A New Trick for the Trickle: The Future of Madrid’s Manzanares River

Weird : Quirky : Fun

by Julie Espinosa

Puente de Toledo

Madrid’s river, el Manzanares, has taken a beating over the years. It was never a grand thing to begin with, being the object of mockery from several Spanish writers:

Manzanares, Manzanares, arroyo aprendiz de río.
-Francisco de Quevedo

Como Alcalá y Salamanca tenéis, y no sois colegio, vacaciones en verano y curso sólo en invierno.
-Tirso de Molina

and my favorite line of poetry,
¿Cómo ayer te vi en pena, y hoy en gloria? Bebióme un asno ayer, y hoy me ha meado.
-Luis de Góngora

These sharp pens call the Manzanares an “apprenticing stream,” with a “winter-only course” which only swells “into glory when a donkey pees” in it. Following the Golden Age, increased industrialization and traffic has reduced the Manzanares’ trickle even further.

But now the city is working on ambitious plans to turn the riverfront green from 2008 to 2010. See the promotional video (in Spanish) for details. Although I remain skeptical that the water flow will suddenly swell to the volume projected in the computer-graphic rendering and that putting motorways underground will work perfectly, the general direction looks promising.

For now, walking by the river can be enjoyable in limited areas, like by the Puente de Segovia to the west of the Campo del Moro and the Puente de Toledo (in photo), downhill from the Puerta de Toledo. Both provide for relaxing Sunday afternoon strolls, although the water may be lacking, especially at the former. In the future, there will hopefully be even more green space (and water too) if all goes according to plan.


Comment from bill
Date: April 23, 2008, 12:29 pm

It has been interesting to see such a project take shape. A few years ago Madrid was permanently “patas arriba” because the council decided not only to build the tunnels for the M30, but also to carry out other major roadworks, and to even close a couple of metro lines for good measure. All at the same time.

I couldn’t believe how a council could have the right to cut off whole barrios without any apparent consultation (Legazpi was left without a metro and bus service for the entire summer). On top of that, the works took place without the required environmental impact study (the council tried to get round this by claiming the M30 was a regular city street!), caused immense polution due to the dust thrown up, and nearly dried up Madrid’s water supply because it all happened during a drought.

But then again, I have always admired how quickly things actually get pushed through here compared to England (where it would probably still be in the consultation stage). Now that the worst is over I can’t wait until the river development is complete. Madrid has been crying out for this.

Comment from Katie
Date: April 23, 2008, 10:27 pm

I agree, it’ll be interesting to see how the whole thing turns out.

The river is also fairly pleasant north of Principe Pío, near the Paseo de la Florida (and a great restaurant, Casa Mingo). But I have to say my favorite spot on the Manzanares is up in La Pedriza, where I’ve swum twice in great swimming holes (and plan to go back for more this summer!).

Comment from bill
Date: April 24, 2008, 1:02 am

Yes, Sunday lunch on the terraza at Casa Mingo, followed by a stroll down the river nearby is one of my favourite summer pastimes. I guess they’re not going to redevelop that part of the river because it never had the M30 next to it anyway (though I could be wrong). I went up to La Pedriza last summer but found it too crowded – every swimming hole seemed occupied by bathers. Maybe I just timed it wrong.

Comment from Katie
Date: April 24, 2008, 3:53 pm

If you try to go on a Friday or a day with less-than-perfect weather (or the month of June?), I think you’ll find it less crowded. Also, try walking upriver a ways. Generally the “domingueros” don’t make it terribly far.

Comment from José Miguel
Date: April 24, 2008, 4:22 pm

Un embajador alemán comentó que el Manzanares tenía la ventaja de ser “navegable en coche y a caballo”. Otra persona propuso que en verano se regase el río para que no levantara polvo.
Después de construido el Puente de Segovia las burlas continuaron. Lope de Vega propuso que se comprase un río o que se vendiese el puente. Góngora volvió a burlarse: “Duélete de esa puente, Manzanares, / mira que por ahí dice la gente / que no eres río para media puente / y que ella es puente para treinta mares”. Como curiosidad, en aquella época la palabra puente era femenina y se decía “la puente” igual que hoy decimos “la fuente”.

Comment from comfy_chair
Date: May 7, 2008, 3:54 pm

I was recently cycling past the river, near the M30 and Casa de Campo boundary, and saw a guy fishing. I was suprised when he caught a very large fish. I would not like to eat it, but hte fish seemed fat and healthy … and so did the fisherman.

Cleaning up rivers world-wide is a priority.

Comment from Hitesh Sawlani
Date: May 30, 2008, 2:14 am

I like quite close to where that photo was taken!
Apparently some (quite a few) decades ago the river had a lot more water flowing through and it even had a beach where people would come and bathe in the summers but due to pollution and such it had to be closed down.