The star spot for selfie-snappers visiting Madrid, Plaza de Cibeles, was a block from our apartment. So many people pause for photos on the sidewalk on the opposite side of the plaza from Palacio de Cibeles that there is always someone nearby hawking extender sticks to improve the composition of selfies.
We circled the enormous plaza so many times during our stay, I thought we forgot to even take a photo of the gleaming off-white building erected at the beginning of the 20th century. Originally housing the main post office and telecommunications, the elegant building recently was remodeled dramatically to serve as City Hall and a cultural center, Centro Centro, showcasing contemporary art exhibits and offering sofa-filled areas with Wi-Fi access. The wedding cake center is topped with terraces offering commanding views of the city.
At the center of the plaza is a fountain and sculpture of Cybele driving a chariot drawn by a pair of lions, formerly a lusty human couple who dishonored the goddess by having sex in her temple. Cybele’s followers in ancient Greece were cult-like, and she continues to earn many exuberant fans during her residency in contemporary Madrid.
The soccer club Real Madrid considers her a patroness, honoring her by draping her with their team flag when they are victorious. Players and their legions of fans swarm into the plaza for rambunctious post-game celebrations.
Hope they all keep their passions in check, lest their inappropriate behavior offend the patroness capable of transforming them into another pair of stony lions permanently harnessed to her chariot.
As for us, our-selfies never managed to slip into camera range.