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New Year’s en la Puerta del Sol, Madrid!

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Spain’s capital, Madrid, is the one of the coolest cities in the Europe to spend time in. I travelled there over winter break and was able to wait for the New Year in Madrid’s most famous and most central square, La Puerta del Sol. First, I’ll tell you a little bit about the square so, if you visit, you’ll know a thing or two and be able to show off your knowledge to your travel companions (haha)! So, La Puerta del Sol holds several historical landmarks that are very important to Spain. The first, and probably most well known, is the “Real Casa de Correos”. This building was originally established in the 18th Century as a post office, then became the headquarters of Spain’s former dictator Franco in the early 1940s, and is now the headquarters of the President of Madrid’s Autonomous Community. Its clock tower also keeps the time for the city.

Right Outside the Casa de Correos is a stone slab on the pavement marking Kilometre Zero – the official starting point for Spain’s 6 National Roads. It’s exciting to stand on this stone and know that the country’s main transportation routes all lead back to right where you stand!

Directly opposite the Casa de Correos is a very important Spanish statue (one of several statues around the square) that is the official symbol of the city, “El Oso y El Madroño” (the Bear and the Strawberry Tree). The origin of this symbol is unclear –

– but apparently there used to be many bears in the fields around Madrid.

Anyway, so now I’ll share about my experience in La Puerta Del Sol on New Year’s Eve. There were so many people and everyone was packed in tightly that the police had to close off the square so no more people were able to squeeze their way in. Luckily, we got there early (we waited for about two hours if I remember correctly). There were people from all over the world and everyone was having a blast. It’s a tradition in Spain to wear colorful wigs or crazy hats for New Year’s Eve and almost everyone was… it was quite a festive and colorful scene.

The best part of the waiting, of course, was the countdown! We counted down in Spanish (obviously) and then a bright green sign lit up on the clock tower saying “Feliz 2009” and fireworks went off. Another New Year’s tradition in the Spanish speaking world is guzzling down a grape for each of the twelve chimes of the clock tower at midnight- we did it too! Afterward, everyone cleared out pretty quickly and massive amounts of cleaning crews were standing at the ready. On our way back to the hotel, we saw countless people all dressed up on the subway- going to the famous discotecas to celebrate the New Year until dawn. It was amazing to experience the coming of 2009 in a foreign place!
Stay tuned: there will be more to come on the city of Madrid!
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