Erasmus #2: Synchronizing

The story continues… Just after arriving at the Madrid airport on Thursday, we were picked by a friend and set out to explore the city. We had already been theoretically prepared for loud people and parties everywhere. However, the reality extended our imagination. Full streets on thursday night, people so loud in a pub, that you can merely get a single word of what your friend is saying and the first almost sleepless night because of the noise in the street.

We slept in a hostel in the city center. And quite inexpensively – 9 euros per night in a room shared among 4 people, bathroom in every room and wifi in the common areas. Moreover, delicious breakfast were included in the price. On Friday morning we got up early (11:00) to arrange all the stuff we needed just after arriving.

The first task was a monthly ticket for the metro. It is quite expensive to get by without it (~ 1.5 euro for a journey). I had a chance to use my Spanish, as the most people weren’t comfortable speaking English (however, we found some guys who could speak English and they enjoyed speaking with foreigners). Madrid metro tickets are sold by a network of tabaco shops. There is no such thing as a single official place where you could arrange everything (and don’t ask me why). So we went to the first shop, it was too small, they had no tickets and we were advised to see the second shop. In the second shop, neither did they have the tickets, we were advised to check the third shop. In the third shop, they finally had the ticket we needed. Unfortunately, just one while there were two of us and it probably wasn’t the right ticket either. So we were told to check the fourth shop. Finally, we were given our application forms. And told, that it’s going to take 10 working days to get the card and we can use it only since October. Did I mention, I had to speak Spanish with everyone (despite it’s really limited).

The second task was confirming our arrival at the university – Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. So we used the metro and a peripherial train (cercanía) to get to the school. We were welcome by a really nice and friendly international office lady. We arranged all we needed, asked a few questions about the school and Erasmus and we were also told that we are welcome anytime we have a problem. We had our lunch in the school canteen – salad with piece of bread, light dish with piece of bread, desert and drink. We were surprised, that we could buy beer or wine at school (with alcohol).

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On the Friday evening we went out. I had never seen so many people in the streets. Maybe in Mlynská Dolina twice a year. Anyway, all Madrid seems to me as one giant student city of Mlynská Dolina. We tried the famous Spanish botellion. Don’t get confused by it’s honourable name. It’s just a couple of guys hanging around and drinking some bottles of alcohol. Nothing unusual in Slovakia. There are indeed a few differences. They pour to the glasses, mix drinks and add ice. Very civilised. It is, however, a bit risky. Botellion had been typical for Madrid since it’s ancient times (I think so). The last few years, the city authorities prohibited drinking alcohol at public places and it’s fined with an amount of 600 euros. This step has two giant benefits for Madrid – the city is (or should be) cleaner and the community has a new stable source of income in the tough times of financial crisis. We picked up a good place and took very much care not to get into problems. We had our botellion and went home (not really, to one club and then we had another botellion).

On Saturday morning (14:00) we took a free city tour. We saw probably the most important spots in Madrid and were told many interesting things about its historical and current life. In the evening we visited Fabrik – the largest club in Europe. It was really massive. On Saturday and Sunday I took siesta in the afternoon, as I had been tired of being out all the time. I can never sleep during the day at home (despite lectures, I always fall asleep on some). In the evening we cooked Bryndzové halušky for our friend of Madrid and a few of his friends.

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We got up very early in the morning (9:00) on Monday to arrange other stuff we needed after arriving. We wanted an Internet connection for our mobiles (so that we can use Google Maps and don’t get lost as I did the first night) and a Spanish phone number (so that we don’t use roaming and it’s cool). In Spain you need a Spanish bank account to be able to start a contract with a mobile carrier (and it’s cool to have a Spanish bank account as well). So we went to a bank to open one. Everytime we asked someone if they spoke English, their answer was like: ‘I don’t and never will. Get annoying someone else. I hate you.’ Fortunately, I could mostly get along with my Spanish. The guys were really helpful and thankful when they found out, we can speak a very little bit of Spanish. And I was happy to practice. By the way, in the bank we were told, that we need a certificate of no residence (maybe it’s cool to have one, but I haven’t figured out why yet). So we’ll have to apply for it at the place I don’t remember. I hope to get the certificate soon, open a bank account and finally get a Spanish number. And be cool.

Yesterday we moved to our brand new apartment. I really like it. I will report on the details in the next post.

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