is in the middle the Plaza de Cibeles a few blocks to the west of the Puerta de Alcalá. I passed it while walking from the gate to the nearest subway station.

I caught the subway just in front of the Bank of Spain, which is the building to the left in the photo below. It was once Spain's equivalent of the Federal Reserve Bank in the USA, but now all of yhe national central banks of all of the countries that have adopted the euro as their common currency are beholden to the European Central Bank.

On the subway trains in Southern European cities, it is common for people to get on the train and beg for money. The usual practice is to stand at one end of the subway car and give a loud rehearsed speech that includes the assertion that the person is out of work and has two or three hungry children to feed. The person then walks through the car saying to each passenger, "Una ayuda, por favor." (some help, please).

Sometimes someone gets on board and suddenly pulls a musical instrument from a carry-on bag and starts to play and sing before passing the hat. Occasionally it is a person or a group with talent, and the passengers are generous. Today a young, muscle-bound man rolled a small suitcase onto the train that turned out to be an amplifier and speaker covered with a black cloth. I saw him plug a cable on top of the amplifier into his cell phone and tap the phone's screen. Suddenly Chuck Berry style music filled the car, and the guy started singing "Johnny B. Goode" karaoke style. It was awful. When he finished, he passed the hat and didn't collect a cent.

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