During my time in Spain, I picked up a couple secrets about the country, and specifically Madrid. Today, I’m going to share them with you.
First, walking around Spain will show you bars and restaurants with ham hanging from the ceiling. It’s not strange – it’s just part of the culture. But why? Why is Spain so obsessed with ham?
During the Spanish Inquisition, the tell-tale sign that someone was only pretending to be Christian was pig: neither Muslims nor Jews can eat it, so it became a norm in the Spanish culture to go around smelling people for traces of it, and proudly proclaiming that you had been eating some piece of the animal. Spaniards would hang ham from the tops of their houses to ward off any idea that they may be committing heresy. After 350 years of the Inquisition, it became solidly rooted in the culture, and is common even today.
Plaza Mayor’s horse statue
Next we have Madrid’s famous statue. This statue, now proudly portrayed in the middle of Madrid’s most tourist-infested area, was once riddled with mystery. Not a soul would dare approach it – it was surrounded by bugs and an absolutely putrid smell. It wasn’t until the day protesters overturned the horse and its rider that they found the source of the mystery: as the statue, then hollow, was originally placed in a garden, birds had taken the liberty of flying into the horse’s mouth, and never finding their way back out. Combine dozens of dead birds with the hot Spanish sun and what do you get? A buggy, smelly statue!
“On water I was built, my walls are made of fire.”
Last we have a motto referring to Madrid’s origins, this phrase tells us two things about medieval Madrid. First: why the Moors settled Madrid. Back in the olden days, water was hard to come by in places not in direct contact with a natural flow. When the Moors found the creek they later built today’s capital on, they knew how important it would be for life.
As for the fire, if you look behind Madrid’s cathedral, you’ll find what’s left of the original medieval wall that enclosed Moorish Madrid. This wall is made of flint. When attackers leashed their arrows on the wall, the friction against the flint caused fire. In medieval Madrid, the only “logical” explanation to this phenomenon was something to do with magic or God. And with that, Moorish Madrid was safe!
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