Image via WikipediaAs best I can, I will be periodically reporting from Madrid over the next few days. Twenty-three years after my last visit, I find the city vibrant, beautiful, and sophisticated. The dynamism of the people is electric, especially yesterday as the city celebrated the feast day of its patron, St. Isidore the Farmer, canonized in 1622. We got in a long but efficient line to venerate his uncorrupt relics at the old city cathedral dedicated to him and to his wife, who was also canonized. Preparations for the Pope´s August World Youth Day are in full swing with palpable enthusiasm. (The country is also in the midst of a national election campaign that culminates on May 22nd; polls indicate a victory by the conservative opposition party.)
Here are some impressions:
1. We followed a group of Spanish regional bagpipers through the city center. Since Madrid as the capital draws Spaniards from all the nation´s regions, various regional groups display their customs and culture during the patronal feast day. We also saw groups of dancers, many older, exuberantly handling their castanets.
2. The churches, especially the interiors, are of baroque magnificence. The Spaniards do not just have statues of saints and of Jesus and Mary--they actually put robes on the statues!
3. The "lung" of the city is the Retiro park, formerly a royal garden, which was packed with families and individuals of all ages, many with family dogs along for the outing. Scores rowed on a panoramic lagoon and listened to a fine orchestra playing in an elevated, ornate old-fashioned bandstand. The city has a very dignified 19th century feel to it.
4. The Metro is clean and efficient. It is very easy to get around by using it and by walking.
5. The overall impression I get is of a very proud, dynamic nation whose people know how to enjoy every day by eating, drinking, walking, and strolling in parks, along broad avenues, and among stunning churches and other important buildings and monuments.