We spent three and a half days admiring the wonderful buildings, parks and fountains, and streetscapes in Central Madrid. We also enjoyed the galleries and very interesting restaurants and travelled to some attractive areas outside the city.
But like any large city, Madrid has problems to deal with. One is pickpockets. We experienced this first hand when Sally, who is always very careful to keep her purse close to her body, had her wallet snatched from her purse in the split of a second. Fortunately, an older woman saw it happen and called out. I grabbed the thief as she handed over the wallet, and her accomplice looked on.
As I stood there holding the young girl, Sally urged me to let her go and move on. I was conflicted since I really wanted to find the police, who are generally very visible around the city, and hand her over. But I couldn't see a policeman nearby, and Sally figured that we don't speak the language, we don't want to spend the day in the police station, and she had got her wallet back. So at Sally's very strong urging, I let her go.
Throughout our stay, I was troubled by another serious problem in Madrid. Grafitti. Vandals (I think they are vandals, not artists) have literally taken over the city, including the Gran Via and other exclusive areas. Once you get off the main streets, some areas look like the worst parts of New York a few decades ago. Especially at night when the store shutters have been pulled down and they have been covered with various types of images. Vandals have also scratched the windows of the local trains and in some cases, completely covered over train cars.
For the life of me, I find it hard to understand why a city, with such grand traditions, would allow the grafitti taggers to make so much of their city so ugly. I also cannot understand why major companies allow their businesses to be defaced. But it is apparent that the business community, the public and presumably government officials have completelygiven up. They should be ashamed of themselves for allowing parts of such a beautiful city to be destroyed. In saying this, I appreciate this is not just a problem in Madrid; it's a problem throughout Europe, and it is a sad commentary on the society that this is being allowed to happen.
At the same time, Vancouver is to be congratulated for what it has accomplished in the management of grafitti. Our city really is a world leader. Now we must just deal with chewing gum and cigarette butts, but that's another story!