Wabash Blogs Immersion 2009: Spain - The Baroque Era

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Living the Life in Madrid!

Tuesday March 10th
Today was the fourth day of our fabulous immersion trip to Madrid, the city that never goes to sleep – or at least so it appears to me.  Every day brings something new; every day presents us with a new learning opportunity, new Spanish dish to try, or new Spanish word to learn. !Viva la Espana!
We commenced our day with a trip to the royal palace outside of Madrid, El Escorial. It used to be a seat of the Spanish kings of whom the famous resident was Felipe II. Not only was el Escorial a royal palace, but also a university and a monastery. Today it remains a university and a monastery with 20 monks. Our group entering this square-sized monumental building and touring through its chambers could feel the chill of an austere “sanctuary”. King Felipe II spent a lot of time in this place planning a pious death. His chambers, as one would expect, were not excessively decorated but rather simple in design where he could be awaiting God’s calling in peace. We toured el Escorial with a guide who has lived in Madrid for 40 years and who is a very lively and happily proud Spaniard. He threw in some philosophical tidbits while he was telling us about the toured places. He said at one point,” We all are Don Quixotes, and perhaps also Sancho Panzas. “ One could tell that he is a lover of life, and most importantly – a lover of Spain, which we all are becoming.
After having a delicious three-course lunch accompanied by wine, we came back to our hostel. I and a couple of my friends decided to take a nap in a very picturesque municipal park. Andy even took a pillow, which turned out that he never used, as we never took the nap. First, we rented a boat and paddled in it for 45 minutes in the park pond located in front of an interesting baroque obelisk. We bumped with our boat into a boat of Italian students and made some nice friendships with the natives of Milan. After meeting new friends, we set off into the unknown of the park. We wanted to wander aimlessly and thus let fate bring interesting places on our way. It was worth it! We encountered a small street with cute little stores. An owner of one of them told us about the story of how the Ministry of Spanish Education allowed them to have their little bookstores in proximity of the park. She even gave each of us a copy of the official document signed by the government officials allowing the creation of this little shopping district. We then took a random bus and explored more of the unknown parts of the city. Academic, cultural, social, geographical, linguistic are the aspects of Madrid I have explored today to name a few.
-Michael Opieczonek ‘09