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Today’s guest post is by the lovely and talented Nicole, a freelance writer and photographer currently living in Spain. Her geographic distance is a bummer: if she lived closer, I’m sure we’d instantly be BFFs, necessitating that we buy t-shirts with both our faces screen-printed on them, and wear them EVERYWHERE. Sadly, her being in Madrid substantially decreases our chances of running around the mall in matching tees.

But, Nik, if I’m ever in your neck of the woods, we are hanging out. And getting ham. (Matching tees optional.)

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Living in Madrid for 5 years has taught me many things, but only 4 of them are vital to my survival here:

  • Words mean nothing, it’s all in the hand signals
  • Driving inside the lanes is for wussies
  • Spanish beer is the second best thing in the world
  • Spanish ham is the number 1 best thing in the world

I’m sure you’re thinking, “What? After 5 years here and all you have learned are to flap your hands around, drive like a dizzy monkey, drink beer, and eat ham?

To those people, I reply, “Yes, it’s sad. But do you know how important ham is to these people?”

So important in fact, an actual Ham Museum exists for those who can’t get enough “Pata Negra” at home, or in the bars, or at the movies, etc. Yes, it is “el Museo de Jamón.”

I’ve been to all the other museums here – The Prado, the Reina Sofia, and The Thyssen Bornemisza, but I have to admit that I haven’t actually made it inside the Ham Museum (yet!). Honestly, it’s always jam-packed (ham-packed?) with true ham connoisseurs. Also, it makes me a little nervous to go in because there are a million ham legs hanging from the ceiling. They are just floating above you like little deconstructed pig angels … it’s weird.

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Lately, it seems as if Madrid is all kinds of weird – weird and well, trashy. I’m hoping that I can convince my husband to see two specific trashy sights this weekend. Hopefully, he won’t get the wrong idea of what I mean by trashy … not sexy trashy, but actual trash trashy:

The Trash Hotel

My friend, Lilli, wrote an article about the trash hotel that has been constructed in the center of the city. Apparently, it really is a hotel totally made of washed up beach objects. Gross!

No, really – it’s for a good cause. The hotel is part of a campaign to raise awareness about the delicate state of our beaches around the world. Its shows us that, as beach goers, we should be paying much more attention to the amount of waste we accumulate while tanning our behinds in the Mediterranean sun.

The structure has five hotel rooms where up to 12 people can rest their weary heads and bask in the junky glory that they have played their part in reducing our carbon footprint.  I’m up for going to take a gander while it’s in Madrid, but I don’t know if I’ll be making a reservation soon- it really creeps me out … kind of like Seattle’s gum wall.

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Junk Cathedral

A cathedral built out of junk.  Sorry – “recycled building materials.”

So this is one story I can get behind. Meet Justo Gallego. Don Justo entered the Santa Maria de la Huerta Monastery when he was 27 years old. After falling ill with tuberculosis, he was forced to leave the monastery for fear of contaminating his follow monks. (Where’s the faith, brothers?)

Don Justo returned to Madrid devastated but determined to continue dedicating his life to God. So he began constructing a cathedral as an offering to God. His dedication to God is impressive, but what really is downright mind-blowing is that Sr. Gallego has no training in architecture or construction. As his early education was stifled by the Spanish Civil War, he now just lets God lead his way. (Well, God and the many books on cathedrals where one can assume he also finds divine design guidance).

He has been building this cathedral for 50 years. He starts at three thirty every morning. He normally works alone, although he does have some help from his nephews and an assistant that helps with the salvaging. Today, the building is almost 8,000 square feet high and is made of recycled building materials found locally– bricks, tiles, paint buckets, old oil drums, etc.

Just looking at this man brings tears to my eyes. I hope that one day I will learn his secret. What drives a seemingly normal person to do something so remarkable? Where did this idea come from? Isn’t he exhausted? Where does he get his energy?

That’s it – I’m totally dedicating my life to living like Don Justo. In fact, next time I have a dilemma, I’m going to think, “What Would Justo Do?

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Full list of categories:  Attractions » City Guide » WTF
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Comments (6)

  1. 1

    uh…sorry, maybe t-shirts would be do-able in the states, but if/when you make it to Madrid, you will be forced to wear a red and white polka-dot flamenco dress and we will go “clackity clack” all around this city!!

  2. 2
    Gianluca says:

    As a stranger living too in Spain (Valencia) I cannot but be delighted by this post.
    I confirm every word of it and especially the 4 survival tips, even though, as Italian, I was quite used to the first 2 (I invite you to rent a car in Roma/Naples to experience Adventure).
    And I urge you to finally enter in the Museo del Jamón (maybe the one close to Atocha) and buy a “bocata” with Patanegra (bocata = bread). Ah, an advice: once entered do not worry if you start to salivate more than the normal, because the ham and savor of the seasoned ham is so strong that the only thing you want to do is to eat it.

  3. 3
    Deanna says:

    I only lived in Madrid for a few months, but the Museo de Jamon stands out vividly in my memories…what few of them there are after the glut of ham, tortilla espanola and beer caused a stroke (not really. but maybe really). Madrid is a WONDERFUL place.

  4. 4
    El Guiri says:

    So Madrid’s famous building regulations are working well then! Next time they tell you you can’t build an extension on your house, just tell them you’re a mad monk.

  5. 5
    Kitty says:

    Did you know that there’s a Museo del Jamón in Buenos Aires? I guess it belongs to the same company, but it really tells a lot about the importance of ham to the spaniards who migrated to Argentina, and to the spanish population in general.

    Also, you forgot to mention olive oil. If you mention olive oil or ham to a spaniard who knows you have italian heritage they’ll tell you that spanish ham and olive oil are the best in the world.I truly don’t know if this is true,as everything made in Italy is the best dell mondo for an italian. But olive oil is a big thing here in Spain. I hate it in my salad dressing and up to this day I haven’t found a restaurant that has corn or sunflower oil offered to its clients as a dressing. They even feel offended when I ask for it!

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