Madrid, Spain

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Street performer in Madrid, Spain

While actual trees are less-than-numerous in Madrid, street-performers are on every corner–and sometimes, they dress up like trees! Unlike many countries where the vast majority of those on the street sit on the corner with a pitiful sign that begs for money, the majority of the buskers in Madrid and other Spanish cities sell (knockoff) products, create a performance, play music, or merely dress up in insane costumes for tourist photo-ops. No where else can you find so many of active buskers. Not only that, but the creativity of some of them is mind-blowing! This tree-man here is one example of many, and while he doesn’t do a whole lot more than stand there, as one walks down the main street to Puerta del Sol, your neck starts to hurt from all the swinging back and forth to stare at the interesting and fascinating costumes these people have created. Madrid (alongside Barcelona’s Las Ramblas) is surely a Museum of Truly Spectacular Buskers. And quite often, one has to see them to believe them!

Budapest, Hungary

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Street-performing violin-guitar duo in Budapest, Hungary

We don’t give enough attention into the sounds of a place; it may be the most underrated of the five senses. For most of us–tourists and locals alike–it’s all about the magnificent views, pretty buildings, smells of the food cooking, the taste of the perfect pizza or verre du vin, perhaps even the feel of the cobblestones underfoot. Out in the countryside, sounds get a little more attention–namely, birds chirping, cicadas buzzing, wind blowing. Not only do sounds add flavour to a city, but they change our perspective of the view–without us even noticing! And one of the most positive influences on a city–when it comes to sounds–are those of street performers. Street artists don’t get enough credit. They hold the power to add character and completely change the way we think about a place. Could you imagine Las Ramblas in Barcelona without people in costume, artists painting your caricature, people singing and dancing to Spanish music? Could you imagine the streets of Paris or Lyon without someone playing French ballads on an accordion? Or Vienna without it’s constant stream of Oscar-worthy musicians and singers? Budapest without these lovely musicians in the Castle District? They exist in every city–and yet, we hardly pay them any attention. We enjoy their music as we walk by, perhaps smile for a moment before continuing on without even a thought to reach for our wallets. Yet, normal city sounds (car motors, airplanes over head, people shouting, machines humming, etc) aren’t very ‘beautiful;’ and all those barely-noticed artists, musicians and performers who do make beautiful or–at least interesting–music and performances are left to become obscure starving artists….now how is that fair? So the next time you’re downtown and someone’s performance makes you stop and watch or listen, be nice and toss in a few coins.

Accordion Player in Warsaw, Poland

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An accordion player in Warsaw, Poland

There’s something romantic about walking through an old city and hearing the twinkling sounds of an accordion gliding through the streets. Accordions are romantic, remainders of bygone times. As you walk through Plac Zamkowy, the centre of Warsaw’s Old Town, you might stumble across this accordion player and momentarily be transported back in time. There was once a time when Warsaw was a beautiful city, a reigning queen. Of course, like the rest of Poland, WWII destroyed it. The Poles rebuilt their capital city from the fallen rubble to resemble what it once was, though outside of the the very centre, one must use one’s imagination. Yet, little details like horse-drawn carriages, little cafes, and the accordion player all help to remind the wayward traveller of what this Eastern European once was.

Prague, Czech Republic

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Prague, Czech Republic.

An organ-grinder on the Charles Bridge, one of the world’s most famous and most beautiful bridges. Street performers are a common sight in European cities…anything from a puppeteer to an opera singer to a guitar-player to a juggler to a statue, you will see them everywhere. They add character and life as well as entertainment for tourists and locals alike. Sometimes, they even become iconic. Anyone who has visited Prague will surely remember this fellow and his mechanical monkey on Charles Bridge!