When we decided to choose Madrid as our favourite destination for our study abroad, we didn ́t know anything about this city. Of course, we knew the country, some of the traditions, the tapas, Barcelona, the climate and other things. But we neither heard something about the Prado Museum, which is nearly as important in the world ́s art-scene as the Louvre in Paris, nor about the Gran Via, the most spectacular street with the highest buildings of the City, which are absolutely breathtaking and can definitely compete with the New York ́s Sky Line. So we came to the capital of Spain, open-minded, nervous, happy and a bit insecure and we were overtaken by this City.
We spent our first day in the centre. We saw the Plaza Mayor, a quadratic spot, embedded between traditional spanish houses, with little balconies and painted in warm colours. It ́s a centre of attraction for tourists, with many reastaurants and street artists. The first thing we thought was that this was the most beautiful place in Madrid, especially for having dinner. However it didn ́t take long for us to drop this opinion since we saw Chueca the following day. It is a quarter of Madrid, next to the Gran Via. There live many artists, designers and creative people who give this part of the city a colourful touch. Furthermore it is known as a „gay area“ which you will instantly notice as you walk by many men holding hands. Between cute shops that sell individual but also very expensive clothes, you can find cafeterias, where you can drink your daily „Cafe con Leche“, Chocolaterias whith awesome cakes and macarrons, and a lot of restaurants. You get the feeling that you have to try all of them immediately. However that was before we explored Malasana. This neighborhood became at once our favourite one. It is famous for its vintage shops. It is hard work to work through all of them, but it’s worth it because they are all amazing and unique. In those shops you can find Levis shorts out of the 90ies, old basketball-tricots, oversized jeans-jackets, sunglasses, used leatherbags and crazy hippie accesoires. In some shops you can pay per kilo, which makes your shopping trip not only cheaper but also more diversified. Malasaña is not only known for its vintage shops and stained streets, but also for its bars. The Spanish people love barhopping, so to discover their favourite night-time activity this quater is ideal.
After discovering this part of the City, next to the Fuencarral, the best Shopping-Street, we realized, that it is impossible to find the one best place in Madrid, because this city includes so many great places. For hangig out and enjoying the hot weather in September, the Retiro Park and the arrangement arround the Rio are perfect. For having dinner outside in a less touristic area, you should try a restaurant at the Plaza Santa Ana, for some Tapas or Tintos, choose a tour arround La Latina. And no matter where you will spend your evening, one thing will be the same everywhere in Madrid: On a warm late-summer-night, you will meet heaps of people. At 10 o ́clock spanish people usually go out for eating, some Patatas Bravas (you must try those potatoes with a spicy sauce), sea food or a selection of bocadillos. And in this context, all spanish people include children, babies, families, the young generation and old grandparents as well. The ambience is amazing. It ́s loud in the small calles de Madrid, you can smell garlic and Sangria and everybody is happy while they ́re relishing the night.
The next thing we recognized during discovering Madrid was that it ́s not that easy to get to know spanish students and locals as we imagined it before. This may have different reasons. One is definitely the barrier of language. When we came to Madrid, our Spanish level wasn ́t very high. We were able to communicate in daily life situations, like ordering something in a restaurant, but having a conversation with natives wasn ́t possible. Spanish people are very shy, referring to their language abilities. Even if they can speak English, often they don ́t have the heart to do it just for not blaming themselves. What we, as foreigners, have to accept is that we must make concessions in form of learning their language and try to talk to them. We have to approve that it ́s always easier to blame them instead of just saying „hola, qué tal“ to them. In fact the Spanish are very friendly, cooperative and likeable, irespective of the situation, for example when you ask for the right way or when you want to buy a sim-card and you cannot even pronounce the name of the offerer right they will treat you politely at all times.
Before we looked for contacts with spanish people, we wanted to get to know our new classmates from Germany. So we arranged a meeting with all Madrid-Students from the „Emme Atsche Emme Ka“ (MHMK), made an appointment via Facebook to get together in the evening at Sol. This is the meeting point in Madrid ́s city centre for all young people at night where they sit together arround the fountains and drink canned beer. It was our starting point for barhopping. It was a surprising night, because it didn ́t take long and first friendships were built. The next day we met up again for relaxing in the Retiro park. A few bottles of Tinto de Verano and some very tasty pistachioes helped us again to get to know the students from one university but from different German cities better. Those friendships, contacts, conversations und fun times were consistently a great support for a good time and prevented us from getting homesick.
Meanwhile different cliques have been built but we still see each other every day at the Universidad Francisco de Vitoria. The campus is very unlike the ones of MHMK. It’s huge with many different buildings, wide grassland and vairous sports fields. There you can play tennis, football, basketball and other sports. Most of the lessons are interesting and fun, since we often do goup work and discussions. Sadly there are some teachers who don’t really know how to create an fulfilling and exciting lesson.
To put everything in a nutshell, this is how we spend our time, in Madrid. We enjoy it. Everyday. New discoveries, new experiences, new friends makes our lives exciting. Crossing of frontiers and accepting different rules, communicate with people from various cultures and to being far away from family and friends. This sometimes brings us out of our comfort zone but it also helps us to maturate and to develop our personalities.