I've often wondered about the Romans. Not the orgy-loving, toga-wearing, lion-fighting ones, mind you. I mean the modern Romans who go about their daily lives catching a bus in front of the Coliseum, winding a moped past the Pantheon, grabbing a beer by the Forum. I wonder if they ever stop and think about how their lives are played out against one of the most incredible backdrops the world has to offer. Instead of stopping and staring as the millions of tourists do, in all likelihood most Romans probably take their surroundings for granted. They certainly wouldn’t be the only ones immune to the beauty in daily life. How many New Yorkers do you think stop and wonder at the sheer mass of Manhattan as they rush to work? How many Londoners consider the history beneath their feet as they cross the Tower Bridge to go to work? How many Madrileños appreciate the variety of Spanish architecture as they hurry to the Metro? The answer is pretty clear - not enough.
Occasionally I am reminded by how “cool” it is to live in Madrid – for example, a friend who I recently re-found on Facebook confessed her envy when I gave her my quick life update. She reminded me that Madrid is an amazing city and I’m learning to stop and appreciate that as much as possible. On my semi-weekly trek across town to French class I’ve started trying to look up as much as traffic (both pedestrian and vehicular) allows. In doing so I’ve become fascinated by an oddity on some of the buildings here – an architectural element that I’ve affectionately come to call the rich man’s club house. At the very top of some of the large buildings there is a “penthouse” located only at the corner of the building. Clearly I’m having a hard time putting this into words - onto the picture…
I suppose these penthouses have some architectural meaning or purpose, like a widow’s walk of sorts. I imagine that hidden out of view on the rest of the building’s roof you’ll find secret gardens with playgrounds, pools, and flower beds – like Apu’s secret Kwik-E-Mart rooftop oasis.
There is an old saying that places Madrid next only to Heaven, “De Madrid al cielo.” Literally that could also mean, “from Madrid to the sky.” And that’s where I’m starting to look.