Sunday, September 9, 2012

It's a Sunday thing....

Last Sunday, I got off the metro at the Retiro Station to have a look at the playground of the once rich and famous. Retiro Park was the private recreation area of Spanish Royalty for most of its history, only opened up in the 1850s to the great unwashed of humanity. Actually for years after opening to the public, you could only get in if you were quite dressed up! Nowdays, any rif-raf is permitted and they do droves.

It's a Sunday thing to go to Buen Retiro Park with the family, maybe rent a row boat and row around on the formal "lake", a large rectangular pond graced by Roman columns, statues, and stone lions, a monument to Alfonso XII. During the days of the kings, the lake hosted mock naval battles. South of the lake is the Crystal Palace, a glass and steel construction used for exhibits. Another exhibit hall, the Palace of Velazquez, is named for it's architect and that of the Crystal Palace, Ricardo Velazquez Bosco. Several of the royal buildings are still standing and are used for various functions.

The monument to King Alfonso XII
The park is enormous, over 350 acres of formal landscaping, walkways, paved and unpaved roads, planted and maintained forests, fountains and statues. Most of the crowds center around the lake, the vendors, and the buildings, leaving the small pathways, all quite straight and intersecting, to people who want a quieter experience. Although it is completely maintained, some of the less traveled areas feel natural and 'unmanned'. On a walk through I came across two men playing guitars and singing Beatle's tunes with both Spanish and English lyrics. Benches in all the formal circles are a welcome relief from walking all day, and the shade is a nice break from a rather intense sun.

A portrait of Justice, directly beneath
the tail of King Alfonso XII's horse.
Could that have been planned??

One of many lions guarding the monument.