I write this blog to remember a year that I would like to forget:
– In 2020 a Coronavirus pandemic ravaged the world.
– With it, came the Economic Ruin.
Our country, Spain, was one of the most affected. 2020 was the year of Confinement. For tourists and travelers. Airports got closed and with it, Tourism passed away. In Spain, the balance of the 2020 tourist season, showed 40 million less tourists and 50 billion Euros of losses.
Like many compatriots, I went through the confinement watching movies on the PC. And eating too much. The worst was to acknowledge masses of reservation cancellations.
March went by crossing out in the calendar the reservations for April and May.
At the end of the confinement fell over my head a dreaded cascade of cancellations for the summer.
But I did not lose my Hope in Better Times.
September became my Hope.
I write this blog at the end of September, 2020.
Some good omens testify that the pandemic is in remission.
Other bad omens report the opposite: the number of infected patients is growing. Hospital occupancy is increasing.
So, I have lost Hope. In September and the months to come. I sense that my reservations backup plan will go blank in October, November and December. No travelers or tourists will come. There will be no congresses, fairs or seminars.
We will live another 3 pale months of Tourism without Tourists.
And the official and ”unofficial” tourist guides will continue missing the past good times.
Otherwise, the flu is sure to come. It never fails.
MY WALKS WITH SNOOPY
Snoopy is the name of my 2 years old Beagle dog.
He is going to save me from falling in depression.
I have decided that, in absence of clients, I will guide Snoopy through the Capital of Spain.
Together we will exercise the healthy practice of traveling (in our own place, Madrid).
In the beginning, To Travel was an exclusive privilege to the upper class.
To Travel began in the 18th century with the Grand Tour. At the end of the 19th and begin of the 20th century, the Grand Tour got extended to distant countries of unknown cultures. This lasted until mass tourism transformed those countries into popular tourist destinations. It became more important than ”knowing the culture of the place” to ”tell people you’ve been there”. (Until the passage of time blurred from the memory the visited sites.)
In the absence of visitors from abroad, I will share with Snoopy some travel experiences.
The first plan was that Snoopy and I would stroll in current Madrid without tourists. We would learn on this wise, how looked Madrid before it got conquered – some 60 years ago – by mass tourism.
We would walk through Gran Via, now a lonely street full of closed shops.
Mmm, I have the feeling that it wouldn’t be a pleasant travel experience.
I better discard this travel experience : Too sad.
Let’s stroll better in neighborhoods where there were never any tourists at all.
For example, some of the Colonies of Madrid. I always wished to visit those clusters of cheap houses built in different sites of Madrid outskirts.
Between 1880 and 1924 were born the Colonies of Madrid.
The idea behind was to make possible that civil servants, military, workers and other people of humble social condition enjoy the pleasure to live in cheap, independent houses, allocated in peaceful and healthy environments. All homes would have its little garden or orchard.
Sadly, most part of the Colonies were demolished during the Second Spanish Republic.
Snoopy and I will walk through some old Colonies of Madrid to check what is left of it.
So, we got in the car and drove off to our first destination.
At the end of the 19th century, Mr. Arturo Soria, an urbanist ahead of his time, projected Ciudad Lineal. It would be a neighborhood for people from different social classes . All of them would enjoy individual houses of 2 floors, attic and garden. The rows of homes would be separated by a wide tree-lined boulevard.
Ciudad Lineal was a rural type urbanization where coexisted many infrastructures : Condominiums, different services and agricultural, industrial, cultural and recreational equipment.
Three homogeneous types of independent housing were marketed:
– The Luxury Hotels which had the largest surface area and the only ones with a bathroom in the house.
– Bourgeois hotels, with a built area of 95 square yards.
– The Hotels for ”Blue Collars”. Of 59 yards2 of Surface. Only 1 floor and 2 bedrooms, kitchen, dining room and sitting room.
A steam streetcar line connected Downtown with the Ciudad Lineal.
However, a greedy lady, Mrs. Soil Speculation, frustrated the completion of Ciudad Lineal. In ”the 30’s”, most of the buildings got demolished.
I told to Snoopy and to my son, the”photo-man”, that 60 years ago there were proposals to recover for Ciudad Lineal the urban philosophy of its creator. Unfortunately, such proposals were not approved by the City Council under dictator Franco. That way, communists and Francoist’s destroyed a wonderful urban chimera.
I parked my car in front of a brick house on Agastia Street that ‘’escaped’’ from demolition. It had been reformed and showed a flawless look. It maintained its original style. An architectural survivor of the last century, surrounded by appartment blocks. We walked with Snoopy along Bueso de Pineda Street. My Beagle fell good ! As he had been here before. He sniffed trees and walls. He raised his head. He looked around. I guessed he ‘’thought’’ the same as I did. This street was like other streets in many other neighborhoods which came up during Spain’s economic miracle.
