Madrid, Spain — August 27, 2017

I think my Greek roommate is adapting well to Spanish customs. When I got home from my trip into town yesterday, he was fast asleep on his bed. The afternoon siesta is a great custom.

Yesterday morning my sickness of the two days before was gone, and I felt energetic enough to walk into town to the Puerta del Sol, one of Madrid’s principle plazas. The distance on foot is about six kilometers or just over 3.7 miles. You would think I would cover that distance in about an hour and a half, but I dilly-dallied along the way, stopping to sit on benches in the shade to read a few more pages of Huckelberry Finn on the Kindle app on my cell phone, stopping for coffee, and detouring whenever I saw something of interest.

Below is a picture of a complex I walked through on one of my detours. I couldn’t divine its purpose. The buildings were well-kept, and their exteriors looked as if they had been sandblasted clean. One of the doorways offered a living art show, whatever that is. Should I have gone in? Does living art mean that there were people inside standing around nude? At my age, that’s not something I need to see, so it’s probably best that I didn’t investigate.

There was also a door on one of the complex’s bulidings with a sign stating that entry tickets were on sale inside. Tickets to what? I couldn’t figure that out. However, I was able to understand the following sign hanging above the entrance of a building with a tall clock tower. It is good to know that refugees from the Middle Eastern and African wars are still welcome at one place in Europe.

Being a cheapskate, I bought lunch in a supermarket instead of in a restaurant. Because street-front space is at a premium in Madrid, most supermarkets have only a small show window and door facing the street. When you go inside, the space is many times as large as one would expect from the store front. The main part of this supermarket is below ground. Here is the staircase leading down to it.

Incidentally, I bought a delicious fruit pastry inside for desert. There were candied apples and strawberries on top, and the crust as as flaky as an top-notch French pastry. it cost me 64 European cents or the equivalent of 76 cents in United States currency.

An off-topic remark, the United States dollar has been losing value due to the antics of our president, so every day I stay in Europe, it costs me a bit more. I pay for as much in advance as I can, because it does not look as if the situation in the USA is going to improve in the foreseeable future, and the dollar seems destined to continue downhill.

The picture below shows one of the narrow streets I walked along as I approached the Puerta del Sol. Behind me was a small square that was full of black Africans talking loudly to each other. Most of the talking was in a language I could not identify, but some was in heavily accented Spanish. I assumed I was passing though a neighborhood made up mainly of recently arrived African immigrants.

The Puerta del Sol is not huge as Madrid plazas go. In the center of it is this statue of King Carlos III on horseback. Just in case King Chuck is not immortalized sufficiently by his statue, I thought I would include him in this blog.

When I first came to Madrid in the 1960s during the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, almost all of Spain except for the Mediterranean coast was very isolated from the rest of Europe. A glass of white wine cost the equivalent of one US cent as did a ride on a streetcar. The streetcars are gone now.

The city’s plaza then were places where the locals came out at night to sit with each other and gossip in the cooler temperatures of the evening. Today, the plazas are teeming with tourists. The picture below  shows one of two identical fountains in the Puerta del Sol. The other is behind me.

I didn’t notice the couple in the center of the shot above when I snapped the picture. Does that guy have an unusually thick beard, or is he wearing a black veil? It makes me think of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story “The Minister’s Black Veil” or the song “The Long Black Veil” recorded originally by Leftie Frizzell or perhaps the black veil that Caddy wears to a funeral in William Faulkner’s novel The Sound and the Fury. In each case the black veil is presumed to hide adulterous behavior. The song makes that explicit.

Digressing some more, I think the next book I should re-read in English is The Sound and the Fury. It’s a difficult read for anyone who approaches it for the first time, but it gets more enjoyable every time it is re-read. It’s on almost everyone’s list of the top ten novels in the English language.

But, getting back to yesterday’s trip, I was in no mood to walk back to the hostel, so I took the subway or metro. Here’s what the subway train looked like inside. Notice how clean and new everything looks. It’s also not as crowded as the Paris subways, which means that there is much less concern about pickpockets. I wish the dirty Phoenix buses were this well maintained. However, in the USA, we do not believe that government money should be spent for the public good. We believe that it is government’s duty to take as much money as possible from ordinary people and transfer it to people who are already very wealthy, so we elect politicians who do just that.

Back at the hostel, I collected my laundry, which I had washed out by hand in the morning and hung to dry. Everything was dry except for the cotton socks, which are now hanging on the end of my bed. Memo to self: when packing light for traveling, don’t take cotton socks! They take too long to dry. Thin wool socks are more comfortable and dry more quickly when hand washed. Why didn’t I remember that when I was packing for this trip?