To say I was determined to see a bullfight would be an understatement. After all, I’m in Spain and what do Spaniards do? They eat tapas… check. They drink sangria… check. And they watch bullfights…
By the way, I’m sure they do alot more but you get where I’m coming from.
So far I’ve been in Madrid, Granada and Seville and leaving for Barcelona shortly. While staying in Seville someone showed me their bullfighting photos from earlier in the week in Valencia and that planted a seed.
I wanted to experience this for myself.
I looked up when and where I could see a bullfight. Seville starts next month. Barcelona has outlawed it. A day trip to Valencia would be no good as they just finished theirs. My only possibility would be Madrid today.
Now, I’ve already been to Madrid twice in the last month and to be honest didn’t really have a love affair with it compared to other cities I’ve visited but if this was the only way, then this was what I was going to do.
I cancelled my last day in Seville and booked a six hour bus ride to Madrid, bought a bullfight ticket online, a one night stay in Madrid and a rail ticket back to Seville (through Cordoba – day trip!) the next day as I was flying out to Barcelona from there at night.
Got all that?
It felt weird coming back to Madrid as this was now my third time in less than a month I had traveled here. This time when I got off the bus I walked around like I lived here. I knew the streets, the metro… I knew where I was going and how to get there.
Today wasn’t about meeting new people and exploring a new city – it was solely about two things: the bullfight and then tapas at el Tigre.
If you’ve read my blog you know my love affair with the tapas bar el Tigre. It has set a very high bar for any other place in Spain and to be honest it was a swaying factor in coming back here.
More on that later…
First, the bullfight. Like the title says I have mixed emotions about the bullfight so I’ll talk about both.
First the overwhelming feeling of joy.
I’ve had this feeling one other time when I sat down at stall 98 in Marrakesh to my first meal there. I remember distinctly smiling to myself in the crowd elated that I was taking in the culture.
As I sat down on the hard concrete seat watching people file in for the fight I once again had that feeling. In fact it actually brought tears to my eyes as I took it all in.
I had set a goal for myself that come hell or high water I was going to see a bullfight today. I had left early in the morning and spent 6 hours on a bus to get here. I gave up a day in Seville with great people. I also gave up seeing the opening day of the huge festival there.
So when I finally made it and waited for the event to start I knew that I had accomplished my goal. It was an overwhelming feeling and one I hope to have many more times during this trip.
When the show started I was marveled by the pageantry and choreography of it all. The bullfighters would face the animal head on and just move slightly to the side with elegance and no fear as it charged towards them. The crowd would chant ole and the trumpets and drums would play. It was an amazing site to behold.
Then came the overwhelming feeling of sadness.
I don’t know why I was hit with this feeling as much as I was for I was told beforehand the bulls were killed in the end. I didn’t know how and I didn’t want to know. I never watched a video or read a description of it.
Sorry to my vegetarian friends for the next few paragraphs.
My earlier feeling of joy was immediately transformed to tears as the man on the horse stabbed the animal for the first time. It almost seemed cowardly as he and his horse were protected and in no danger.
I actually didn’t realize what had happened at first as it took place on the far side of the arena but when the bull turned around I saw its’ fur on the front side darker now as quite a bit of blood had spilled out of the animal.
Even as I write this I am brought to tears thinking about it. I honestly wanted to leave at this point but felt silly doing it after so much effort and time to be there.
Sparing the details, the animal was taunted and attacked several more times during the following 15 minutes before finally falling dead to its’ side and then, with trumpets blaring and the crowd cheering, dragged by horses out of the arena.
A family behind me that had brought 3 children had to leave soon after as all the kids were crying. I soon left as well.
For someone who hasn’t grown up in this culture it was a shock to see. I found it interesting that I had such a huge swing of emotions and in the end I’m glad I came. I’m glad I was able to experience these emotions because whether they are good or bad – they make you feel alive.
Anyway, how about some more good emotions?
Enter el Tigre!
That earlier feeling of overwhelming joy – the same I had when I was at stall 98 in Marrakesh – had returned. I felt like I was home. The plate of food I was given was ridiculously huge and of course we mustn’t forget the huge sangria that came with it. When I paid the whopping bill of 5 euros I tipped the man 70 cents and a few minutes later he gave me another plate of food to try.
As I walked home I kept smiling to myself. Through the good and the bad of the day – through the mixed emotions – I felt empowered. I felt alive. I kept thinking that just a few days ago I was lying in my bed in Granada questioning everything and here I was just a few short days later reflecting back on an amazing time with great people and great experiences.
If I ever have a down day again (and I’m sure there will be many) I will look back at this portion of my journey and remember that everything can turn around just like that.