Clean, tidy, but devoid of any distinctive character.
We returned to the car, to continue with our journey.
Vizconde de los Asilos is a Dead End Street. No problem to park. I found a place right in front of number 5, where were another of the surviving homes. Climbing plants expanded free on the wall, protecting the intimacy of the house. Undoubtedly, the first habitant of this property were wealthy people. A great ”bow window” of galvanized iron occupied the upper floor of the front façade. The ground floor of the house hid behind unpruned trees. This house would have been ideal for setting a Bertrand Tavernier period film. Instead, it is the headquarters of a Foundation which has a very laudable mission.
I walked with Snoopy to the end of the street. All apartments buildings looked very much alike than those of Bueso Pineda street.
Snoopy came over a brick wall. He looked at the treetops, took a deep breath and proceeded to relieve his bowels. No doubt that my Beagle fell very comfortable in this area. I picked up its ”little present” in a toilet bag and throw the wrapping in a nearby trash can. We were ready to hit the road again !
We said goodbye to Ciudad Lineal. Would Mr. Arturo Soria resurrect and check the present state of his project, the first thing he would ask would be to change the name of the Avenue that bears his name into Boulevard of The Speculation. I bet he would.
|CIUDAD LINEAL is an example of the Virtuosity of Real Estate Speculation in the destruction of altruistic urban projects for the sake of an economic benefit that disregards the welfare of citizens, if it isn’t linked to get the highest return on investment. As a business orthodoxy rule, nothing to object. But CIUDAD LINEAL was ‘’killed’’, despite so much land available for development on the outskirts of the city of Madrid.|
The Ciudad Jardin, or Madrid’s Garden City, was a member of a group of Colonies that emerged under the protection of 1911’s Law of Cheap Houses. Its mission was to provide decent housing to low income people.
The oldest one was the Socialist Colony or Garden City. It came up in 1919, by the founder of the Spanish Socialist Party, Pablo Iglesias Posse, and doctor Jaime Vera López. Ciudad Jardin consisted of 118 terraced homes in rows of 4 to 8 houses. Cooperativists affiliated to the Socialist Party, could book homes of 90 or 107 square yards. Both had the same layout:
I parked the car in Fernández de Balbuena Street. As soon as he got out, Snoopy peed on the wall in front. I imagined that ”the marks” that Snoopy would leave on walls and trees along the walk, would be as useful as the little stones that Hansel left on the earth to return home from the forest. In our case, to the place where I parked the car.
Walking around the Ciudad Jardin was outmost pleasant. I refer to the alleys for pedestrians, with small houses aligned on both sides of those side streets. I liked its names : Valdelamasa, Guaramillos, Siete Picos, Pico del Aguila, Atalaya…
To stroll in the pedestrian alleys of Ciudad Jardín is a good way to evade from daily life stress. Thus, we ought to respect the peace of the residents as they all know each other and may identify strangers in a second. But Snoopy broke this rule as soon as he heard the first barks of the watchdogs greeting us from behind the fences. Snoopy, of course, left no bark unanswered, so imagine the uproar of the dogs that got up ! I’m sure the barking startled many of the neighbors who were enjoying their Sunday rest ☹
A few minutes later, we landed in Navalafuente Street. After few steps, we run into the Pradillo City Sports Center which has an indoor pool.
Snoopy and I began to dream with open eyes. Snoopy’s dream would focus on new doggy friends he could have if we moved to the Ciudad Jardin. I dreamt that if I lived here, even in a small house, I could swim every afternoon after work, walk with Snoopy through car-free streets, plant flowers in the garden, reread my favorite books and have dinner on the terrace on hot summer nights…
But I was afraid that such a dream was a forbidden thing for a tour guide with no travelers to guide. I bet that the price of these houses is higher today than the 72 to 115 Euros paid in 1920 by those lucky 116, first buyers.
We said goodbye to the Ciudad Jardin full good vibes. Better than those we got after the visit to Ciudad Lineal. I guessed that in those homes it no longer live low income people. Its original social meaning had vanished, for sure, with the passage of time. But the homes were not demolished. Its sole survival was gratifying. Do you think that this neighborhood of small homes would have survived in Singapore or Hong Kong ?
So, long live to Ciudad Jardin. I hoped it remained hidden from Mrs. Soil Speculation.
|CIUDAD JARDIN is the neighborhood where I would be happy, if I could afford to live there. Happiness is our Ideal Life Goal, but we would be making a mistake if we projected it onto a thing that is beyond our reach. I remembered Schopenhauer’s wise lesson about Happiness, which should depend – said the philosopher of pessimism – on what we are, and not so much on our external circumstances. ( Although Jose Ortega y Gasset did not agree at all with that )|
Snoopy and I wanted to end our day on Roma Street, located in the former Colony of ”Modern Madrid’‘. Here, there are some peculiar 2-storey homes, built in the modernist style. Its architectural design received many negative critics at the beginning. Yet today, its English layout attracts the attention of the pedestrians. These homes have :
– A basement.
