Monday, 16 January 2017

A Walk along Calle de Alcala, Madrid

Calle de Alcalá is one of the 2 main streets in Madrid for tourists; the other is Calle Gran Via (Broadway). A visit to Madrid is incomplete without seeing these 2 streets. And these 2 streets have quite different buildings: Calle Gran Via is a commercial street while Calle de Alcalá is more of a government street (as you'll see in the rest of this article).

Street sign, Calle de Alcala, Madrid, Spain


After the visit to Círculo de Bellas Artes Rooftop Terrace for a panoramic and aerial view of Calle de Alcalá, it's only natural that afterwards, we proceeded to walk this Madrid's main street and admired it from the ground level. Of course, we didn't walk the entire street of Calle de Alcalá (which is the longest street in Madrid). We only covered the section between the 2 important Madrid squares: Plaza de Cibeles and Puerta del Sol.

Google map, Calle de Alcala, Madrid, Spain
Section of Calle de Alcalá covered in this walk


Edificio Metropolis, Edificio Grassy, Iglesia de San José Cathedral and Área de Gobierno de Hacienda y Administración Pública (Administration of Government Public Property and Area, Calle de Alcala, Madrid, Spain
Edificio Metropolis, Edificio Grassy, Iglesia de San José Cathedral
and Área de Gobierno de Hacienda y Administración Pública (Administration of Government Public Property and Area).
(Click photo to enlarge)

The above photo gives a panorama of the intersection of Calle de Alcalá and Calle Gran Via (Broadway). The 2 buildings that locates at the head of Calle Gran Via of Metropolis and Grassy Buildings have architectures that are representative of those that are found on Gran Via. They were both built around early 20th century and representative of that style.

I explored Gran Via on another day. Today, we restricted ourselves to only Calle de Alcalá.


Winged Victory, Metropolis Building, Calle de Alcala, Madrid, Spain
Metropolis Building, Calle de Alcala, Madrid, Spain
Top:  The Metropolis.
Left:  Winged Victory on top of the dome.

Metropolis and Glassy Buildings, Calle de Alcala, Madrid, Spain
Another angle of Metropolis (left) and Grassy (right) Buildings.

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Not far from Metropolis building is a neo-classical building that stands out the rest because of its red brick facade, which housed Iglesia de las Calatravas (Church of Calatravas). Bricks weren't used often for public buildings as it was considered inferior construction materials, but the architect of this church had proven that it was a worthy material for important buildings, and silenced the critics (he bricked up their mouths).

Iglesia de las Calatravas, Calle de Alcala, Madrid, Spain
Iglesia de las Calatravas

Iglesia de las Calatravas, Calle de Alcala, Madrid, Spain
Iglesia de San José

The one claim to fame to this Church of Calatravas is described in the following sign that Félix Lope de Vega was singing mass in this church in 1614. In case you aren't familiar with Félix Lope de Vega. He's the most important Spanish literary figure, 2nd only to Miguel de Cervantes.

Info sign, Iglesia de las Calatravas, Calle de Alcala, Madrid, Spain

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Bull (Torro) figure, Calle de Alcala, Madrid, Spain
Retail shop seen on Calle de Alcalá.
Anyone who knows about Chinese mythological creature - Bull
Demon King (牛魔王) - would find this figure funny and familiar.
Chinese tourists would find it irresistible not to take a photo with him / it.

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Note the symbol on the bottom left of the following photo. The symbol looks like a mathematical symbol tilde (∼) on top of a symbol for capacitor in electronic circuit diagrams. But this symbol has nothing to do with maths or electronic engineering. It has everything to do with language, specifically Spanish language. This is a logo for Instituto Cervantes (or The Cervantes Institute).

The Cervantes Institute, Calle de Alcala, Madrid, Spain
Instituto Cervantes

Just as China has its Confucian Institute to promote the study of Chinese language and culture abroad, Instituto Cervantes is a Spanish government organization to do the same thing for Spain. Except Cervantes is a Spanish literary figure rather than a philosophical figure like Confucius. Cervantes to Spanish is more similar to Goethe to German. They're the 2 most important literary figures in the cultures of Spain and Germany. Yes, there's a non-profit Geothe Institut that does the same thing for German language and culture. Of course, USA doesn't really need one because she, or i should say he (it's Uncle Sam), has Hollywood and Bob Dylan (Nobel Prize laureate in literature, literally). How many poems must a man write down before you call him a Dylan? How many buildings must a road possess before you call it a Gran Via? The answer, my amigo, is blowing in the wind...



