The landscape around Madrid is scorched and dry, littered with the crumbling remnants of old fortresses, but also accented by the facades of breathtaking Spanish mansions. Staring out the window of a high-speed train you can't help but imagine your life unfolding on the balcony of one of those houses, watching the dust and the trains drift past under the scorching sun.
Madrid the city is also scorching, from the sun and from the passion of the inhabitants. I have been really taken aback by the resoundingly negative opinions other travelers have of this city. The buildings are ancient and regal, the palaces a reminder of the dominant power that once was Spain. And, if you are willing to hike the steep city hills, the hippest neighborhoods are as hip as they come. It was here that I ate my first Spanish tapas, headlined by breaded, fried brie cheese with raspberry preserves.
I spent a night in a Madrid discoteca with a Brasilian girl, "A," who I am pretty sure understood one out of every three words that I said to her. However, like most Brasilians (I imagine), she spoke through the sway of her hips and we completely understood each other. After a late night stumble back to the hostel, we found ourselves unable to part company, tangled together in a hallway until one of the proprietors found us and frustratedly swept us away to our separate rooms like children. And I felt like a child again, invincible, having a first kiss in the stairwell of my school.
In Madrid's modern art museum, Reina Sofia, we saw a collection of Salvador Dali paintings from a period before his Surrealist mind saw clocks melting and elephants walking on giant spider legs. I feel like this is where I am now, on the cusp of a dream world that only exists in my mind.