“Do you want to see a bunch of sheep walk through the city center at noon today?”
I can’t think of a better text to wake up to on a Sunday morning.
So of course I said yes.
Apparently, once a year in the fall in Madrid, the shepherds take their sheep through the city center. They’re taking their sheep south for the winter, and the path they take happens to graze straight through the heart of Madrid.
Why not put the sheep in a truck, you may ask.
Because there are hundreds of sheep.
So the next thing you know, my friend and I were standing next to the street in Sol, the heart of Madrid, waiting for a bunch of sheep, on a Sunday morning.
I was also accompanied by two shopping bags with new winter boots because 1) priorities, and 2) I was a dumbass who thought that, since Michigan is a hell of a lot colder than Madrid, a Spanish winter would be easy-breezy for me (forgetting that I spent over three years in Colombia, which has resulted in me not knowing how to dress for anything that’s not a tropical paradise . . . ?!).
Anyway! Baaaaack to the sheep. (Disclaimer: I’m going to try to huddle in as many sheep puns in this post as possible. You have been warned.)
When we first got to Sol, not many people were waiting in line. And then, in a matter of fifteen minutes or so, flocks of foreigners and locals alike rammed as close as they could to the edge of the street, waiting for the sheep to arrive. Waiting for anything, really. At this point, we were just standing there in the cold. Probably half of the people in line were hungover.
So we waited . . . and waited . . . and waited. Nothing was going on. Every now and then, we’d hear a “perdona” as someone sheepishly forged their way through the line of shivering spectators.
And then finally, we got to see something.
Sheep? No. Folklore dancing and dress and music.
And then, everything came to a halt. We heard something about the sheep being slightly petrified. I don’t blame them. Imagine all of these strangers are cheering for you, and it’s 11 o’clock on a Sunday morning, and who knows when they got up to start walking in the first place? I’d be freaked out if I had to walk in front of a bunch of overly eager (and possibly hungover) crowds on any morning.
“Where are the sheeeeeeep?” people kept asking. The dogs that were casually grazing around were nice though.
And then it happened. We didn’t see them at first. We could smell them. That’s when we knew they were approaching us. However, they didn’t get any closer. So now, it’s Sunday morning, I’m being pushed around by a bunch of strangers, am carrying two shopping bags with new boots in my hands, listening to a group of loud Americans right over my shoulder, and it’s cold. And now it smells like actual shit. Why did we agree to this again?
But finally, we could start to see them. They’d been stopped by some shepherds and the dogs.
And then, at last, they arrived. In full force.
HUNDREDS of them. Possibly thousands. There were sheep, shepherds, children dressed as shepherds, goats, bells, dogs, even oxen. I’d never seen so many sheep in my life. It was one of the most bizarre things I’d ever witnessed.
But you know what? Seeing those sheep brought the biggest smile to my face. I don’t know why, but apparently, all it really took to get over a major case of the feels was to huddle up with a baaaanch of strangers (okay, I’ll stop with the puns) to watch a herd of sheep head south.
Seeing all the cute sheep almost made me ignore all of the leftover crap on the streets.
Anyway, after the sheep left, my friend and I got sandwiches at 100 Montaditos (a little sandwich and beer place, and on Sundays almost everything on the menu is one euro).
Seeing a bunch of sheep walk through the center of Spain has definitely got to be one of the weirdest, silliest, baffling, and perplexing travel experiences I’ve ever had. But it’s also one that made me smile the most. Sometimes you just need to embrace the bizarre, deal with the cold and the shit, for a moment of unexpected and much needed bliss.