Speaking of wind and weather. may i remind you that...the rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain...and that's how i got back to to topic of plainly Spain, at hand, my main man.

I encourage you to clap your hands and snap your fingers while watching the following video...ole, okay?


Ok, back to our Calle (which is pronounced like "car ye", not "Carl" or "Kylie", alright, My Fair Lady?

Similarly "paella" should be pronounced like "pa eh ya". Of course, you're welcome to order an "entry" in a restaurant. Nobody is going to charge you extra for that.

On similar subject (of language, and not just Spanish), you may wonder why TV reporters insist in pronouncing the French politician François Fillon as "Fiyon", not "Fillon". Just like Spanish. Or do the TV people mistaken double 'l' for a 'y'? Why not? There's a man who mistook his wife for a hat (according to Oliver Sacks. I take his words for it because he's a doctor, unless i mistook him for a doctor when in fact he's a sack. Not Sacks. Now, i'm confused). And why should you pronounce French properly, but not Spanish, i ask you, my Fair Lady and Signore Bowler?

Again, for Spanish fans, here are 2 more frames of the Cervantes Institute. Please find the logos in both photos.

The Cervantes Institute, Calle de Alcala, Madrid, Spain

The Cervantes Institute, Calle de Alcala, Madrid, Spain


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Next to the Institute is Palacio Buenavista, and in fact locates at the corner of Plaza de Cibeles. The name Buenavista Palace originated from its previous owner of the Duke of Alba. Today, it's an army headquarter.

Buenavista Palace, Calle de Alcala, Madrid, Spain
Cuartel General del Ejercito (General Army Headquarter)

As it was 26 Dec, we could expect to see Christmas display.

Nativity scene, Buenavista Palace, Calle de Alcala, Madrid, Spain
Nativity scene display on the army ground.
Feliz Navidad = Merry Christmas

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The highlight in this section of our walk is, without a doubt, Plaza de Cibeles.

The Plaza de Cibeles is named after Palacio Cibeles, which was built by an architect named Palacios (surely not hard to remember). This Gothic Revival building was the Spanish Post Office and Telegraph in 1909. Since 2007, it's housed the Madrid City Council.

Cibeles Palace, Calle de Alcala, Madrid, Spain
Palacio Cibeles

Cibeles Palace, Calle de Alcala, Madrid, Spain

Cibeles Palace, Calle de Alcala, Madrid, Spain


The focal point of Plaza de Cibeles is the Cibele Fountain. In fact this fountain depicts the Roman goddess Cybele, who gives its name to this square. And so it should come at no surprise that it predates Palace Cibeles, and it was created in 1782, more than 127 years before Cibele Palace came to the scene. Goddess Cybele is usually depicted with a couple of lions pulling her chariot. Although this is a much slimmer depiction of goddess Cybele. Perhaps lost some weight from riding the chariot around for more than a century. I'm a lioness, hear me roar!

Cibele Fountain, Calle de Alcala, Madrid, Spain


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Slightly opposite Iglesia de las Calatravas and located at the corner is an attractive building with an equally couple of quadriga (4 Horse chariot) sculptures to boost. This is a BBVA bank building.

Quadriga (four horse chariot), BBVA Building, Calle de Alcala, Madrid, Spain


Quadriga sculptures pop up here and there around Europe. Perhaps, one of the more famous of such sculpture sits (or stands or rides) atop Brandenburg Gate in Berlin (No, this isn't the Biblical 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse as there's only 1 horseman in quadriga).

One of the earliest known example of a quadriga sit atop of one of the fabled 7 Wonders of the Ancient World - Mausoleum at Halicarnasus. Of course, it's fabled because the only one remaining is the Great Pyramid.


Quadriga (four horse chariot), BBVA Building, Calle de Alcala, Madrid, Spain





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