– An exterior cast iron fence.
– An entrance door to the house, protected by an artistic trellis.
– High columns that support a peculiar wooden lookout-balcony on the second floor.
– A brick façade ornated with ceramic and reliefs
Dr. Jaime Vera López, the promoter of the Ciudad Jardin, habited in one of these houses.
From a certain distance, the homes on Roma Street looked beautiful. Up close, I fell sorry for them. The poor ones. They seemed ”encaged” by apartment buildings. Its proximity to the old surviving houses provides them an ugliness that would not bother us, if instead of Roma Street they were located in another place with apartments of the same type and identical ugliness.
I needed to dream with open eyes again.
I asked my son to go with Snoopy to shoot some pictures of the modernist tower, located between Castelar and Cardinal Belluga streets. So, as they went and came back, I had time to dream that I was the Mayor of Madrid, in possession of a magic wand. In a jiffy, I would have fixed the power lines (laying the wires underground), sanitize water and sewage pipes, connect the houses to the gas network, limit traffic for residents only, subsidize 80% of the cost of the total renovation of housing (the remaining 20%, to be paid in 30 years) and include them in the catalog of protected Madrid buildings …
My son and Snoopy came back. A friendly neighbor took a photo of them. Exactly in front of the modernist tower built by Julian Marin. This architect was also author of ”La Casa de las Bolas” in Alcala Street 145.
Wow ! Finished in only 30 seconds; my total rehabilitation of the Roma Street.
We got again into the car and left to the Colony of the Postmen. This was another promotion emerged under the protection of the Law of Cheap Houses. In 1920, in a wild area of orchards and caves, professor Enrique Martí built 120 homes for the Cooperative of Cheap Houses for Postmen.
The original homes consisted of :
– A small garden and homes with an uniform surface between 66 to 72 square yards. (Although the height of some houses was slight higher than others.)
– One floor, with a hall, three bedrooms, kitchen, sitting room and outdoor bathroom.
I parked my car in the Brescia street. Snoopy was commisioned to lead the way. Our Beagle-guide opted for ”Goodness street” which had a perpendicular layout. Same as the next street, named Lozoyuela.
Snoopy stopped to greet another little dog. Her owner was a very friendly lady. She told us that at the begin, Lozoyuela alley had the name of ”Justice” and that the next parallel street name was ”Beauty”. While Snoopy and his new friend sniffed each other, we learnt that this Colony had undergone many renovations. Most of the small houses got demolished. It were replaced by others in the same style but a little bit larger. Tall hedges prevented pedestrians from prying over the fences. And traffic got banned from the alleys. Our new friend explained to us that all the surveillance cameras in the houses came from a fleeting time – already past – when robbery increased in the neighborhood.
We said good bye and restarted our walk. We agreed that these narrow streets, looking at them at eye level conveyed to us, stronger than on the Ciudad Jardin, the feeling that we were wandering through a beautiful little Andalusian village. Although if we raised our eyes, we would discover everywhere those anodyne brick apartment buildings that threatened the surrounding of the Colony of the Postmen.
We returned home savoring our walk through those charming little streets with endearing names. Snoopy fell asleep in the back seat of the car. Our dog got very tired after the hard work to sniff out so many sidewalks where he had never been before.
The Colonies Modern Madrid and of the Postmen are located in the neighborhood of La Guindalera. Before the erection of the Las Ventas Bullring, la Guindalera was the end of urbanized Madrid and the beginning of a vast wasteland.
In the orchards of La Guindalera aroused, everywhere, small houses with fruit tres of all kind in the garden, sour cherries predominantly.
Some lucky Madrilenians had the privilege to spent their vacation in this rural area devoid of oppression, noise, pestilence and crowds.
Do you want to move – like us – to the past ?
Then, have a stroll in the streets of Goodness, Lozoyuela and Beauty. Get enraptured of its calm. And be careful not to raise your eyes above your head ! Avoid a rude and unpleasant awakening to the harsh reality of our present time.
|THE COLONIES OF MODERN MADRID AND OF THE POSTMEN confirm a Paradox. About the role of the authorities, responsible for urbanism. On the one hand, the surviving houses of the Colony of Modern Madrid call for an urgent intervention of the Cityhall, to protect it from gradual deterioration. But, the Colony of the Postmen would need to stay as it is, to prevent the new times from altering its peaceful pace of life.|
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