I resolved to do something before 2014 ends, and it is to see that immensely popular flea market just south of Plaza Mayor.
And since it's the last Sunday of the year, I had no choice but to go to Madrid's El Rastro - and this, I'm finally doing!
Upon learning about my plan, friends told me to be prepared to see great sights and enjoy some shopping (haggling is more like it).
I was also told to brace myself for the thick crowd, which is to be expected since Rastro is just a once-a-week affair.
Of course, shops are open everyday, but stalls are only allowed by the Municipality to set up on the streets during Sundays, starting at 9PM until 2 or 3PM.
Cold Rastro Sunday it turned out
Sunday's overcast skies and presence of strong winds since early morning was a surprise because the previous two weeks had been clear and sunny. Fearing rain would follow in the afternoon, I thought I had to rush my way to El Rastro.
Luckily, the sky somewhat cleared up.
The wind, however, was relentless in blowing away fallen dried leaves to all directions, scattering them to the sides and corners of buildings, sidewalks, and streets.
The elements were evidently harsher than usual, with the temperature dropping wintry low. The weather was getting colder, more severe as the days pass, and this afternoon was no different. I was beginning to think that it wasn't the perfect time to go there.
Still, I went through with my plan, since the flea market happens only once a week, and I've been dying to see it in the first place.
I hurried to the autobus station, took the number 51 ride to Puerta del Sol. My walk started at Calle de Alcala, went through Plaza Mayor and took the Calle de Toledo route. I knew I was near the place when I passed by La Latina Metro.
Plaza de Cascorro
Finally, I reached one of the main areas of the flea market - Plaza de Cascorro.
I immediately got excited upon seeing countless stalls located all over the place. While used and new clothing were predominantly sold, a wide variety of items are found here as well - from worthless bric-a-brac to really useful ones.
In the middle of Plaza de Cascorro is the monument of Eloy Gonzalo, a Spanish soldier who bravely fought during Spain's historic war against Cuba. The Hero of Cascorro, Gonzalo is highly regarded and well-loved in Spain.
Ribera de Curtidores - Trail of blood
Another vital section of the flea market is Ribera de Curtidores. It is lined with trees on both sides, seemingly sheltering the stalls that fill up its length.
No space, apparently, is gone unused. Jeans, shirts, toys, mobile phone accessories, kitchen and home wares - anything that you can think of must be sold around here.
A card with the name and photo of the owner, serving as proof of permit from the authorities, is posted at a conspicuous part of the stall.
Literally means riverside of the tanners, Ribera used to be where tanneries were located. Dragging slaughtered cattle to the tanneries caused a trail of blood to be left in the streets, hence the name El Rastro, or the trail.
What you're staring at might be worth a fortune
You can be certain that you'll get your money's worth at Rastro if you fancy used items. You just need to be meticulous before you pay for anything. Take your time when checking an item's condition and quality to ensure that you'll enjoy a good buy.
Those with a keen eye and good knowledge of antiques and rarities (and lots of patience, too) will realize that Rastro is a veritable goldmine.
There had been stories of individuals stumbling upon finds such as an antique furniture, or a hundred-year old dusty painting which, unknown to the seller, commands a high price.
Generally, Rastro is the place to go to if you're in the hunt for items at affordable prices. Be prepared to negotiate to enjoy substantial markdown in prices, especially if you encounter a seller willing to give in just to make a sale.
Whether you haggle or not, prices at Rastro are low. Used appliances, clothes, accessories, art items, antiquities, pots and pans, and books - they are significantly cheaper than items sold in regular stores.
Was I able to buy anything? No, but I did enjoy seeing the place. El Rastro is such a unique and fascinating flea market that I visited as many important calles and plazas as possible.
In my next visit, I'll definitely haggle hard with my Espanol vendedor; that is, if I already have a better Spanish conversation skill in tow.