Category Archives: Shopping

A Modern Pilgrim

A Modern Pilgrim

With compliments from the people of Madrid–    Arrives by plane or high speed train as not to burden the feet too much

–          Is offered a full package of 6 night’s accommodation including breakfast and dinner and participation in all the fun stuff for a maximum of 210 Euros. To keep the price so low, the host city generously offers to take care of the bulk of the charges, despite the worst economic crisis since the start of democracy.

–          Receives a brightly colored back pack full of literature, city guides, hats, t-shirts, rosaries, crosses and alcohol free beer (…) so generously sponsored by national companies who get a 80% tax reduction in return from the same government (economic crisis anyone?). And if the pilgrim then wears that backpack and t-shirt day after day like the good and obeying lamb he/she is, they will not be made fun off by the locals, at least not in public.

–          Gets all kinds of goodies like exceptionally low rates for public transport (isn’t it great to be generous with money that you do not own, city of Madrid?) and heavily discounted menus in restaurants local people can only dream of but have no access to because they do not happen to share the pilgrim’s beliefs.

–          Does not even need to use that discounted subway card, since the entire city centre is closed for traffic anyway during more than a week, a phenomenon not seen since the civil war. However, if the need for subway still exists, the locals will be more than patient to keep giving directions despite the specially designed metro plan for pilgrims and will promise not to laugh when despite all the help the wrong train is still taken by the pilgrim.

–          Arrives in great numbers, as in 500.000 or more, in order to have safety in numbers, overwhelm the local fauna completely and to get away with everything their clean and innocent minds can possibly think of since it will be impossible to sweep Sol clean with such a number of people on it.

Now, my Dear Pilgrim: can you please have the decency to

–          Not sing and scream in the street after midnight, especially not songs that contain the words ‘pope’, ‘benedict’ or ‘christ’ because some locals still need to work the next day and strangely enough cannot live on the faith of others alone. It is clear that you want to share your joy with the world but please do so during the day. In short, do not do here what you would not do at home.

–          Not go into the neighborhoods full of immigrants trying to convert them to your religion. That is just rude.

–          Not try to enter subway carriages with groups of 50 or more people in one go: it scares and annoys the locals. Also, keep the singing down to a minimum and do not sit on the floor; other people would like to move around as well and not have the feeling they have their underwear examined.

–          Not, never ever, block a protest that was approved of by the host city, even if the protesters aim to object to all the privileges you are given with money that the host city does not really have and that the locals are actually paying. This is called freedom of speech: everybody can express his opinions, just like you can sing yours. Also, please do not stay and watch how the square is cleaned of protesters shortly after by riot control police, not because the protesters were actually doing  something wrong, but only because the police grew tired of waiting for the protest to run its course (because the road was blocked by…yes,pilgrims) and decided to end it.

–          Not tell the locals how they should live their lives. Remember, you are a guest and basically live of your host’s pockets. Let them live however they see fit.

Lastly, I kindly request the host country to become a real lay state as soon as possible. It is time: this whole pilgrim thing is not what it used to be.


The Shittiest Christmas Market In The World, For Good Reasons.

Mercado de Navidad
Plaza Mayor, Metro Sol/Opera
Until the 31st of December

Everybody who has been in Madrid for more than a year and has therefore lived to see the traditional Christmas market on Plaza Mayor before will agree with me that it is, by far, the most bizarre and inappropriate seasonal market ever anywhere. And that is because Spain nurtures some pretty bizarre and inappropriate traditions this time of the year. Hence the nativity figures and brightly colored wigs and masks.

It is supposed to be no offence whatsoever to the catholic church, nor to the famous people involved, nor to the tradition of putting a nativity under your Christmas tree and yet an unsettling feeling will creep up once you study the figures on offer on Plaza Mayor to complement your set of Joseph-and-Mary-and-baby-Jesus-in-a-crib. Because, errr, are those little traditional Catalan-dressed farmers actually squatting with their pants down and producing a poo? Yes, they are. Most of them are even reading a newspaper or smoking a pipe while doing their deed, to pass the time in a more comfortable way. If you want to buy one ask for a Caganer, or Cagon (a crapper, basically). And they are not just farmer-figures (all though as far as I know those are the only ones for sale on the market), but can also be shaped looking like, say, Bush, or Queen Sofia. Or Aznar. Or Buddha. Or virtually every football player ever born, for that matter. Your newly acquired crib member could represent fertility of the earth for the new year. Or it could just make fun of Bush, the Queen and anybody else who can be caught with his pants down or her skirt up.

Cataluna swears that a caganer should be seen as an honor and a homage to the person depicted and I suspect this must have something to do with catalan humor. Others say it is a reminder of the fact that each and every one of us has the same basic needs after all. Whatever the real reason for putting a farmer in need in your house, I bet that from now on you will not be able to pass a Belén (nativity scene) without looking for uncovered buttocks and a small heap hidden in bushes.

That leaves the wigs and masks and they make up for more than half of the total offer for sale.. Only if you are aware that Christmas lasts two weeks (yes, two weeks. That is why it is called Navidades in Spanish, in plural. It just never ends.)–from December 24 to January 6- and that it therefore includes the 28th of December, you might understand why wigs and masks are considered to be a seasonal accessory. The 28th is the Día de los Santos Inocentes (Massacre of the Innocents) or the day that King Herod ordered the killing of every male baby in Bethlehem after learning from the Three Kings that one of them would remove him from his throne. Somehow, the Spanish, who used to be so devout and catholic, have managed to turn this day into a slightly overdue April Fools’ Day: a time for practical jokes that can go unpunished because the pranksters are ‘innocent’, just like those babes.

It is a good day to mistrust every article or story that appears in the media –a republican newspaper spreading rumors that the King is about to abdicate, reports of hundreds of ostriches invading a village because the truck that carried them broke down- , and mistrust everybody else while you are at it. Spanish with less talent for more subtle jokes buy a wig or a mask. Works just as well. Last year the Ayuntamiento suffered an attack of prudishness and has banned the stalls from the very Plaza Mayor in order to keep the Christmas spirit a bit more decent, but just follow the Elvis look-la-likes and the men with big pink hair and you’ll find the stalls easily.