The past, the present and the future are notions, measures of time that we are taught to live from, in, and for. However does anyone ever prepare you for the moment when you encounter a place, a culture or a lifestyle that stands one foot in the past and one foot in the present with the future not yet determined?
Madrid and its countryside have caused me to re-think what I once considered to be two measures of time. Castles from the 1600s, aqueducts built by the Romans, traditions that run through the blood of each generation, a common reluctance if not inability to speak outside their native tongue. The people and the places within Madrid and its nearby suburbs live and tell the story of Spain in the past.
However, the Madrid I experienced today is what simply seems to be an adaptation of the past. Of course Madrid has its fair share of modern cuisine, technology, transportation, architecture, etc. Yet, the surroundings and the way of life are based on a simple balance of how it has always been done and minor changes that have been accepted — in time.
It’s the contrast of the city that I found most appealing. The Plaza Mayor with its traditional Spanish architecture, cafes, and coin shops which sits adjacent to the newly restored and updated Mercado San Miguel. An old covered market that has recently been restored only to become a center for high quality local food products, tapas, and drink. A Roman aqueduct stands since the 1st century, yet the street leading up to it is full of sunglasses, lingerie, and mobile telephone stores.
The contrast can be mesmerizing at every turn, yet the most enduring quality of Madrid is the attitude to everyday life. The difference between Americans and Spaniards is that Americans spend their entire life trying to figure it out — where as Spaniards simply live it.
The average workday is long yet nobody complains, 8am – 8pm with a 1.5 – 2 hour “Lunch” break around 2 o’clock (biggest meal of the day) . Dinner begins around 10pm and consists mainly of small plates or tapas. They never stay in one place for too long, they live for family, friends, food, and drink. They are passionate, loud, and energetic. They make this city and this country easy to fall in love with.
My hope is that Spain stands its ground — one foot based in the past with their history, tradition, and lifestyle… yet continues to adapt to the world around it, taking only those aspects of the present and the future that will encourage the country and it’s people to grow stronger than that of which they already are.