First of all, let me apologize for the delay in updates. It turns out that Europe/Africa are not as connected as we thought they would be. Wi-fi is either non-existent in the places we stay, really expensive, or by the time we get internet connection we’re too tired to do anything besides email our moms and check our bank accounts to make sure we have enough money. We had one more day in Madrid, two days in Marrakech Morocco, a day of travel and about 12 hours of sleep in all of that time. So, this might be a long blog while we try and catch you up!
Madrid was amazing to say the least. On our second day we went on a tour of the Santiago Bernebau Stadium, where Real Mardid (Josh’s favorite futbol team) plays all their home matches. It is another one of Madrid’s amazing marvels that was incredible to see. Sitting in the stands at the top of the stadium we realized that even though the stadium seats over 100,000 people any seat is the best seat in the house. The pitch was pristinely taken care of and it made even the most impressive American stadiums seem small. We walked through the museum of the team and saw all of their old jerseys, stadiums, cleats, players pictures, and most impressive was the trophy collection. Every room seemed to have another 10 huge trophies. We then walked down onto the field and then through the locker rooms. Josh was like a little boy the entire time; so excited and awe struck. He was captivated by every item in the museum and each stop we made on the tour. I can’t imagine what it would feel like to play a game in front of a packed stadium.
From the stadium we went to Parque de Retiro. It is a little like the Central Park of Mardid. The grounds are amazingly kept up; there are gorgeous flowers, trees, bushes, lawns, statues, and at the center of it all is a man made lake and monument to one of the kings. The lake was full of people who had rented boats and were paddling around and the grass was covered with locals laying out enjoying the day. We walked all over the park and we didn’t feel like we’d seen it all. When we got back from the park we went out to find a strip mall that was supposed to be at the top of our street but, once again, we got lost. We seemed to get lost and wander a lot while we were in Madrid, but we decided that that was when we found the best things and we saw the actual culture instead of just what the actual tourists saw. We’ve kind of decided that as long as we kind of just go with whatever happens everything will turn out fine!
We slept at the airport in Madrid because our flight was so early and we actually had a lot of company. The entire terminal was full of people sleeping, or trying to anyways. We saw two people sleeping on the baggage conveyor belt and some guy had brought his own woven rug to sleep on. We didn't sleep much, again, and in the morning we flew to Morocco! As soon as we arrived in Morocco we could tell we were in a different world. It looked like a scene out of a movie and that was just at the airport. We took a cab to an area close to the hostal and then walked deeper into the side alleys to actually get there. The buildings were all made of clay and the streets were cobblestone and lined with countless little shops. We sort of felt like Aladdin should be jumping across the roofs above us followed by his monkey friend, Abu. The hostal was amazing though. We walked in and were immediately served Mint tea and breakfast which was delicious. The middle of the hostal was open to the top floor sort of like a courtyard and it was filled with colorful couches and tables. While we were eating we started talking with some guys who were also staying there. One of them was a man named Matthew who was visiting the city by himself and the other two were guys from Mexico who just decided to come to Morocco on a whim.
Matthew, Josh, and I decided to go shopping in the Souks of the Medina later that day, and boy was it an experience. The souks are the little shops that line the side streets off of the main square in the middle of the city. We entered them thinking it was just going to be an easy walk through, but we quickly realized it was more of a maze than we thought. All of the shop owners are trying to bargain with you even if you aren't interested in buying what they're selling. There are motorcycles that zip in and out of the people and there is barely enough room to move at some points in the streets. We were constantly on edge trying to make it through without an issue. We then decided to go to the Tanneries, which is where they make the leathers for the bags, and we again got swept up trying to sell they're products. We went through one of the tanneries and the smell alone was enough to make us want to get out of there. The owner had even given us mint to hold to our nose like a gas mask, but even that didn't make the smell of the pigeon poop conditioner any better. We made our way back to the main square and then to our hostal. Morocco has got to be one of the hotter places I've ever been and it's almost impossible to find any reprieve as there is no air conditioning anywhere. The area where we were staying, besides our hostal, was essentially third world. It was dirty and old and the people struggled to make money every day. Unfortunately everyone, including little kids, was begging for our money and it was a constant annoyance. Our hostal was one of the only places that we were able to go where no one bothered us; we started to consider it our safe zone.
The second day in Marrakech we went on a day long excursion to the Cascade waterfalls. Once again everything was about making money until we got to the hiking part. We went on a visit to a Berber family home where were served homemade bread and more Mint tea (their famous drink and drink of choice everywhere) and then got to pet camals and saw a Moroccan herb garden. The hike was amazing and the waterfall at the top was gorgeous! Even though the water was freezing Matthew, who had also gone on the trip, and I stood underneath and played around in the water for a little bit. On the way back from the hike we stopped at this bridge that crossed the river, it was about 30 feet up and was made of tree branches. Josh crossed it to the other side, but there was no way he was convincing me to do it! We got home and when it was dark we again went out to the square to buy bread for dinner. At night, the square turns into almost a whole different city. There are food stands and performers and everyone from Marrakech seems to flood the streets. Because it is so insane we felt as if we were a little uncomfortable, but it was so amazing to see the transformation of the streets and the liveliness of the people. When we got back to the hostal we decided to smoke some Shesha (sp?). It is hookah, which is flavored tobacco, and it's extremely famous in Morocco. We sat on the terrace of our hostal with some guys from London and Matthew and smoked and drank Mint tea. It was the perfect way to wind down after our crazy visit to Marrakech!