El Parque del Buen Retiro, a royal retreat in the 1600s, is now somewhat analogous to Central Park. Except, of course, that it is much older, a bit smaller, and contains bits of an old palace.
Since my jaunt through the park occurred before check-in time at my hostel, I was dragging a fairly heavy suitcase around with me, and my exploration was a bit incomplete. But I'd heard about its interesting fountains, so off I jaunted.
Fountain nearest the park entrance, just north of Estanque del Retiro. 2004:10:02 04:17:17
Getting to the park was actually quite easy, as it has its own
My suspicion is that the texturing on the sides of this fountain is meant to evoke stalactites, indicating an aquatic grotto setting, perhaps. I did not establish what Tigger was doing there, or why he was towing a stuffed toy tiger around on a skateboard behind him.
Monument to King Alfonso XII overlooking the artificial lake, El Estanque del Retiro. The first rowboaters are just coming out. 2004:10:02 04:39:19
Puppet stage beside the lake. One of several, although the only one performing at the time. 2004:10:02 04:44:41
Interestingly, given the park's history, the statue of Rey Alphonso XII overlooking the artificial lake is the only royal monument that I ran across, and it is an extremely recent addition. But, given that most of the palace compound was evidently destroyed during the Napoleonic Wars, earlier regal commemorations may simply no longer be present. The lake itself is quite pleasant, especially on an autumn weekend such as this day; Madrileno families are out in force, feeding the ducks and fish, watching puppet shows, picnicing, and taking rowboats out for a spin.
I got very few odd looks struting doggedly around with my luggage in tow. I can only assume that, this being around the height of backpacker season (it seems to be a long season), kids wandering around with lots of gear and no apparent destination are a common sight.
Fountain nearest the Museo del Ejército, on the southern end of El Estanque del Retiro 2004:10:02 04:51:05
A closeup on the characters and crest at the base of the fountain near the Museo del Ejército 2004:10:02 04:51:33
The far end of the lake is bracketed by another fountain on an aquatic theme, this time striking a more obviously royal note. Notice the two classical figures, the male pretty clearly Poseiden/Neptune, holding a shield between them. I wasn't able to immediately identify the crest represented, but I made a close-up in case anyone has some ideas in that direction. Since the entire park was, at its inception, royal grounds, it isn't clear to me why some installations would express this powerful regality, while others are more playful. Simple variety suggests itself as an explanation, but I am inclined to hold out for a deeper aesthetic justification -- although I should note that I don't know the installation dates for these fountains, and thus whether they belong to the royal period or the later era as a public park.
In any case the next, and by far most
El Angel Caído, the first and possibly only statue of Lucifer in Europe. 2004:10:02 05:16:25
Close-up of the Fallen One
The 1878 sculpture won international artistic acclaim when it was crafted, but I haven't been able to discover what reaction the people of this staunchly Catholic city might have had to this monument. Aesthetically, however, the piece strikes me as a success, with the power and pathos of the lifelike sculpture at the top both removed from and imprisoned against humanity in a distinctly Promethean pose, atop a pedastal that is remarkably forbidding for a popular park. The severe angles of the thing reflect a somewhat Tolkienesque sense for the personality of form, while the dragon-wolf gargoyle figures likewise suggest both protection from the evil above, and malice in their own right.
Close-up of the gargoyle figures at the base of El Angel Caído's pedastal