Wednesday, March 26, was a pretty busy day. Beyond registering that morning for the first semester of my senior year (ahh!), I had my normal three classes, a paseo, and a soccer game with my class — and we were leaving early the next morning for Valencia!
Luckily the meeting point for the paseo was pretty close to Argüelles where ICADE is: Plaza de España at the end of the Gran Vía. Although we had already visited the plaza and our first stop, the Templo de Debod, we learned a bit more about them from Kike. It turns out that the monument in the center of the plaza is actually dedicated to Cervantes and also features Don Quixote, his squire Sancho Panza, and his “true love” Dulcinea. We also learned that the buildings surrounding the square that we had seen before were actually Madrid’s first skyscrapers, the Torre de Madrid and Edificio España. They still remain some of the taller buildings in the city but have been overpassed as the tallest by the Torrespaña (or Pirulí) and the Four Towers in the north of the city.
Unfortunately, because of the crisis and financial problems, most of those tall buildings and their office spaces remain empty. Ironically, we learned an interesting story about the origin of the Four Tower skyscrapers in our EU class earlier that week when discussing competition laws. They were actually built on Real Madrid’s former training fields, the Ciudad Deportiva, until a controversial deal between the team and the city government allowed for the area to be rezoned for commercial purposes and sold to four corporations to build Madrid’s first true skyscrapers. The deal helped get Real Madrid out of debt and let it focus on developing itself into the world class team it is today. It prompted an EU investigation, but they found no wrongdoing and the towers still stand tall today — though plagued with many empty offices just like the towers of Plaza de España. This situation definitely puts madrileños in a strange position by admiring the architectural beauty of these buildings, but having their emptiness remind them of the economic crisis.
After finishing up at the Plaza de España and Temple of Debod, we went to the Círculo de Bellas Artes. The Bellas Artes is a private cultural collection, but the main reason we went was because its rooftop bar offers some great views of the city due its pretty large height and good location right next to Plaza de Cibeles, allowing us to see the nearby City Hall and Bank of Spain, and many other sights around the city, including the tall skyscrapers and towers. We also learned that the well-known Metropolis Building at the start of the Gran Vía is actually one of the only buildings known by its name in everyday life.
As we were nearing the end of our paseo, we walked around a little more to get quick views of the Congress of Deputies and the Teatro de la Zarzuela. Zarzuela is the traditional musical theater genre that is basically Spain’s version of opera, but is definitely a genre of its own. We learned in our Literature and Cinema class with Pau that almost all of the initial Spanish films were zarzuelas, though Kike told us that with the internationalization of the city, Madrid’s zarzuela houses are mostly being replaced by other theaters and operas as the genre falls out of style.
I had just enough time after the paseo to grab a quick dinner of bocadillo de calamares, one of the typical foods of the Community of Madrid, before heading to the soccer game, Atlético de Madrid v. Granda CF. You could definitely tell that this game was near the end of the season, because the stadium was completely packed. We were in the nosebleeds since the school had to get all of us tickets close together, but we still had a good view of the game and the atmosphere was great. The fans were really excited because Atleti is currently in the lead of La Liga, beating the current league dominators of Barcelona and Real Madrid. The team hasn’t won a championship since 1995–96 season, so the fans are all really excited and hopeful for an Atlético victory. They actually kept showing the score of the Sevilla v. Real Madrid game and were very excited whenever Sevilla scored, shouting “¡Viva Sevilla!“, and even more excited when the score eventually reached 2-1 and Real Madrid lost. Though it took a while for Atleti to score, they eventually won 1-0! It’ll be really interesting to see how the rest of the season turns out, and I have to say I think I’m rooting for Atlético de Madrid — it’d definitely be really cool to see the top two teams upset and the underdog win.