Madrid: Royal Palace of Madrid and National Archaeological Museum

The sights I saw today in Madrid included the Royal Palace of Madrid because, who doesn’t like royal palaces? I also went to the National Archaeological Museum because I can relate to old stuff.

Royal Palace of Madrid

Royal Palace of Madrid

The Royal Palace of Madrid (Palacio Real de Madrid) is huge. It includes 2,800 rooms. (The prescribed public path perambulating the palace passes through only a puny portion of them. You probably surmised that, but I felt the need for some alliteration. It’s a shame I can’t remember what the penultimate room was.)

Who the heck needs that many rooms? Even if I lived there my entire life, to my dying I’d probably still need someone to guide me to whatever room I wanted to get to from whatever room I was in.

Entry staircase

Photography outside of the Royal Palace of Madrid is, of course, allowed. There’s no security outside the wall. Let them try to stop me!

The palace rules also allow photos to be taken of a couple of large, grand, but not overly lavishly adorned rooms outside of the royal chambers, as well as of the grand staircase at the palace entrance. But they forbid picture-taking in the royal chambers.

Pity, that. The chambers are opulent. The floors, walls, and ceilings flaunt amazing decorations. And glamorous chandeliers brilliantly light many of the rooms.

A photagraphable room

One small, but interesting room is called the porcelain cabinet. That’s not because it stored porcelain. Rather, its walls and ceiling are made of beautifully decorated porcelain, with vibrantly coloured reliefs.

A 40-metre long table sits in a huge dining room. Place settings sat on the table when I was there. I didn’t count them, but I think they could have served at least 100 people at that one table. If they set up a few kids tables in the large unused space in the dining room, they could serve a small town there.

Rhetorically Breathtaking

Another photographable room

I’m tempted to call the rooms and their decorations breathtaking. I won’t. I’m a very literal person. Life requires breath. I lived long enough to type these words. Case closed.

The signage referred to most of the rooms where they forbid me to take pictures as Charles III’s chambers. Why aren’t photos allowed there? Are they worried about invading Charles’ privacy? I honestly think he would not mind in the least, what with him being dead for more than 230 years and all.

View from the courtyard of the Royal Palace of Madrid

The view from the palace’s courtyard of what I think are the western suburbs of Madrid is spectacular. That would be apparent from the photograph to the right if I were a half-decent photographer. I’m not. You get what you get here.

Royal Armoury

The Royal Palace of Madrid ticket also includes entrance to the Royal Armoury in another building in the palace compound.

The armoury museum comprises two large rooms. The first contains a collection of Spanish armour, as well as a few swords and pistols. These pieces date from medieval times up to the mid- to late-16th century and include armour for both humans and horses.

As in the chamber rooms of the Royal Palace, they don’t allow photos in the the Royal Armoury. I understand that. After all, the museum contains Spanish military gear. One wouldn’t want to risk the secrets of centuries-old Spanish armour design falling into enemy hands, would one?

The other room contains Ottoman armour, Japanese armour, and Spanish children’s armour. The audio guide claimed that children weren’t sent to war. However, young Spanish princes were expected to participate in military parades dressed in their armour.

National Archaeological Museum

National Archaeological Museum

The National Archaeological Museum has the usual collection of fossils (or fossil replicas); tools of various types; weapons; cooking, eating and storage vessels; coins and currency; building fragments; statues; coffins; mummies; and more. That is to say, it is a normal collection for an archaeological museum. It would be totally out of place in, say, a museum of modern puppetry.

Secret decoder key: Whenever I terminate a list with something to the effect of “and more” or “etc.” that is a sure sign I’m 100% certain the list includes other items, but for the life of me I can’t recall what they are.

An Australopithecus afarensis friend

The museum organizes its collection chronologically, starting with the period when proto-humans lived in Africa. Included in that section is the replica of a partial Australopithecus afarensis skeleton pictured to the left.

Once the displays advance to modern humans and the Ages dating from single-digit millennia ago, the museum focuses mainly on artifacts from what is now Spain. Given that it’s Spain’s national archaeological museum I’d almost be disappointed if it had a different focus. However, there are also some rooms with Grecian and Egyptian artifacts.

An Iberian something or other, I think

(For all you grammar purists out there, “Ages” in the preceding paragraph is correctly capitalized. It refers to Ages such as the Bronze and Iron Ages, etc.)

In a nutshell, the museum has a well organized and documented collection of very exceptionally old, exceptionally old, really very old, very old, and old stuff. That having been said, in a small number of cases they are replicas of very exceptionally old stuff, not real very exceptionally old stuff.

Obviously, when I say very exceptionally old or some lesser old I’m using a human timescale. On a, say, geological timescale they’re spring chickens. Except none of them were chickens, but you get the point. Unless, of course, you’re a little slow. In which case you may not get the point. If not, never mind. It was an embarrassingly inane point.

Streets and Squares

Madrid street

In truth, when I’m visiting a city, as much as I enjoy the sights, I often take greater pleasure in the strolls between them. I’m an urban guy. I love interesting architecture, monuments, streets, and not-necessarily-square public squares. Madrid has a lot to like in that regard.

Streets vary from broad, car-dominated thoroughfares to more intimate streets. Some streets radiating off the bustling Puerto del Sol public square are completely pedestrianized.

Elsewhere in Madrid are streets that are narrower than those pedestrianized streets, but they’re not pedestrianized. Traffic is generally light on them and one-way. The sidewalks on some are so narrow that they don’t offer enough space for two people. If you cross paths with someone, either you’ll have to get intimate with him or her, or one of you will have to step out into the street.

Puerto del Sol

The couple times I passed through Puerto del Sol, in addition to normal people passing hither and yon, there were people dressed up in costume. When I was there, I spotted a Darth Vader and the Mouse couple, Minnie and Mickey, among others. (You’d be correct to lump “among others” with “and more” and “etc.”)

The weird thing is these characters didn’t seem to be trying to collect money. Nor did they appear to be promoting anything. I couldn’t figure out why they were there dressed like that, unless that’s just what they do for fun. I think not, but who knows?

Puerta de Alcalá
Puerta de Alcalá

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