Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Searching for Sardines

This afternoon, after class, a group of us got together to study for our midterm tomorrow. Afterward, one of the girls, Claire, wanted to know if anyone was going to check out the Burial of the Sardine, the traditional ceremony that marks the end of Carnival and the beginning of Lent. I wanted to go but neither of us was sure of where this was happening, so Claire called Amy to see if she knew where it was. She said that she thought she did, so we made plans for the three of us to meet at the Puerta del Sol a little bit later. Upon meeting, Amy said that her Spanish teacher had told her that it was going to go through the Plaza Mayor, just a few minutes away. Perfect! So off we headed in the direction of Plaza Mayor.

On our way there, we began to notice quite a few "borrachos" - drunk people. As we approached the plaza, we also began to hear loud, drunken singing. Interesting. We get to the plaza and discover a group of at least 200-300 people, all wearing the jersey and colors of the Liverpool soccer team, all drinking copious amounts of beer and all singing loudly and unintelligibly. The ground of the plaza, normally spotlessly clean (Madrid is an incredibly clean city), was littered with an uncountable number of empty beer cans and broken beer bottles. Small soccer balls were also being tossed about.

At this point we were rather confused, so Claire walks up to this one guy (British, as they all were) and asks him what all of this was.

"What is it?! WHAT IS IT?!?!” he and his friend incredulously replied.

I feared for our lives for a moment or two then. They did explain to us that they were all Liverpool fans (duh) and they were all together before the Liverpool-Real Madrid game later today. Claire then asked how they all knew to come to the Plaza Mayor. At this they looked a bit stumped until I made a crack about them simply following the scent of the beer (rather strong, as you can imagine). At this they brightened considerably and said, “Yeah, yeah!!” Oh, man. We tried asking them what song everyone was singing, but at that point the original guy we were talking to went into a drunken jig, so we decided to leave them to their jigging and beer.

We did conclude that the apparently somber Burial of the Sardine probably wasn’t going to be making its way through all of that, so we tried asking one of the many policemen where it was. He gave us a pretty vague description that included the metro stop Principe Pio, only we were not entirely sure that that he knew what he was talking about. At that point Claire and Amy ended up heading towards Plaza de España for the heck of it and I headed home (I was hungry and needed a snack...). We decided we did not really feel like going on a wild goose-chase when we had gotten our dose of culture – albeit different from what we had originally planned on – about five minutes earlier.

I have to say that it was pretty crazy seeing how worked up and excited some of those people get over their fútbol though. I knew from our class discussions that there were some super-obsessed people – there always are, with every sport and every team – but I did not imagine anything like that. Frankly, as someone who does not do sports, I have a hard time even understanding the way that they get so obsessed. I would never have guessed that so many people would fly down from England to Madrid to see a game – and in the middle of the week! Don´t these people have anything better to do…like work? I suppose not, or if so they just care far more about fútbol. It is just all totally beyond my comprehension. I am glad I got to witness that, though, if only so I can actually know that these people exist (I speak of them as if they are aliens or something).

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