I’m not sure if having been through several international moves before — packing all your belongings into two oversized suitcases and three bags to travel, like a turtle with its home on its back, to a new land — makes it any easier or any harder. On one hand, you know what to expect; on the other hand, you know exactly what you’re in for: a lot of unavoidable hassle and stress.
On Tuesday I got on an overnight, 20-hour train from Frankfurt to Madrid, which is a little (lot?) bit crazy, but seemed somehow less stressful than dealing with airports and airlines and overweight baggage… and it’s also one of those “only in Europe” kinds of things, so fun in its own ridiculous, anachronistic way. It was actually quite comfortable, with beds folding out in our cabin, which I shared with a nice woman from Morocco, also an immigrant to Madrid, chatting in our broken Spanish. Luckily she didn’t want to talk my ear off the whole way though, and most of the time was spent having the train rock me gently to sleep.
I made it in one piece and checked into my Airbnb near Plaza de España and the beautiful Templo de Debod, which reminds me of home in some odd way, of our own Temple of Dendur in the Met Museum in New York. (I have yet to perfect taking the requisite artistic sunset photo of the temple however.) With a little help from my great (fellow American) host and my cousin who lives here I’m already scoping out apartments and neighborhoods with fingers crossed, but trying to get a little time to take in the beauty of Madrid too.
There are these buildings decorated like ornate wedding cakes dotting the center, street musicians (and Oxfam harassers) on every corner; I’ve probably gained 5 pounds in patatas bravas alone, and marvel at the recession-friendly ads everywhere for a 70-cent caña (beer). They are probably tiny, but even so, it’ll make for a much easier country to live in when you’re broke than Germany.
I think my favorite place I’ve stumbled on so far is the Mercado de San Miguel (which I didn’t take a picture of, because why would I do something clever like that?) with its rows of different kinds of tapas, sweets, wine, and yes more beer. I didn’t really ever get into going out for tapas when I studied in Barcelona, but I can envision spending quite a few evenings doing so here — however don’t hold your breath for me to try gulas, as mystifying as they look (they’re baby eels, I think?)