Marco Polo, one of the greatest explorers of any century, is well-known for having written about stereotypes. He was one of the first recorded explorers to write the stereotypes that today we know so well – that the Spanish are exuberant and passionate, say, and that the Parisians are snobs. And indeed, even today, in our ‘enlightened society’, we still often embrace these stereotypes. I have often had perfectly cultured and sensible people say to me, “Well, the Parisians hated us, you know, because we’re American”, or other people say, “He just doesn’t show emotion, he’s German, you know.” Always there’s the insertion of ‘you know’, and we do know, because these sorts of stereotypes are ingrained in our thoughts.
In November, whilst braving the wintry weather amidst an onslaught of deadlines, summer can seem like a lifetime ago. Yet, as I procrastinate the hours away, scrolling through Spotify, I can’t help but let my mind wander back to the blurry nights of summer music festivals. Whether it was watching Biffy Clyro play from a Ferris wheel against a backdrop of Loch Ness or going a little crazy with the crowds of Red Hot Chilli Pepper fans in Madrid, the summer festival is the perfect antidote to a year of slogging over books in the library. Indeed, the only thing keeping me going through this pain of essay-writing is the consoling thought that in a few short months the line-ups for summer 2013 will be released. And then there’ll be the all-important decision of which one(s) to go to. In the past, it would’ve been no contest for me; UK all the way. However, having now had a taste of what the rest of Europe has to offer, I’m inclined to look to the less muddy options over the Channel.
Remember that feeling of going back to primary school after the Christmas holidays, chuffed to bits with new books, Barbies or basketballs, only to have your bubble swiftly burst by your classmate (who Santa evidently loved more) clutching a Gameboy Colour or riding a BMX through the gates? Sometimes going back to class in St Andrews after summer can provoke a similar feeling – only now we’ve moved on from toys and are more concerned with how everyone has spent the long summer away from the Bubble. It’s a regular sight in September to see people arrive in their tutorial chatting happily about a summer spent at an obscure local music festival, a cheap holiday in Europe or a visit to friends abroad. Happy that is, until a flurry of chatter about city internships, transatlantic trips, African treks and teaching in Asia comes flooding at them from the other corners of the seminar room.
You will not understand the pleasures of life until you live through the carnival pleasures of night time Madrid. There is much to love about a night spent on its wild, whirling streets.