Author: Tamara Atanasoska
This is not a usual “what to do when in Madrid” guide. It is more of a “Madrid seen through the eyes of a Macedonian girl”. With my 10 points I’d like to comment on what amazed me in Madrid and how those amazing things differ from my home city. Also, if these things are taken into a consideration, they could be seen as points that Skopje still needs to work on, to live up to Madrid.
1. Amazing public transport!
I don’t just accidently put this first! Madrid has great public transport, as every major European city does. The metro is cheap, only 1 euro for a ride, and it literally can take you anywhere in the city. There are many lines that interchange and are spread all around the city. This website (http://www.metromadrid.es/) tells you everything there is to know about the Madrid metro. There are trains every 5 minutes, from 7 a.m. until late night, depends on the line. I strictly recommend the metro when in Madrid; it is clean, fast and efficient. There are stations everywhere, so you can jump on wherever and whenever your feet feel tired of walking. It was quite surprising for a person from Skopje like me to enjoy such a public service. Train tickets are a bit more expensive, so travel, if necessary. For longer distances, buses are a better choice: there are buses for every direction and are more or less of the same price as trains.
2. Cheap food!
Yes, you heard right, cheap food! The prices of goods in supermarkets are even cheaper than in Skopje, especially of products originating in Spain! Freshly made bread around 0.60 Euros, milk 1.00 euro and so on…I was amazed by how big the supermarkets were and there is everything you need. There were special gourmet sections where extra quality food could be bought, but also with more elevated prices. If you prefer to explore the national food and eat out, there are lots of cheap and good places where you can do that! There are tapas restaurants where for only a 1.50 for a beer you get to choose from the rich variety of tapas (side dishes with meat and cheese) for free! There is also “Chocolate con Churros” sweet breakfast, a kind of a national banana-shaped pastry with chocolate which costs from 1.00 to 3.00 Euros, depends on the place. Explore Madrid on a budget, it is very possible!
I had the pleasure of being in Madrid when there was the “FIESTAS DE LA VIRGEN DE LA PALOMA” (15th of August). There was a central place with a stage where music was played live, and with many bars and grills around it. It was huge. I have never seen so many people on the streets, having fun and dancing, young and old. The city streets bustling with such positive energy! From the central stage, there were little corridor streets branching all around packed with young people! The bars have all taken out their drinks and had created bars outside so people were dancing out, on the streets to different tunes coming from every place. The streets were closed with policemen taking care of the traffic in order no one to get hurt. It surprised me that the policemen were really nice, they were also dancing, and contributing to the positive energy around. This is happening in a very large part of the city, there is even one large street that is turned into a fair
4. Cheap and cozy places to stay!
For as little as 11.00 Euros a night you can sleep in Madrid hostels. For as little as 16.00 Euros a night you can have a private room for two. And that is all in the very center of Madrid, where you don’t need any public transport to get anywhere. We slept in the United World Hostel, a huge hostel where you can meet many young people! If your budget is not limited as ours was, you can sleep in some of the hostels that offer more luxurious places to stay.
5. History monuments and contemporary art!
I can talk and talk about how I am amazed by the historical buildings and the museums, but there are many guides on the internet that talk about this. I would just like to point out that Madrid has a continuous interest in art and pays much attention to contemporary art. If you have an interest in art, check online for the ongoing events, and I am sure that you can fill not only hours, but days, with things to see! Also street performing can be found everywhere, you can see people singing, dancing and entertaining you on every corner. Mickey and Minnie smiling from the streets, trolls scaring you from behind ( this really happened), Spanish guitars filling the streets with music and I even saw two men creating the whole symphony on pots and pans in the subway. Just amazing.
6. City that never sleeps!
They call Madrid “the New York of Europe”. And I must say that I agree. At night, the city is so lively! Everything works until late, so many bars, so many discotheques, so many places to go! On the streets there are people inviting you to their clubs, people that are in a state to drag you to the place they work at (in a non-invasive way ), they promote everything from the drinks and prices to the bands that play that night, which I found a nice way to find out about new places. There are some that just pass leaflets of the places they work for and they carefully choose the people, so they might hit you in the spot. For example, they gave my boyfriend leaflets promoting strip bars only when he was alone . There are even districts that are strictly made for fun, but unfortunately, I had no chance to visit them. For partygoers and for the people that want to have fun in the first place Madrid is definitely the place to go.
7. Madrid is green!
Parks! Parks everywhere. If you look at the map of Madrid you will see how green it really is. The city is well planned, there are trees and parks on every corner, benches to seat on, tables people can have picnics on or just play some chess. People are allowed to sit on the grass, and in every park there is a sculpture by which you can remember it, or a fountain, or just some beautiful tree. I’ve been to many big cities, but this was the greenest of all. The atmosphere is very relaxed, kids and dogs play together on the grass, young people play the guitar and sing, and pensioners smile to the sun rays. My recommendation is definitely Parque de Montana. I have experienced the best view and sunset in Madrid. It was truly breathtaking. Also in summer, the sun sets later in Madrid (about 9:30 p.m.), so you have plenty of time to spend the day as you like.
*One interesting fact: In parks, you can see mostly Chinese people that walk around with bags full of ice, carrying cold drinks such as beer, water or coke. You will notice them, as they shout: “Cerveza, Cola, Aqua!” or they will just come to you and offer. And everything costs 1.00 euro! No need to walk to the store, and miss that amazing sunset.
People have enough culture not to throw garbage on the streets, so it is clean all the time. Besides good manners, there are teams constantly cleaning the streets. After midnight, there are so many people who clean that it is impossible for the city not to shine in the morning. If there is any trouble, there is police constantly, but the ones that actually care for you. You can always ask them for any kind of help.
Madrid is a diverse city. You can meet people of any color and nationality. They all contribute to the look of the city and create its atmosphere. There are a lot of Chinese, Africans and Indians. Throughout the city, you can notice many “Alimentacion” Chinese food stores and their Chinese shops with Chinese products. You can find anything there. As for Indians, they have a lot of restaurants with traditional Indian food and many clothing stores, too and not to mention many Turkish “kebab” restaurants and so on! They are mostly grouped in smaller neighborhoods where you can see a lot of people of one nationality. This is always my favorite thing about big cities, the way that they are international and multiethnic. I mean, Skopje is also a multiethnic city but its inhabitants still have issues with the fact. I would be happy to see my home city like Madrid one day.
10. You can’t get lost in Madrid!
There are signs everywhere, pointing to every direction, every single street is named. If you have a map in your hand, or if you know a little Spanish and you know where you are going, you literally can’t get lost. I would suggest getting one of those free maps at the airport that have a detailed map of the city, with every street named, so take a stroll through Madrid. There will always be something new to see and discover!
That is about it. Just at the end I have to point out one difficulty I had when in Madrid. Almost no one speaks English! Not even the young people. It could be a problem for people from Macedonia, because we are mostly taught only English at school, so if you can, prepare a bit before you go. Without knowing at least some phrases, buying at the store can be a bit difficult as well as getting directions and stuff like that. But I am sure you will manage, with a little effort (also if you secretly watch Spanish soap operas :). I hope I helped, and enjoy Madrid!
This is one of the winning articles of the Mladiinfo Article Writing Contest. The content of the articles does not necessarily represent the view or the position of Mladiinfo.