Cultural Wednesdays- Week 5

Today’s Cultural Wednesday is unfortunately going to be a bit of a cheat, because I actually went to the site in question last Sunday, since it’s only open four days a week.¬†I decided to “save it up” until today because I thought it was interesting, and I wanted to write about it. So I guess it’s a Cultural Sunday Disguised as a Cultural Wednesday, but that’s getting a bit too complicated, even for me…

Anyway.

Sometime this week (let’s not be too particular about the precise day ūüėČ ), I decided to go to the Metro Museum (or And√©n 0) at Chamber√≠.

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I had walked past the entrance many times, as it is right near my house, but whilst the Metro Line 1 was being repaired, the Museum was also closed. So, when Line 1 reopened, I decided that now was the time to check it out.

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Line 1 was the first to be built in Madrid, and¬†Chamber√≠ was one of the original stations, so it’s historically very important. It¬†was closed permanently because the platforms are curved, and the newer trains aren’t able to safely stop there.

The station had a similar feel to Museum in Sydney, and it was like entering a time warp. The ticket barriers and entrance are in their unique states, and I had to go through an old metal gate to get in.

Spanish rules and regulations are pretty relaxed, and visitors are allowed to go down to the platform, and watch from behind a glass barrier as the current Metro trains zip past a metre or so away. It was really exciting to hear the trains coming along the tracks, and then to see them whizz by, so close that you could see the expressions on the passengers’ faces.

They also had a lot of old advertisements on the walls, many in Art Deco style, which were pretty cool.

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And there were¬†plenty of maps and information¬†from the period. I particularly enjoyed reading about the price of tickets, which were extraordinarily cheap (or at least in today’s terms).

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OK, so the Museum is unlikely to make it onto a list of Must Visit Places in Madrid. But I thought it was worth a visit ūüôā And if anyone is looking to make a historical movie, and needs to include an authentic train station, I know just the place!

Cultural Wednesdays- Week 4

Today being Thursday, it must be time for the Cultural Wednesdays post…

[Aside-I hope people like the¬†Cultural Wednesdays¬†posts- my mum (Hi Mum!) says that they’re not as interesting as the ones where I talk about things going pear-shaped. That might be true, but I think it’s important to write about some of the things I’ve seen in case anyone wants to come to Madrid to visit me (hint, hint!). And, well, sometimes things aren’t a TOTAL disaster, so I think I should mix it up a bit ūüėČ ]

Anyway, yesterday afternoon, I went to the museum and house of Lope de Vega. This museum was recommended by my colleague, Charro, who helps me with my Spanish, so I thought I should make an effort to go. I tried to visit 2 weeks ago, but the guard told me that because the house is so old, they only permit 10 people to visit at once, and that you have to be on a guided tour.

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So, I booked my tour. I didn’t realise that you could book one in English, and so I found myself, unwittingly, on the Spanish tour. Oh. Dear.

Imagine the scene- me and 9 fluent Spanish speakers, wandering around, as the guide pointed out the artifacts. I nodded and laughed at what I hoped were the appropriate places, and tried to snigger knowingly when one of the other visitors passed some personal asides to me.

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For those, like me, who aren’t familiar with Lope de Vega’s work, he was a Spanish playwright, poet, and author from the same time as Cervantes (16th Century). He was famous for the amount of his output (he was likened to a writing machine), and for his rather scandalous love affairs (he had 16 children…and he was a priest for a while). He wrote over a thousand works in his lifetime, following the adage of “quantity, not quality”, and seemed to live according to his own wishes, rather than society’s norms.

The house was really interesting, with a beautiful garden, and rather perilous steps (they were the original ones). We saw Lope de Vega’s writing room, the chapel where he spent his days when he became a priest, and his bedroom.

We also learnt a lot about his personality. He seemed to be a rather nasty and vindictive character¬†and after one of his many love affairs went wrong, he ended up in trouble with the law after writing a scandalous piece of work about his ex and her family! Although given the quote “There is no greater glory than love, nor any greater punishment than jealousy”, perhaps this is not a surprise…

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Overall, I really liked the tour. Even though I knew nothing about Lope de Vega, it was wonderful to learn about his quirks, and to see what life was like in his time. I would definitely recommend visiting the house¬†to everyone, although it’s important to book a bit in advance, and to speak some Spanish (you can specifically ask for an English speaking tour, but they put me in the Spanish one, on the basis of my email- I think this is a win!).

