It seems like the entire world is shut in at home.
I live in Madrid, Spain.
At the time of this writing, streets are empty. Traffic has disappeared. Businesses are closed.
Schools and universities are locked down.
Human contact has stopped.
All as if the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse had been let loose. Doomsday seems just around the corner.
Everything has come to a standstill.
I do try not to be fazed by the grim state of affairs in spite of the fact that I am also a shut-in. Some days I come close to having cabin fever.
However, I am able to enjoy my favorite hobby, traveling, despite the restrictions imposed by governments.
Among other curtailments, governments have practically banned tourism.
Countries have closed borders; and the free circulation of people, even in Europe, is strictly forbidden. Not for me.
At 81, I am not going to be told what to do or not to do.
I may not be able to leave the apartment where I live in Madrid. But I am able to virtually visit my favorite spots through this wonderful tool that is the Internet.
Let me take you on this virtual tour, hoping that I may entice you to come and walk the streets of this formerly vibrant city, once the dust settles and we are able to resume our lives.
Hopefully we will travel again.
Allow me to introduce you to the Plaza Mayor, the major public space of the city, built during the reign of Phillip III, a huge square where bullfights and public executions used to take place.
Now, let’s stroll towards the Puerta del Sol, another huge square and usually one of the busiest spots in Madrid and Europe, and where throngs gather at New Year´s Eve to swallow the 12 lucky grapes at the strokes of the ancient clock.
This is the center of the radial network of the country’s roads. Never empty, until now, you may hear the sounds of all languages of the world.
Let’s go over to the Plaza de Cibeles, the goddess Cibeles, mother of Zeus, which has become an icon symbol of the city, viewing several important neoclassical buildings: the Bank of Spain, Linares Palace, Buenavista Palace and what used to be the Post Office and now houses City Hall. Actually “village Hall” because Madrid, officially, is a “villa”, village, Villa de Madrid.
Come on over to another plaza –the city is full of them-, Plaza de la Independencia, where we may behold the magnificent Puerta de Alcalá, the gate built by king Felipe IV, older than the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Take a look:
At a stone’s throw is El Retiro, the largest of the many parks the city owns. It belonged to the kings of Spain until the 19th century, and now it is the most popular recreational park within the city, close to downtown, Puerta del Sol, and Plaza Mayor.
Over 15,000 trees, plenty of gardens and monuments, a large pond, and many other attractions used to gather thousands of natives and tourists every day.
I truly hope you enjoyed this brief virtual tour with me.
I am typing this from my apartment.
It’s been almost two weeks since I last went outdoors and it may be longer than I’d like to think until I can walk the streets of Madrid again.
I hope that when all this is over, you are inspired to see all of these monuments in person.
As for myself, once we are allowed out in the streets again, I plan to leave the house early in the morning and not return until sunset. I will take plenty of walking tours of Madrid.
In the meantime, I will continue to visit the city I live in through the internet, during these days when the world seems to be standing still.