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Traveling Through The Tomb Called Madrid

We’d been trying to catch a flight to the Netherlands from Valencia since April 21 after our Egypt plans fell victim to the Unwanted Visitor. At the end it became clear that even when flight offers resumed Ryan Air, the only one offering a flight, could not attract sufficient passengers. Too few Valencianos want to go to Amsterdam or anywhere else in Europe as long as the tourist attractions are closed, and few would want to or be able to go even if they were open. After 5 cancellations we learned that KLM was flying daily from Madrid. So could we get to Madrid?

The regulations stated that motivation for travel between provinces in Spain had to be “urgent necessities.” One of those is to return home. We were returning home for almost half the year so thought that would be sufficient reason but who do you ask for confirmation? There are no travel permits so you are subject to the discretion or whim of the enforcing agent. That made it difficult to evaluate the risks.

We went to the train station twice, the first time without finding a Policia Nacional, the police agency responsible for enforcement. We’d learned who to ask by an employee at the immigration where foreigners go to petition for residence. He just happened to be standing there when people came by for information. The agency is closed however. On our second effort we found two Policia Nacional. Peg explained our story. Both policeman said that with a ticket out of the country in hand we should not have any difficulties. They were right. Our trip to Madrid was uneventful. No one even asked why we were traveling.

We left a few days later and were not challenged by anyone until Barajas airport. There we were simply asked for our tickets and allowed to proceed. The airport was practically empty. There were perhaps 100 people on our nearly full flight, masks obligatory. I doubt we saw more than 20 people not on that flight on the way to the gate and all wore masks except one employee. It was so empty the security personnel found a way to take my backpack apart.

Check in area at Barajas. All that was missing was the flowers, 10:30, May 2020

In Madrid nearly everyone wore masks. There were gloves and antiseptic at the entrances to supermarkets just like in Valencia. Few people were out — it was an eerie quiet. It was also eerie not finding any hotels open. We learned this after we’d already booked our flights. We expected a few places. Were it not for Airbnb we would have been sleeping on the street. Madrid city government said a few hotels that were open for travelers but did not give their names and none of the sites we tried had any on offer.

Our small two bedroom place was at street level. In ordinary times we might have found it a bit noisy as the Spanish are out at all hours. Not this time.

As we sat at the gate when the plane arrived, immigration agents and Policia Nacional were there and each passenger had to produce documents. One person was detained, however we are not certain if he was deported. We heard the agent say you could not come to Spain for tourism.

Our flight was perfectly normal other than we had to sign a document listing symptoms of the Corvid19. If you had any marked ‘yes’ you could not board the plane. It said so right on the document. It asked for your last name and, I think, date of birth. Agents checked the document at arrival and told us we had to self-quarantine for 14 days. It took about 30 seconds. That’s it.

As we proceeded, we noticed few people wearing masks other than on the trains. Restaurants are not open unless they offer takeaway. No gloves are provided at the entrance to supermarkets. If you use a basket employees wipe them at the cash register. In grocery stores each person is required to have a cart even if you are together. People are keeping a safe distance. These are not southern Europeans so they probably keep a safe distance naturally a good deal of the time, being more careful to wait or go around groups. There are far fewer people going about. All stores are open but restaurants remain closed unless they offer takeaway.

  Next:  at the marina

By Gary Kirkpatrick

Artist and travel blogger.

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