There are many ways to experience Madrid by foot. Strolls through the Madrid of the Habsburg and Bourbon dynasties are popular tourist routes, as well as those in elegant shopping areas and imposing buildings in the upper class Salamanca district.
There is also a Madrid little known by tourists. It features narrow streets scattered in different downtown areas sharing a common charm. Some are steep (Madrid, standing at more than 600 meters above sea level, is the highest capital of Europe), others are flat as the one seen in the photograph. They lack sidewalks. Pedestrians avoid walking in single file along the narrow corridors placed behind the bollards. Instead, they prefer the central area designed for vehicles. Few cars dare to use it. Drivers become immediately aware that they are invading streets which were designed at a time where traffic was nonexistent, no matter what the bollards’ presence attempts to ascertain.
The colorful facades of buildings 3 or 4 floors high proudly exhibit their beautiful shapes. They are proof that neighbors and City Hall are set in maintaining a good appearance for visitors and locals alike. The tiny balconies of apartments display their artistic wrought iron railings, some of which are decorated with pots of geraniums or carnations, though I prefer them bare, so one can admire their creative ornaments free of distractions.
The lattice of homes at ground level, aside from providing protection for potential hazards, enhance the buildings’ architectural style. It is to be noted that in the late nineteenth century many foundries emerged in the region of Madrid establishing the peculiar iron architecture which became an essential decorative element in the construction of balconies, fences and lampposts (see the ‘Elizabethan’ street lamp at the left of the photograph above). While strolling through these anonymous and evocative streets, one should look up at the rooftop terraces to discover small orchards, cozy gardens or greenhouses flourishing under the sheltering sky of Madrid. Time seems to stand still as we calmly walk through these enchanting streets, as if immersed in a placid immanent space.