So I started my time in Madrid with a free walking tour through the company Sandeman’s New Europe, which offers free tours in 18 cities! The tour was particularly crowded (about 250 people) so multiple tour guides arrived and split us up into smaller, manageable groups. Throughout the tour I saw a lot of the key sites with the proper context, and I learned some interesting things...
Madrid Fun Facts & Legends
Madrid is home to the oldest restaurant in the world, Botin Restaurant, which opened in 1725 (fact)
Tapas were originated to prevent poor farm workers from getting too drunk during lunchtime to be productive in the field in the afternoon. Since they had little money, they couldn’t afford to eat and drink at lunch, so they often chose to drink… on an empty stomach. So a rule was set that each alcoholic beverage served must be accompanied by a small plate of food. (legend)
The name ‘tapa’ means cover and originated because people would cover their beers with their small plates of food so that the wind would not blow dust and sand into their beverage. (legend)
The symbol of Madrid – a bear leaning against a tree reaching for berries – was originated because bears used to roam the streets and eat the berries from this particular kind of tree (madroño tree). The berries would ferment in the bears’ bellies, and would ultimately make them very drunk.
Madrillenos – who love to drink wine – saw a bit of themselves in the bears, so decided to use the image in their coat of arms. (fact or legend?)
More Madrid highlights
The Reina Sofia is famous for its collection of work from Picasso ("Guernica" in particular) and Salvador Dali, among many others. I started in one of the current exhibitions about Playgrounds. It was an interesting portrayal of the evolution of public play spaces as art. It also showcased the common struggle between the need for free time and the need to work - something I know many of us are faced with!
I was excited but nervous to speak Spanish in front of him, but I think (hope) he was proud of my skills over a decade after taking his class!?