Dogs in Madrid

One thing which has become very obvious to me since I arrived in Madrid is the somewhat privileged position of dogs in society…

Although the majority of Madrileños seem to live in apartments, they absolutely LOVE their pet dogs. This adoration manifests in various guises, from the dogs walking around the city in coats emblazoned with “cutest pooch”, to others whose head fur has been coloured and put up in little ponytails. Or, my personal favourite, the Great Dane, which is the size of a small pony, whose owner religiously takes him for a daily walk through the city centre…

Kind of like this.

Except better.

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Put simply, Madrid is a paradise for dog lovers. But perhaps the most interesting part of this canine friendly city is the places where you can take your pet pooch.  I’ve seen dogs on the Metro, in the shops, and even in restaurants. Quite a few cafes across town have little signs in the window saying “Well-behaved dogs welcome.”

This is all well and good if you like dogs. But (and I expect the defriending to start now) I’ve got to admit that I am not a fan of canines. I have always preferred cats to dogs, because they are smaller and less frightening and they don’t have big teeth.

But I seem to be in a minority here. Dogs are everywhere!

Case in point…

One day I went to a bar with a friend. We were having a great time, until I heard some creepily persistent heavy breathing beside me. Ugh! Looking across, I expected to see some sleazy individual staring at me. But instead, I saw a dog, seated uncomfortably close by, slobbering and drooling on the floor…

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Dog in bar.

Or the time I visited my favourite store, and found a beloved perro standing right in front of the cash register (surreptitious shot below…).

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Unfortunately, the strong presence of dogs has a rather unpleasant counterpart.

Namely, the strong presence of dog droppings…

Although Madrileños are supposed to pick up after their hounds, this rule is somewhat, well, laxly enforced. Consequently, an early morning stroll through the city becomes akin to an obstacle course, as the unfortunate pedestrian attempts to dodge the piles of poo on the footpath.

This has led to the appearance of graphic signs such as these…

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Roughly translated, this means “Good luck is having a clean suburb.” And let me just say, after I’ve stepped in the hundredth pile of dog droppings, and I’m not even at the end of my street (seriously, it’s THAT BAD!), cats are starting to look better and better by the second!

But perhaps I’m a little biased…

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Cultural Wednesdays- Week 6

This week’s Cultural Wednesday was an afternoon of modern art, of the more, well, “unusual” kind.

I caught the train from my school, and got off at Atocha, where they have some rather interesting giant sculptures of babies’ heads outside the station. I’m really not too sure what they are meant to symbolise (if anything), but they seem to attract a steady crowd of tourists, keen to be snapped with said objets d’art

I then walked to the nearby Parque de El Retiro, the Spanish equivalent of Sydney’s Hyde Park or New York’s Central Park. Whilst I’ve been to the Retiro a few times before, I didn’t realise until last week that there are a couple of exhibition spaces there, where they often hold different art shows.

The first of these spaces is called the Palacio de Cristal, and is an enormous structure built of glass and metal.IMG_8232.JPG

The artwork (installation? creative piece? insert word of your choosing?) which is presently showing is a soundscape by a German artist, who had spent over 5 years recording the noise of ice cracking and falling (can’t fault him for his dedication). He had used these recordings to create a 2 hour (!!!!!) work of ice sounds, which was played on a loop in the Palacio.

Because the sound of ice cracking is similar to that of glass shattering, the effect was kind of eerie, and it seemed like the walls of the structure were about to fall down.

Ingenious, yes, but not exactly pleasant listening. I felt incredibly sorry for the security guards, who have to stand there and listen to the soundscape for hours each day. They must be going a bit batty.

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The second art exhibition, in the nearby Palacio de Velázquez, was even more esoteric.

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It was a series of works by a Basque “conceptual artist”, with installations such as Bastardo, which consisted of a school table and chair suspended from the wall, and Gimme Shelter, shown below.

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There were also a few written works, which I couldn’t fully understand with my bad Spanish, but here’s a picture of one below (anyone who can translate it accurately gets a prize!):

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But the most interesting piece of modern art I saw on Wednesday was in the process of being constructed. At the Retiro Lake, I walked past a couple who had their two tiny dogs perched on a post, and were trying desperately to take their photo. Unfortunately, the dogs had other ideas, and refused to look at the camera at the same time.

I imagine that perfecting this artwork may take longer than the 5 years of recording the ice cracking…

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