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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Buen Retiro Park, Madrid, Spain

The Crystal Palace, Buen Retiro Park, Madrid, Spain
New York City has its Central Park. San Francisco has its Golden Gate Park. Chicago has its Millennium Park. Los Angles has its Griffith Park. Orlando has Walt Disney World. Okay, not all parks are created equal. Madrid, Spain, has its own "central" park. Of all those mentioned above, it is by far the oldest. With some 350 acres, residing right in the middle of the country's bustling capital city, it is what many consider one of the top ten parks in the entire world--Parque del Buen Retiro (Park of the Pleasant Retreat).

Monument to Alfonso XII
Near the center of Buen Retiro Park is a large, rectangular lagoon which serves as a reflecting pool for one of the park's major two focal points, the Monument to Alfonso XII (above). The lagoon also serves as a recreational attraction for those wanting to do a bit of rowing in the midst of such magnificently landscaped beauty. The second primary focal point is the Crystal palace, which has its own, less formal, less expansive reflecting pool (below). The greenhouse type Victorian structure is a smaller version of London's Crystal Palace, though this one was literally built as a greenhouse for the 1887 Philippine Islands Exposition to house the tropical plants of the islands amidst the cooler climate of central Spain.

Designed by Ricardo Velázquez Bosco, the Crystal Palace is no longer
used as a greenhouse but to house traveling art exhibits.
As you can see by the differences in the landscaping layout illustrated by the map (below) Buen Retiro Park resembles, not one, but two parks, the northern half containing almost as much in the way of paths as it does greenery. The southern portion, centered around the Crystal Palace, is much broader, though no less formal in design. This reflects the many centuries over which the park has evolved. Taken as a whole, it looks as if it might be a good place to get lost. The large, structure located between the Alfonso XXII monument and the Crystal Palace is the Velazquez Palace (#13 on the map below). Yes, it's an art museum but not one named for the famous Spanish painter, Diego Velazquez, but for the building's architect, Ricardo Velázquez Bosco, who also designed the nearby Crystal Palace. Originally it was the Mining Building, built as an exposition venue in 1881-3 for the Exposición Nacional de Minería (National Mining Exposition). Today it houses the modern art for which there is no room at the Prado Museum (some two blocks west of the park). The Casa de Vacas on the north end of the park also serves as an art museum (#3 on the map below).

Park of the Pleasant Retreat
Sorry, no English translation available.
In dealing with a park as large as the Buen Retiro, a map highlighting the major attractions is an absolute must. This 17th-century version of today's amusement park has nearly as many things to see and do, though in this case admission is somewhat less than the fifty to one-hundred dollar ticket such parks currently demand. The Buen Retiro park is free. One of the more picturesque attractions the park has to offer is the Casita del Pescadores (Fisherman's cabin, be-low). With its own reflecting pond (presumably home to its own fish) the modest little structure, though design-ed in a Baroque style (sort of) it has a somewhat oriental appearance, though perhaps a tad too colorful for most oriental tastes.
The Fisherman's Cabin--more House and Garden than Field and Stream.
In addition to art museums, reflecting pools, monuments, statues, geometrical pathways, cool, green, nooks and crannies, Buen Retiro Park also offers visitors the Rosaleda rose garden, an annual book fair, puppet shows, and all manner of street performers and fortune tellers. Rowboats can be rented to paddle about the Estanque (pond), and horse-drawn carriages are available. If rowing is not your strong suit, there is a solar powered boat for cruising (on sunny days). Retiro provides multiple different sports courts that are managed by the city. For children there are playground areas as well as ponds throughout the park with ducks that need fed. The inside of the Palacio de Cristal there is included a stone sliding "board." The slightly older young people enjoy the major paths and walkway as runners, hikers, bikers, and rollerbladers. Many come and have picnics or Botellón. Botellón (drinking parties late in the afternoon before hitting the bars during the evening) is prohibited. but it's usually overlooked by the authorities. Much has changed since King Philip II moved the Spanish court to Madrid in 1561 and had the Retiro laid out by his architect Juan Bautista de Toledo, with formal avenues of trees and flowers. During the nearly five-hundred years since then, Buen Retiro Park has proven itself as new as it is old.

The Velazquez Palace--lots of art, but not a Velazquez to be found.
Nos vemos luego...


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