 

Cultural Wednesdays- Week 3

Today’s Cultural Wednesday was a bit different, as it was a public holiday in Madrid, so I had a whole day off school. Hooray!

But Wednesday being Wednesday, and culture being culture, I was resolved to do something which would expand the mind. On this occasion, I decided to go to the¬†Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (or the National Museum of Natural Sciences). Here’s their website.¬†

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I’d never heard of the MNCN until I started my museum hunting mission, but given that it’s reasonably close to my house, and that no one really talks about it much, I figured I’d give it a go.

The museum is located in a beautiful old building, with a park out the front, and you get a great view over the gardens from the main entrance.

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I wasn’t too sure what the “natural sciences” involved, as the term seems to be a bit vague, but most of the exhibits seemed to focus on different animal and plant species, and the structure of the earth.

There was a special exhibition on about biodiversity, which was really interesting, although I’ve got to admit, most of the displays in the museum seemed to feature taxidermied (is that a word?) animals, which were a bit (how do I say it?) confronting. I appreciate that the preserved remains may help people to appreciate how evolution works, but I’ve always found it a bit, well, unsavoury, to see the bodies of unfortunate animals displayed in such a way.

Particularly if the taxidermist is not exactly an expert (although mercifully, that wasn¬īt the case here…).

This being said, I was impressed that they had a Thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger) on display, and there was a large section dedicated to Australian animals. But if you’re not into preserved specimens (even though said specimens have been there since 1940), this museum probably isn’t the best choice for you…

Nonetheless, the dinosaur skeletons and the information about minerals was fantastic. They had some wonderful fake dinosaur bones…

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And some really interesting trilobites…

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The last section of the museum was dedicated to rocks and minerals, and had some really brilliant tables with different inlays. I liked these a lot, and they were considerably less gruesome than the taxidermied corpses.

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So, overall, I would give the MNCN 3 stars out of 5. It’s interesting, and you can learn a lot there. However, unless you are interested in animal corpses, it is unlikely to be particularly pleasant for you, unless you concentrate on the excellent fossil section.

My new Wednesday ritual

On Wednesdays, I am fortunate enough to only have three classes at the school, which means that I finish work at 11:15 a.m.

Needless to say, Wednesdays are my favourite school days…

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The first few weeks of the school year, I ended up wasting my half-day off by hanging out at home or doing something thrilling like the grocery shopping, but last week, I decided that I should expand my mind with more worthwhile activities (Oh dear. That sounds insufferably affectacious). I was at a bit of a loss as to what I could do, but then I remembered that on the way to the station, I pass a couple of small museums, and so I decided that Wednesday afternoon would be my Official Museum Visiting Time.

Today was Day One of my new Wednesday ritual, and¬†I went to the Sorolla Museum. Here’s their website.

Joaqu√≠n Sorolla was a Spanish painter (interesting aside- well, interesting for me!-Joaqu√≠n is my absolute¬†favourite Spanish boys’ name) ¬†and after his and his wife’s deaths, his house and artworks were left to the state on the proviso that they be turned into a museum.

The museum is absolutely amazing, because it’s a perfectly preserved early 20th century house, surrounded on all sides by ugly apartment blocks, and with a main road right out the front (thankfully, the house is shielded by a beautiful garden).

Inside, it’s like a time warp, because all the furniture is original, and they’ve tried to leave it as it was when Sorolla died in 1923.

One of the most interesting rooms is¬†the studio. The walls are covered in Sorolla’s pictures, and the unfinished canvas that he was working on when he¬†died is still there, with the paints and brushes laid out in front. It looks as if it is¬†still being completed, and the artist has just nipped out for a break.

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To be honest, I didn’t know anything about Sorolla’s art before¬†I decided to visit the museum. From looking around the house, it seems that he mainly focussed on¬†landscapes and portraits, using oils. It was really interesting to see that the faces in a lot of the portraits were being reworked, so I’m guessing that he mightn’t have felt so confident in trying to capture likenesses. This was comforting,¬†and now I don’t feel so bad about desperately trying to avoid drawing faces in Year 10 art!

Of the completed portraits, I especially liked two, a self-portrait Sorolla had painted for his wife, and the other of his daughter.¬†The self-portrait says “To my Clotilde, Joaqu√≠n” down the bottom, which is think is lovely.

So, this was my first educational Wednesday excursion. Hopefully, I’ll be able to keep it up! Madrid is full of small museums, so I don’t think I’ll run out of possibilities in the time I’m here ūüôā