If you had a time machine, would you rather go forward in time, or backward? After two months in time, my definitive answer is forward. I know I would not be able to stomach the odors of the past.
Madrid is smelly, the trash is smelly, the streets are smelly, the people are smelly, I expected this before I came, but I was not prepared for the reality.
trash in Madrid is no smellier than most countries, the problem is it
is more exposed than other countries. There are no back allies in
Madrid, only courtyards, and exposed streets. Restaurant trash is taken
out daily, which means the trash bins are left out on the street over
night. In the evenings the wonderful aromas of Spanish cuisine out
compete the scent of trash, but during the day, the smell of trash is
If your out and about at night, where can you find a
bathroom? According to the locals, anywhere out of sight of the cops.
If you are walking about Madrid between 4:00-10:00 in the morning, the
smell of urine is inescapable. If you look closely at the highly
graffitied walls, you'll notice streaks of urine interspersed. I could
be wrong, but I'm fairly certain Madrid's only attempt at removing
graffiti is by the locals pissing on it.
I spent most of the last
year in a country of people with no body odor. Japan is remarkably odor
free, and so Spain is a shock to the system. Not every Spaniard smells
bad, but it's not just people who don't have access to showers that are
an issue here. Businessmen, high fashion women, and all sorts of
professionals smell as bad as the drunken drifter passed out on the
metro. In America, this would be considered unprofessional, and would
make it more difficult to socialize, but here no-one seems to bat an
eye. One of my classes of teenagers smells so bad it makes my eyes
water, and my stomach churn when I am stuck in a class with them with no
Worse than body odor are the people with halitosis.
Luckily this isn't as common as body odor, but this smell actually makes
me gag. I would say about one person out of every hundred has
halitosis. The Spanish diet is the perfect cocktail for bad breath, lots
of breads, lots of meat, and coffee. Bad breath is much more common
here, but on some people it is overwhelming. People with persistent
halitosis not only have bad breath, their clothes become saturated with
the smell of stale halitosis.
Spain is my limit, I
could not handle worse smells (and sometimes I can't even handle it
here). I am certain that it smelled much worse in the past, before
toothpaste, before deodorant, before daily showers were the norm, before
daily trash pickup, or before plumbing.