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Spain: Bullfight Arena Las Ventas

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Bullfight Arena Las Ventas | Spain | Europe

[Visited: June 1989, March 2012]

On a sunny Sunday morning in spring, I was standing outside the impressive bullfight arena of Ventas. It was still very quiet, and since the entrance was closed, I walked the spacious square around the circular arena. There are several statues featuring toreros, or bullfighters, and bulls, and on one side there are bulls seemingly sticking out of a wall, flanked by two men on horses. Another remarkable statue: a humble torero in the typical torero dress, thanking Dr. Fleming for inventing penicillin - before the invention, many toreros died because of infections. A few doors on the backside of the arena were open; behind them, I saw men getting things organized. It was the first day of the season: that evening, the very first corrida would be held. The arena had to be prepared after winter. When I got back to the entrance, I saw people buying tickets for the corrida that evening, and I bought a ticket for a tour of the bullfight stadium. I wanted to join the Spanish speaking tour, but a large group of old Italians showed up, and I changed to the English speaking group which only consisted of a few persons.

Picture of Bullfight Arena Las Ventas (Spain): The Plaza de Toros seen from the outside

We walked through the Big Door, and our guide told us that to exit through this door is a great honour for any bullfighter. It only happens when the torero is allowed to cut two ears off the bull after a good performance; next to the entrance, there is a list of names of toreros who have accomplished their dream. We walked upstairs, and entered the arena proper. Old memories came back: it had been over 20 years since my Spanish friends convinced me to watch a bullfight evening in this very same arena. As a foreigner, I had mixed feelings about it, but I thought that I could only have an opinion after actually seeing it for myself. I remembered watching the spectacle, how my stomach turned when the bulls were wounded and killed, how I thought the fight was never a real fight because of the help of the picadores, and how I was disgusted by the women next to me who were commenting on the shiny and tight clothes of the torero using their binoculars while I was only seeing blood coming out of a dying bull before it was dragged out of the arena by a horse. We walked down to the sandy battlefield itself, with boxes for medics, picadores, and others on all sides, while our guide explained us for which purposes the various doors were used.

Picture of Bullfight Arena Las Ventas (Spain): List of toreros who achieved their dream: exiting through the Puerta Grande or Big Door

The Plaza de Toros of Las Ventas was finished in 1929 after the previous arena became too small; with capacity of almost 25,000 spectators and a diameter of the arena of 60 metres, it is the third largest arena in the world after one in Mexico and another one in Venezuela; but the arena in Madrid holds the highest prestige. The first corrida was held in 1931, and with a suspension for the Civil War, it has been used ever since. Not only can you buy tickets according to the level in the stadium, but also for the shade or sun side - the latter being cheaper, thanks to the fierce Madrid sun. The royal family have a special box in the arena, exactly opposite the stadium clock and, like the entire building, in mudéjar style, the Moorish style that gives the circular building an exotic look. Outside, the arches and typical shapes, adorned with colourful tiles and plaques of all provinces of Spain, make the building a sight in itself - even without watching a bullfight.

Picture of Bullfight Arena Las Ventas (Spain): Sculpture of torero and bull in front of the bullfight arena
Picture of Bullfight Arena Las Ventas (Spain): Sculpture on a wall outside the bullfight arena: man on a horse followed by a herd of bulls
Picture of Bullfight Arena Las Ventas (Spain): Colourful tiles decorate the outside of the Ventas plaza de toros
Picture of Bullfight Arena Las Ventas (Spain): Torero in front of the plaza de toros in Madrid
Picture of Bullfight Arena Las Ventas (Spain): The remarkable mudéjar style building of Las Ventas
Picture of Bullfight Arena Las Ventas (Spain): Torero in a thankful gesture to Dr. Fleming who invented penicillin, important for bullfighters
Picture of Bullfight Arena Las Ventas (Spain): Arches and mudéjar style details of the Las Ventas bullfight arena
Picture of Bullfight Arena Las Ventas (Spain): The mudéjar style of the Ventas bullfight arena gives it an exotic look
Picture of Bullfight Arena Las Ventas (Spain): Inside view of the bullfight arena of Las Ventas
Picture of Bullfight Arena Las Ventas (Spain): Part of the monumental facade of the main entrance door of the Ventas bullfight arena
Picture of Bullfight Arena Las Ventas (Spain): Shelter for picadores, inside the bullfight arena
Picture of Bullfight Arena Las Ventas (Spain): The first corrida of the year announced with bullfighters
Picture of Bullfight Arena Las Ventas (Spain): The very first corrida in the bullfight arena was held in 1931

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