We’re walking the Camino de Santiago in June 2022. Come along with us!

Madrid: Los museos y más

It was a day of museums. (It was punishingly hot, so it made sense to wander around in cool marble using hushed voices.) We were about a ten-minute walk from Reina Sofia in one direction and Museo Prado in another, and I’m happy to say we didn’t give into the temptation to hail a cab even when sweat was dripping down our faces. We are now apparently people who walk everywhere—the legacy of the Camino.

The Reina Sofia.

The Reina Sofia houses modern art; it’s most known for being the permanent home of Pablo Picasso’s Guernica. The older I get, the less I understand modern art and the more I love it. So give me your weird drawings taped to the wall, your art installations, your 35mm black and white films of grass rippling in the plains. I am here for it.

These two guards were here specifically to stop people from taking pictures of Guernica, but my partner-in-art and I each risked a shot. It’s just that you need to see the scale of it to begin to understand its impact.

But Guernica I do understand, and to tell the truth I love it. When we decided to come to Madrid, long before Covid and interviews and the Janets, I said, “We have to see Guernica again.” It’s not that the painting has changed; I have. You bring yourself at your current level of understanding to any piece of art, and in that way, the painting changes too.

Guernica refers to the name of a small village in Spain decimated in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War. The Nazis and Italians bombed it at the behest of Franco, killing many women and children. All the agony is there in Picasso’s rendering—the mother with the grieving child, the horse rearing, the dead soldier, the helpless reaching. Picasso refused to entrust the painting to Spain during the years of its fascist leadership, and so it spent half a century touring the world and hanging out at NYC MOMA before finally coming home in 1981.

(Thank you, Wiki!)

And then we had lunch and our first tinto de veranos of the day. (Thank goodness we come back on Monday and I can’t do too much more damage to my liver.) Later that afternoon, fortified by additional tinto de veranos (do you sense a theme building?) we made our way to the Prado.

(Whoops, I forgot to take a picture of the Prado.)

Reader, if you love art, you should probably look away right now, because what I’m going to say is surely blasphemy. But here it is: much of the art in museums falls under four categories. 1) Religious art. Lotsa pietas, crucifixions, martyrdoms, characters with halos over their heads who should be dead giveaways to the other characters but somehow aren’t. 2) Ancient Greece. Nymphs, lusty nudes, cherubs, gods and goddesses at play, the occasional strange creature, general abandon. 3) Wealthy unsmiling portraits of art patrons, sometimes with ridiculous mustaches (Philip IV, I’m looking at you), sometimes with elaborate dress, and sometimes—a true bonus—with a lovely perro at their feet. 4) Commoners. These are invariably the best of the lot, but they’re few and far between.

Thank goodness Will and I have the same views here, as we were able to make sotto voce comments and generally keep each other entertained. (We’re horrible people and you are free to hate us.)

But we did get to see some El Bosco triptychs, including The Garden of Earthly Delights, and that painting was a trip. No pun intended.

More Madrid: we wandered a street fair and bought a gift for a friend, returned to our hotel and its very good A/C frequently to stop sweating, located a piece of luggage to house our walking sticks for the return flight, had yet another tinto de verano with Janet #1 and her sister Annette, visiting from Puerto Rico, people watched, perro-watched.

And also: I tested negative today, thank goodness. Since I’ve heard that you can test positive long after you stop having symptoms… I have to wonder if I did indeed get Covid on my first night in León, or shortly after. In retrospect, I kept walking even when I didn’t feel great, and tried to crash hard at night, until it simply caught up with me. I’m glad to be on the other side of this now. 🙌

Tomorrow, our last day in Madrid.


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