Sunshine and Culture

The next day started out with me apartment hopping. I moved from Sara’s apartment to the apartment of two other friends, Lauren and Darshali. Because Lauren happened to have the afternoon off, she decided to join me in my exploration of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, one of Madrid’s main art museums. However, almost as soon as we got there we issued a groan. The line snaked around the block. With plummeting hopes we decided to walk towards the main doors and assess how dire the situation was. To our great surprise, the door was locked. Turns out we had showed up right before opening hours and the line wasn’t hopeless after all. To make things even better, the museum was free that day. So without too much ado we waited for about 10 minutes in line before being ushered inside.

In order to stay relatively crowd free, we decided to work from top to bottom, something that happened to actually make sense chronologically. The museum’s oldest collections are housed at the top of the museum, while its more modern works are shown on the main floor. I will say that one of my favorite moments was running into a few El Greco paintings. I had always found El Greco a bit odd when I studied him in Art History and Spanish class, and while I still find his artwork strange, I left liking quite a few of them. Yay art! Overall, we spent well over two hours at the museum–and we didn’t even get to have a good look in all of the rooms! Unfortunately, our grumbling tummies told us that they would rather eat than spend another hour in the museum, so we set off for lunch.

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After a nice lunch, Lauren had other obligations, thus leaving me to my own devices. I’ve discovered through my various travels that while I am a huge fan of public transportation (probably a product of growing up with the practically non-existent public transport in Los Angeles), I am an even bigger fan of walking.

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Madrid is a fairly walkable city, so I walked through the Parque del Oeste and caught a glimpse of the Temple of Debod. The temple is an original 2nd century BC Egyptian temple that was given to Spain after Spain helped the Egyptian government in 1960. The construction of the Great Dam of Aswan posed a threat to several nearby historic monuments, and Spain responded to an UNESCO call asking for help to preserve Egypt’s monuments. The Temple of Debod was then given to Spain as a thank you by the Egyptian government. After taking in the temple, I turned around and began to walk back into the heart of the city.

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Not too far away from the park is Madrid’s Royal Palace. Unfortunately it was closed when I passed by, but I wasn’t too put out. While I do enjoy visiting palaces, I’ve seen so many this past year that missing this one wasn’t devastating. I did however enjoy taking a quick walk around part of the palace grounds.

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Right next door to the Royal Palace is the Catedral de la Almudena. The cathedral is named after Madrid’s patronness, the Almudena Virgin. According to legend, an image of the Virgin was found by the king on the city wall, thus creating the Almudena (derived from an Arabic word meaning city wall) Virgin.

Similar to palaces, I’ve seen quite a number of cathedrals this past year, and have started to pass them by. What made me want to go into this one was pictures that I’d seen of the ceilings. The multicolored panels were definitely worth a short stop.

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After saying hello to the installation of Pope John Paul II just outside the cathedral, I decided to call it a day and head back to the apartment. From there I reunited with all of my Spanish ETA friends for dinner. After a tasty selection of tapas we went to San Ginés, which is a cafe renowned for its hot chocolate and churros. I must admit that it’s definitely famous for a reason. The melted hot chocolate was fantastic, but it was so rich that my friends told me that it’s rare for anyone to ever finish all of it.

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

Throughout our trip Michael and I kept seeing pictures of animals paired with indecipherable German. Having seen these signs everywhere we figured it was a signal from the universe to go to the zoo. So, in the morning I tentatively asked Julie if she would like to go with us to the zoo. To my surprise and delight Julie told me that she 1) would love to go with us to the zoo 2) had yet to go to the Munich zoo 3) had been meaning to go there. Not only were Michael and I excited to have Julie join us, we were also in awe of her knowledge of the Munich transit system. Having Julie along also significantly reduced our breakfast ordering struggles.

At the zoo, all of us were happy to look at all of the animals, although I insisted on seeing the elephants and Julie and I insisted on seeing the penguins. Our college dorm’s mascot was a penguin so we wanted to go pay a visit. Unfortunately, Michael was out of luck since his dorm’s mascot was a cod, so no mascot visits for him. While I liked looking at all of the animals I have to say my favorite was a black monkey who really seemed to enjoy posing for the camera. Not wanting to let him down, I’ve included some of his better shots.

IMG_5905  IMG_5910  IMG_5914 IMG_5916  IMG_5919  IMG_5921The three of us spent a bit more time walking around Munich before we saw Michael off to the airport. Afterwards, Julie and I headed back to Marienplatz and a Tripadvisor recommendation, Asam’s Church. Asam’s Church is one of the most elaborate churches that I’ve been to. Julie told me that the Asam brothers were responsible for selling things to churches, such as artwork, pews, confessionals, etc., and many of these are on display at the church. The church itself is pretty small so it doesn’t take too long to look around. The thing that impressed me the most was according to Julie the ceiling is actually flat. The painter managed to create an optical illusion so that it looks as though the ceiling is round.

IMG_5931  IMG_5936  IMG_5940Once we were done with the church, Julie took me on an adventure to go see the Oktoberfest grounds. Here are a few of the things I learned about the festival:

  • Oktoberfest is crowded more or less 24/7
  • The grounds are built every year although the space isn’t used during the rest of the year
  • Oktoberfest causes massive amounts of congestion in the city–causing a lot of locals to dislike it
  • Many locals will take their holiday time during Oktoberfest so that they can work during this time period. Apparently working in the grounds is very lucrative since they need so many people to actually run the festival

While there wasn’t too much to see, it was still nice to walk around the grounds and get a sense of the sheer size of Oktoberfest.

IMG_1290  IMG_1294When we finished, we headed to the English Garden to grab some lunch at one of the beer gardens. Julie was in charge of ordering and got us currywurst and spezi. Curryworst is sausage in a ketchup type sauce with curry (which I was initially skeptical of) and spezi is beer mixed with fanta (which I was excited to try). As per all of Julie’s food and drink recommendations, everything was delicious. Once we had finished, Julie and I headed back to her place for a few power naps and some Skype calls with old college roommates and friends.