Madrid vs. Lincoln

When I tell people I go to school in Nebraska, most of the time the response is, “I’m sorry.” Lincoln isn’t as beautiful or exciting as bustling cities like Madrid, am I right?

You might actually be wrong.

My school took us on a tour of the Royal Palace in Madrid, Spain. The Palace was amazing!

The walls were painted with symmetrically patterned designs which lead the eye to a ceiling depicting the sky with clouds and naked babies, a type of ceiling I’m finding to be normal for Europe. The floors we walked on were covered with plush rugs.

The chandeliers hanging above us bore hundreds of crystals reflecting its lights. The historical paintings portrayed the faces of the past kings and queens of Spain. Though all amazing, my favorite place was the throne room.

The plush velvet chairs sat under a magnificent ceiling on which Spain’s past hold of Africa, the Americas and other nations is told. The gold, paintings and carpet were beautiful. Most of the time I was walking around with my mouth open in awe.

Lincoln doesn’t have a Royal Palace, sadly, but at least it holds one of the most imposing capitol buildings in the United States.

With good acoustics, tall, swooping ceilings and painted walls illustrating the history of the plains, it’s probably Lincoln’s most similar architecture to Western Europe. I remember spending hours walking through the capitol building on a Saturday afternoon looking down its long marble halls and up at its tall stone walls. I could almost pretend I was in Europe while walking through its beauty.

In fact, I dare you to try it—let me know if it works.

Fortunately, Nebraska’s State Capitol is not the only similarity between these two cities.

The center of Madrid hosts a massive 350 acre park filled with marble sculptures of famous people, a lake where people can rent boats and more! The park is beautiful in the beginning of April, with trimmed trees and green grass.

I’m willing to bet it looks even better in the summer filled with flowers, bees, birds, and the sun reflecting off of the waters of the fountains and lake.

Now, take a small square of this park (1.5 acres to be exact), and slap it into the middle of Lincoln, Nebraska.

What do you get? The Sunken Gardens. It’s one of my favorite places in Lincoln. When entering from the parking area, the garden begins to show its beauty with a quaint gazebo illustrating the changing seasons.

This gazebo is like the gatekeeper which opens itself up to the visitor with a greeting of docile ponds and delicate flowers. While you’re there, cross the street and visit the Hamann Rose Garden. Within these gardens, one can almost forget he or she is in the middle of the U.S. and simply enjoy the beauty.

Madrid has historical places such as Royal Palace and Retiro Park. Lincoln’s gems include the Capitol Building and Sunken Gardens. I can find beauty in the midst of the Madrid's busy downtown district and in Nebraska’s cornfields.

I know that the capital of a country founded 284 years before America and the tiny capital of Nebraska don’t easily compare at first glance. But, this journey to Europe has taught me that beautiful places can be found anywhere as long as you are willing to open your eyes and heart.

Melissa Ratter is a senior english language arts education major studying abroad in Spain.