Sunday, September 9, 2007

Madrid Welcomes You!

I, Julia and Sebastian rushed in the morning as we had to leave for Frankfürt to catch a plane at noon, leaving for Madrid. The ride was quite smooth. Julia had thoughtfully packed some chocolate biscuits for us. At Frankfürt we had some very good coffee and got ourselves lost in the sea of people. With three terminals and tens of gates, I just kept wondering how these airport people manage this massive "enterprise"! It is enormous by any means. At every minute a plane was leaving... that means, at every minute a plane was arriving as well! I could see through the window that at most of the times two planes were landing at the same time in two different runways, and planes were taking off simultaneously. It is credible. It was also very easy to take photographs as we had got ourselves security checked well in advance. The Security Check was very thorough... but once. So, no hassles after that. That was better. We should learn from them--not to disturb people too many times in the name of checking the samething again and again.

We landed at 3.40 p.m. Madrid was warm and welcoming. We rushed out. And we had to walk too long to catch to a Metro rail to the Office of Manos Unidas. Madrid has one of the best Metro networks in the world. It practically covers the entire city. And at each station you never wait more than 4.59 minutes- because at every fifth minute a train passes. That I would call it fantastic, user friendly. This avoids rush on the road, and people don't mind waiting for such a short-time. We changed the trains three times to reach the Office of Manos Unidas. At two occasions, we did not even have to wait for a minute. It is all well synchronised. When you get down from one platform and move to the other platform, another one comes! Our city planners must come to study how they function. (And not take holiday on Government money in exotic hotels).

At Manos Unidas, the visit was very fruitful. We spent some time with the women who were waiting for us. They were so happy to see that I had traveled all the way from India, and that Julia and Sebastian had brought me from Germany. Once we left the place, we took the Metro again and got down at Sol. Sol is an important place in Madrid, because it is from Sol that every house in Madrid is numbered, and every milestone to Madrid is marked. Julia had picked a cheap but decent hotel for our stay for the night, just a stone's throw-away from Sol. We went there and had a wash. Then we were out on a walk. We went to see the palatial gardens and the palace of the King. (In case you do not know, Spain still has the King, like the Britain having Queen.) Then we took a "Madrid Vision" Bus. The bus is a double-decker with an open roof. We chose the upper floor so that we can have a good view from the top. It was fantastic because the ride we took was a "Historic Places Vision" Ride. (They also have a Modern Madrid Vision Ride.) In this we were taken along all the historic places. Anyone can get in at any point and get down at any point. The ticket was for a whole day. To see them all in the bright lit night... you can just say, Superb! I must mention here one more thing. As we got into the bus, the conductor, a woman, gave us each a small booklet on the ride and an earphone. It is important. All that we had to do was just plug in the earphone into a socket next to the seat and choose any of the eight languages that simultaneously give you commentary on what you are viewing. It also guides you to notice at some particular details and explains historical facts. They have almost done away with guides who charge you too much, even blackmail in our historical places, and more so, they give you a choice of language. You can also hear the commentary digitally with very light music at the background. Something to learn more for us. Madrid's night life is really exciting. We could see thousands of people on the street, taking a fine walk in the evening sun (Sun was still shining at 8.45 p.m. Spanish time.) People were having plenty to eat, lots of beer to gulp down and enjoying with their friends. (If you are looking for some real good hot evening... or night... destination is Madrid.) We returned to the hotel by 11.15, and went to bed immediately.

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