Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

And the cellphone network was called Movistar

In case you were wondering, the holiday referred to in my recent posts was a long weekend in Madrid. I had some leave to use up, and although Hilary couldn't come with me I figured that (a) a substantial part of the touristy stuff in Madrid is art galleries and (b) Hilary tends to get fed up after an hour or two with my leisurely and thorough approach to (a). So I booked a cheap Easyjet flight, and there I was. Well, here actually:



where "here" is the International Youth Hostel La Posada de Huertas on Calle de las Huertas, very close to the Prado. I like backpackers' hostels (actual IYHF Youth Hostels are even better, but the ones in Madrid had drawbacks when it came to my need to check out at silly o'clock to get my return flight). This one had none of the "surcharges for the over-25s" nonsense, 24-hour reception, a central location and I could get a bed in a four-bed male dormitory. I figured that by the age of 53 I no longer wished to save money by sleeping in either a mixed dorm or a 16-bed one. And it was great (two of my four nights I had the room to myself, and the other two nights my companions didn't disturb me. I recommend the place and would certainly stay there again.

Of the galleries, I maxed out on Picasso, Dali and Miro on my first evening at the Reina Sofia gallery, and spent most of my last day in the Prado (where I maxed out on damn near everything else). And I never even touched the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza
(which has paintings from the 14th century up to late 20th century). Highlights of my own gallery viewing:


The most famous picture in the Prado (The Garden of Earthly Delights, by Hieronymus Bosch), and it didn't disappoint. It still amuses me, though, to see the gallery with Bosch's works signposted as "El Bosco". Sorry, easily amused.




My personal favourite, this one (Scenes from the Life of the Virgin by Dirck Bouts). I love the matter-of-fact way in which these Northern European - in this case, 16th century Flemish - painters deal with religious subjects. The second panel, for example, shows the Visitation. This is where Mary (newly up the duff despite being, you know, a virgin and all that) goes to visit her friend Elizabeth (ditto, despite being way beyond child-bearing age). Now in a lot of Italian paintings they're chatting politely to each other; perhaps going so far as an animated "No wait, let me give you ny news first!" expression. For Dirck Bouts, however, we have exactly what would happen, I think, in 21st century Britain: an inquisitive mutual feeling of bumps ("Oooh! Oooh! I felt him kick!" "Gosh, aren't you big - how many weeks is it now?")


Durer's self-portrait, another very famous Prado exhibit.


A delightfully weird Goya (Witches' Flight).





A very famous Goya, The 3rd May 1808 (also known as The Executions on the Principe Pio).

And in the Reina Sofia:


Dali's Jeune fille a la fenetre.


One of the best-known paintings in the world, Picasso's Guernica. Which is vast: I hadn't realised it was so big. The gallery also has around a hundred preparatory studies and sketches for it, as well as a montage of photographs taken in Picasso's studio as he worked on it. He sketched the outlines, then painted in the various shades afterwards. I can announce that the very last element to be painted in was the light bulb.

Oh, and this exhibition seems to be back. I found it rather moving to see the famous Death of a Loyalist soldier image in the context of a whole set of pictures of the same guys on the same day (which was to prove the last day for at least one of them).


In the world outside (as I emerged blinking) I also found things of interest. An entire Egyptian temple, gifted to Spain by the grateful Egyptian government for help given in shifting (and thus preserving) other temples when the Aswan High Dam was being built:




The Calle Segovia bridge, of which some witty French aristocrat once said "With such a splendid bridge, they really should get themselves a river":


And finally, on a day-trip, the magnificent cathedral of Toledo:

which is right up there with Chartres as far as I'm concerned. It has everything: stained glass to die for, a choir with carved stalls that go far beyond Chester or Lincoln, and baroque excesses as well.

Oh, and thanks to al-Qaeda, the trains to and from Madrid were the only ones I've ever been on where all bags had to go through X-ray machines and passengers through metal detectors.

5 Comments:

At 11 December, 2008 17:58, Blogger JoeinVegas said...

Something lacking in America, and especially out west, are the good museums. Vegas had a branch of the Gugenheim, but it closed last year due to lack of visitors.

 
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