The Whirlwind That is El Rastro

The coffee machine screams a cry of burning milk and another bitter and disappointing coffee, the camarero´s (waiters) yell at each other full volume across the bar and throw baguettes wildly to meet the Sunday demand. Meanwhile Jacqui and I stand, seemingly invisible at the counter wondering how on earth we can be freed from our transparency and get served! Not that the coffee would be worth the wait…

Sunday mornings at El Rastro are a Madrid tradition and a sure way to become accustomed to the crazy cultural differences of Spanish life.

“A mixture of modernity and traditionalism, Madrid’s world-renowned flea market sets up for business around the Plaza de Cascorro. Dating back to mediaeval times, El Rastro is one of the oldest markets in Europe, yet also one of the most modern.” (Follow link for El Rastro History)

This street maze is a whirlwind of noise, people, claustrophobia and innovative masterpieces, and it wouldn´t be difficult to get yourself utterly lost here and it´s impossible to take in the sights and sounds of this environment in just one Sunday. Chandeliers, antiques, old flamenco records and jewelry, Moroccan leather pursues, grungy stenciled shirts and smoking paraphernalia are all present and purchasable.

I´m not sure how bargain hunters would call most of this “a real gem”, but it´d definitely be a worthy case for some quality Christmas presents (especially for expats looking for things that are strange and wonderful).

It did lack a few sneaky food stalls and is ripe with pickpockets but the vibe was good and there´s no shame in bartering (not that I did due to my ongoing lingual retardation). My friends and I purchased some cute matching mascots for our necklaces and set off home utterly exhausted. We definitely didn´t see the market in its entirety due to the sheer size, but not to fear, Christmas is coming 🙂