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Couchsurfing Around Europe, Part 11: Madrid

Couchsurfing Around Europe, Part 11: Madrid, Spain

Couchsurfing Around Europe, Part 11: Madrid, Spain

The Spanish capital is a warm, welcoming destination that no one should miss.

If everything’s bigger in Texas, then everything’s biggest in Madrid. With rambling parks, enormous plazas aplenty, and behemoth buildings (the royal palace is the largest in western Europe, and even the national bank is palatial), where Madrid truly shines is in its open spaces. Cities — like modern New York and ancient Rome — may be famous for mega structures that overwhelm and amaze, but they’re packed so tightly that’s it difficult to feel the scope in a glance. In Madrid, such epic construction comes with wide vistas: a 2,200-year-old Egyptian temple is set amid a reflecting pool on a hill; an epic monument to Alfsono XII is fronted by an artificial pond complete with row boats; the city’s many impressive buildings are bounded by streets and gardens deep enough to allow unobstructed views. It’s a photographer’s dream, where impossibly large subjects can be caught in a single frame without much maneuvering. The expansive layout has the added bonus gives a true sense of personal space — you’ll rarely feel crowded, despite the city’s bustling large populace.

If monuments, museums, and gardens aren’t your brand of inspiration, the Spanish themselves surely will be. They’re a people who make family out of friends, and friends out of strangers. Like most of southern Europe, it’s a bit less English-speaking than the north, but that doesn’t stop anyone from enthusiastically helping, or starting an animated conversation. It’s a warm, welcoming city with plenty to do, even more to eat and drink, and enough parks and plazas to rest an entire city between adventures.

My host in Madrid was Edgars Jersovs, 32. A Latvian who’s relatively new to Madrid, Edgars already embodies the sense of hospitality and instant friendship of a native Spaniard. Here, he praises the Spanish people’s open minds and open hearts, and tells us where to go to experience them ourselves.

Out Traveler: How long have you lived in Madrid?

Edgars Jersovs: A year and a half. I came to live with my boyfriend and enjoy the Spanish culture.  It’s so different from northeastern Europe. I wanted to escape Latvia for a while due to the homophobia. There is not that much as in Russia, but we have inherited so much of their disadvantages, like xenophobia and homophobia.I wanted to live in a country free of those things, live without fear and shame, but instead to live happy and free. But the plan is that I will go back in a year to help as much as I can to make the LGBT situation better in Latvia. I also think everyone should leave his or her country to see home from a distance and open the mind. It’s essential to meet other cultures and not be afraid to have that conflict with your own. That’s how we learn.I feel much stronger now, after Spain. 

How long have you been out?

Seven years now. I’m so happy to be out. It’s important to come out as early as possible. I think it’s easier to come out when you’re in a relationship—when you have a partner. I felt so much confidence when I had a partner; it became so easy to come out to my parents.

How is it for a gay person to get along in this city?

It’s very easy. It’s the best place I have ever lived as a gay person. There’s no pressure from anybody—not from old people, colleagues, no one. You can tell anybody you’re gay and it won’t make a difference. The Spanish people are so lovely and loving. They don’t have boundaries between people. Everyone is a friend. No one else is like this.

Two places a visitor should go with just one day here?

Parque del Retiro. There are so many things to see there—the peacocks, the rose garden, the crystal palace, a public vegetable garden where you can grow your own food for free, the statue of the fallen angel—it’s such a beautifully planned park. And then Chueca, the gay neighborhood. It’s such a nice are a to be, and you’ll make friends there so easily. And it has everything you need all in one place: gyms, salons, shops, everything. You can live in this area and never leave it, and be happy.

Your favorite restaurant in Madrid?

Mercado de Reina on Gran Vía. They serve grilled eggplant in a cane sugar sauce that I love.  It’s sweet with that wonderful eggplant taste. They also have amazing artichokes. And the people are so nice; they serve you like they’re your best friend. And it’s cheap!

One thing every visitor needs to know about your city before coming here?

 

They should know that they’ll have a wonderful time in Madrid. They’ll meet a lot of wonderful people, eat super tasty food, find the Spanish culture, and be very happy. It’s definitely worth visiting.   

Follow Brandon Schultz on Twitter @BrandonAlexandr and Instagram

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