Sunday in Madrid

Sunday 7 July 2017

I wanted to get away from the well trodden tourist trail in Madrid, so started off in Egypt,

at The Temple of Debod,

given to Spain by Egypt in 1968 when they flooded the valley behind the Aswan dam to form Lake Nasser. Otherwise, it would have been submerged forever. This is as it was then.

Spain had helped save the mighty ‘his and hers’ temples of Ramesses II and his queen Nefatari, at Abu Simbel. The Temple of Debod is not nearly so grand, but it is one of just a few examples of Egyptian architecture outside Egypt.

In May 1981, on my first ever excursion abroad, my friend Mo (hi, Mo!) and I were dragged along Lake Nasser on a barge from Aswan, baking on the top deck under a canopy while the savvy locals, with their goats and chickens, took the cooler lower deck, playing music and singing in the evenings. All very Indiana Jones.

After a couple of nights and three hundred kilometres, and surviving drinking Nile water as our bottled supply quickly ran out, the pay off was arriving at Abu Simbel at dawn with just a handful of fellow travellers. We had the two temples to ourselves for an hour before the first tour buses swept in from the posh hotels. Fantastic.

A conversation overheard then between an older American couple leaving a bus.

“Hey, Hiram, come take a look at this beauty. ”

Overweight guy struggling down the steps, “Ah, this beauty’s a pain in the ass!”

The Temple of Debod is now situated in Parque del Oeste, about fifteen minutes from the royal palace.

I’d spotted that parks sweep around between the palace and the river, then follow the river to the former slaughterhouse area, Matadero. Being a bit random has worked in the past, and I thought it better than pounding city pavement again, so parks it was.

The palace and cathedral dominate the skyline. The shallow Manzanares is a protected nature reserve,

it’s banks recently built concrete walks.

I imagine in years to come, once trees have matured, it’ll be more forgiving but, beside this mad dog, there weren’t many people venturing along it in the sun today.

I dropped off into the palace garden for some respite,

and some good views,

Further along the river there was an area of several walkthrough fountains and shade, packed by local families seeking to keep cool.

After a longer walk than expected I arrived at the Matadero,

a huge area of slaughterhouses now given over to artists,

performance and workshops. There was an exhibition about a project they’re running with the city to cool and green the area, acknowledging that the area, all brick and concrete, is a ‘hot zone’.

There were different designs for structures,

combining art, technology and biology which might be rolled out around the area and across the city.

Madrid in Spring or Autumn would be a lovely place, passing the romantic weekend test. Everything to see and do is in a relatively small area, and the excellent metro means wherever you stay you’re only a half an hour, two euro ride, from the centre. With water in the river, around the Temple of Debod, in the dry channels running through the numerous parks, I imagine it would be invigorating. (Add a day trip to Segovia for a really memorable package.) At this time of year, it’s still striking, but the heat does make it harder.

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