Saturday, 20 March 2010

The fountains of Madrid

My favourite fountain -  at Nuevos Ministerios

One of the great things about this city is the number of fountains to be found in the streets, parks and squares. During the winter months I was intrigued that the fountains kept playing, even when there had been a serious frosting of snow the night before. To me, fountains are like living sculptures and they bring life to spaces that might otherwise be lonely at night. I teach in Alameda de Osuna twice a week and when I sit to wait for my bus late at night, I watch a floodlit fountain dancing to an audience of one and foaming in its solitary pleasure.

There are several significant fountains - Cibeles, Neptune and the Fallen Angel in the Retiro are some that spring to mind. Then there are the glorious fountains in Plaza de America that are looked over by the great Cervantes statue.

I asked my student at the Environment Ministry about the fountains. Surely there is a problem having so many when the city is often plighted with drought? He told me that the newer ones make good use of modern technology and the water is endlessly recyled. The problem occurs in summer when the water evaporates in the heat.

However the statues are desperately needed in a city that is so parched. A city that has a river the size of a stream needs its manmade water features. Apparently a few years ago a  mayor was appointed on the promise of new fountains and he made good his promise. There are now fountains in many of the smaller squares in the city. I live in El Carmen and even we have a water feature in the park on the corner. The sound of water trickling over reinforced concrete is soothing even if it is not the most beautiful sight.

I have become mildly obsessed with fountain spotting now. I am grateful to the Madrid planners for keeping up the Moorish tradition and I may even dip my toes in their bubbling flow if the sun manages to shine before I go back to London!

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