Postcard from... Madrid


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The Independent Online

As any tourist discovers the first time they set foot in a normal Spanish bar and try (at a decibel rate above that of the multiple televisions with their volumes seemingly set to maximum, other clients’ semi-shouted conversations and waiters bellowing orders for tapas) to order a drink, Spain has long been known as Europe’s noisiest nation.

But one “oasis of calm” is about to break out – on Spanish high speed trains or AVEs. As of this summer, “quiet carriages” are to be introduced, where tannoy announcements will be made at lower-than-usual volumes, lighting will be lowered and (in theory) mobile phone use will be prohibited.

Whether this last regulation works without some kind of transmitter blocking system is another story. Not only are Spaniards addicted to conversation (one study said they spent up to six hours a day talking to friends), they are also the fourth highest users of smartphones in Europe.

And given the country’s “relaxed” attitude to non-smoking laws, for example, in certain public places, it may take a brave guard to face down any passengers who have failed to read the small print when buying his or her ticket. On the other hand, another Hispanic habit – the siesta –  could become a whole lot easier.