The centre of Madrid has become a Mecca to which, at this time of year, tens of thousands of citizens make a pilgrimage to harden their patience. A baptism of fire for tourists or visitors who came to the capital for the first time "to see the lights", such as José Enrique, from Extremadura who is not used to dealing with tumults. "You can't even have a coffee... It's all collapsed," he said yesterday, as he walked like a Nazarene along Calle del Carmen, totally saturated, with the desire to see the tree illuminated by the Sun up close. "I'm losing my desire," he added at every step.
Queues to ride the merry-go-round in front of the Royal Palace or to buy cotton candy at one of the street stalls; crowds to get the best selfie next to the façade of the Four Seasons hotel or Cortylandia... And what can we say about the human lines that formed next to the skating rink in Plaza de España or in front of the doors of the chocolate shop of San Ginés or Doña Manolita, where those queues reached well into the Gran Vía.
"He gets along with patience... All for these two to enjoy," Veronica said, pointing to her two offspring, who were eager to slide on the ice rink of a crowded Plaza de España. Their subway entrances presented an incessant stream of people, who either came or went, and among whom it was more than common to see faces of astonishment and the occasional snort at the panorama. "It's totally impassable, it's so overwhelming," said María, who had met a friend for a drink, a task that was not easy for them: "We met in Callao. In the first five places we looked at we were told there was no room. Finally we ended up at a Chinese restaurant, near the Temple of Debod... It was all impossible."
Nor did some street artists, the kind who dress up to be photographed with children in exchange for willingness. "Pick up and go," said a couple of municipal police officers to a man who, without a license, was hiding inside a gigantic gorilla suit. The man, of South American origin, got out of his work uniform as best he could and nodded to every word of the authorities. "We've been quite benevolent, we've already warned you several times...", they remarked. After this last warning, and while he was collecting all his belongings, he commented to this newspaper: "I don't understand why they only say it to me and not to the rest (pointing to a polar bear, a dinosaur and a Mario Bros. that were wandering near him). I'm going to see if I can find another place to place myself."
A couple of police officers 'kick out' an unlicensed 'gorilla'.
The Municipal Police were very much on top of this type of activity, as well as the street vendors. In front of Cortylandia, an enclave much visited by parents with their children, a veteran agent made a small sprint to hunt down a young man who was making his August selling balloons with lights. "I told you I didn't want to see you here anymore," the uniformed man snapped at him. After confiscating his merchandise (specifically two of these balloons that he put in a patrol car, the back of which was full of these products), he let him go without any problems.
All in a Puente de la Constitución in which the City Council has had to activate an unknown black level. Something that has resulted in a greater presence of police officers on the streets to ensure the safety of all those present in the face of the forecast of a large number of visitors in the capital.
"We're going to look for a secondary street and we'd better go home, we'll come to see it quieter during the week," said a young woman who, along with her partner, threw in the towel with no signs of being able to move forward. "I'm getting really nervous, I didn't imagine all the streets were going to be like this."
Although what for many was "overwhelming", from the Community of Madrid, in the mouth of its Minister of Culture, Tourism and Sport, Mariano de Paco, they label it as a "success". The official figures of attendees will not be known until the end of the long weekend, but for De Paco these holidays are "one of the most important moments for tourism in the capital", with more and more support from international visitors.