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February 23, 2011
by Tre. W.
no where, Louisiana
April 29, 2006
From journal Backpacker in Madrid
August 22, 2004
Take Calle de Mayor west to Plaza Mayor, Plaza de la Ville and Madrid’s City Hall. Follow Calle del Arenal to the Teatro Real (Opera House) and the Palacio Real. Calle de Alcalá to the east leads you the Plaza de Cibeles, the Parque del Retiro, and well, you get the picture.
Landmarks other than Kilometer Zero also stake their claim in Puerta del Sol. Madrid’s iconic bronze statue El Oso y El Madroño (The Bear and the Strawberry Tree) is at the north end of the square at Calle de Carmen.
An equestrian statue of Carlos III looks out over the large red brick building at the south end, which was once the main post office. The Casa de Correos, constructed between 1766 and 1768, was a feared place during Franco’s dictatorship when it served as the Main Directorate of Security. Today it’s the headquarters of the Community of Madrid Autonomous government, which is the equivalent to a state capital building in the U.S.
But enough about the lay of the land. The Puerta del Sol has also been the site of one of the most important events in Spain’s history. On May 2, 1808, an uprising against occupying French forces under Napolean’s command began here. But the crowd of villagers proved to be little more than a bug on the windshield of the well-equipped French troops, who overwhelmed them. The following day, remaining resisters were summarily executed. These events signaled the start of the armed Spanish resistance which dragged on in guerrilla warfare until 1814, and are depicted in Goya’s two masterpieces, May 2 1808 and May 3 1808: The Executions at Principe Pio, both of which can be seen at the Museo del Prado.
The famous Tio Pepe sign dominates a rooftop at the east end of the square.
Today the Puerta del Sol is the bustling center of urban life in Madrid, lined with shops, restaurants, and cervecerías. There’s plenty of sensory overload here, with the clamor of traffic, police whistles, monotone cries of vendors hawking lottery tickets, and the overheard conversations of other passers by, with each sound having its moment in the spotlight as you work your way through crowds of pedestrians that never seems to dissipate, no matter what the hour.
From journal Madrid From Kilometer Zero
Cinnaminson, New Jersey
May 10, 2003
There are a lot of shops and cafés, El Corte Ingles has three locations right here: one sells clothes, another electronic equipment, and the third sells books.
Eight streets start here and come off like rays from the Puerta in different directions. The Puerta used to have a square shape, but now is shaped like a semicircle.
The building on the left-hand side is now occupied by the Comunidad de Madrid. It was built to be a post office in the 18th century, but was transformed into the Ministry of the Interior in the 19th century. During Franco’s time, this was the most dreaded building in the city where if someone was taken here, they would never see their families again. The square has seen wars, assassinations, an uprising against Napoleon’s troops in 1808, proclamations of the republic, good and bad, but now it’s just a large shopping center in the heart of Madrid.
Also, this is the favorite place for people to meet -- under the statue of a bear muzzling a strawberry tree.
Puerta del Sol also becomes similar to Times Square on New Year’s Eve, when people wait on the square for the clock in the clock tower to strike 12, and at each strike they swallow a grape, which is supposed to bring good year.
From journal Travels to Spain - Madrid, Part III
New York, New York
July 24, 2001
Of course, the best thing to do in Puerta del Sol is welcome in the New Year. While the traditional New Year's celebration in Spain involves a quiet night at home with the family, a big meal, and twelve grapes to eat at midnight, there are still many people who brave the weather and go to Puerta del Sol. At midnight, one is supposed to eat a grape everytime the bells toll - twelve in all. If you can do this, it is supposed to mean that you'll have a sweet year. Grapes at the ready, I was looking forward to this, but with all the hooting, hollering and champagne popping at midnight, we couldn't hear the bells and didn't get to eat the grapes until well after midnight! Oh well, it was a sweet year anyway.
If you do celebrate New Year's in Madrid, note that drink prices at popular bars increase significantly! There may also be cover charges where there were none before, but if you've got the pesetas, you can party until dawn!
From journal New Year's in Madrid