Michaela Merz

2nd advent in Madrid – traces of the economic crisis?

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Business required it that in December I visited London, New York and Madrid. It is Christmas atmosphere everywhere. There is glitter at every corner; nativity sets and nut crackers (the hit of the London season) are in the shop windows and Christmas songs sound from the shops. Fundraisers try it more reserved like in London or they rock and rap like in New York to motivate the hearts to donate. 

Christmas decorations everywhere. No trace of an economic crisis anywhere. The shops are crowded, the restaurants overflowing, between the stands at the Christmas markets it is impossible to get through. But it is good like this. Before travelling to Madrid I was worried about the country. But at least on this Second Advent Sunday my worries were unjustified. I took a taxi to get to the city centre. But that was not even possible because the city centre was so full of people. And how full it was. In the streets it was hardly possible to move on. Everyone seemed to be there and to enjoy the Sunday. The atmosphere was wonderful, relaxed and friendly. Many people were wearing cheap caps made in China, 5 Euro each, in the form of an animal or as St Nicholas mitre with stars or with lights. People were drinking vermouth, sparkling wine and wine. Restaurants offered many delicious things like oysters, ham canapés, grilled sea food, sweets. In the middle of this Christmas atmosphere a demonstration with loud “NO”. No to cutbacks in the health sector. The demonstration seemed to wonderfully integrate into the Christmas activity. It appeared more like a party and not like pent-up anger and despair. I tried to talk to several participants of the demonstration. But on this Sunday English was not really the communication language of choice. The people were willing and explained me a lot, however only in Spanish. I listened politely and perhaps I got the larger context (cutback of the budget in the health sector resulting in a reduction of jobs) but not much more. 

On this second advent in Madrid one could have everything: shopping, Christmas songs, great food, a lot of fun with the countless street artists, some of which really were world class, cheerful atmosphere, political demonstration, contemplativeness (which I enjoyed in the cathedral De La Almudena), as well as art in the Goya exhibition. What a city!! Everything perfectly clean, tidy and renovated. A crisis does not look like this. This looks like the capital of an empire. Whereas if one wanted to look at the statues or pictures at the high walls in the church, one had to throw in coins in order to switch on the lights. But that’s not really a crisis?! Isn’t it? 

I returned to the airport by metro. And what a metro. Three times better than in New York, ten times better than in London. Clean, tidy, reliable. But in the metro as well as at the airport I stayed alone despite my attempts to communicate. Yes, they were talking to me, even allowed me to take photos but everything in Spanish. And I still do not speak Spanish. I was really surprised that in the few days I did not meet anyone speaking even a little English, apart from the hotel reception. 

Madrid, you are great and have a lot to offer. I am glad that you are well. I know that I have to learn Spanish in order to understand you. But don’t you also want to communicate with the rest of the world?

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