Reading questions - literary text discussing travel - Higher

Read these passages from a Spanish novel.

Here is some vocabulary to help you.

la avenidaavenue
la carreteramain road
la maletasuitcase
el olorsmell
el paso subterráneounderpass, subway
el saco de dormirsleeping bag
la taquillaticket office

La Estación del Norte

Train station at night

Un joven llega a Madrid

Ernesto bajó al andén, cogió el paso subterráneo, pasó delante de la consigna y la taquilla y salió a la carretera. Para un joven de dieciséis años que había crecido en una pequeña aldea en el campo del norte de España, su llegada a la Estación del Norte esa tarde de mayo representó un choque inmenso. Nunca antes había estado en un lugar con tanta gente, tantos coches, tanto ruido, pero lo que le impresionó más que nada era el olor - un olor a gases de escape, a árboles en flor, a comida frita, a gasolina, a la vida de una gran ciudad.

Al subir la avenida, la vieja maleta de su abuelo en la mano y su saco de dormir a cuestas, Ernesto se sintió alegre y emocionado pero a la vez tenía miedo. No sabía entonces que esta era la ciudad donde iba a pasar el resto de su vida.


Answer these questions in English.

  1. How did Ernesto travel to Madrid?
  2. Why do you think his arrival was such a shock to him?
  3. What made the greatest impression on him?
  4. What was he carrying?
  5. What was he yet to discover?
  1. He travelled by train. (Words such as el andén, la consigna, la taquilla are the clues here.)
  2. He had grown up in a little country village in the north of Spain and he'd never been in such a big place before.
  3. The smell(s). (Other things are mentioned that made an impression on him but the question asks 'What made the greatest impression?' The Spanish lo que le impresionó más que nada should help guide you to the right part of the text.)
  4. His grandfather's old suitcase and his sleeping bag.
  5. That this was the city where he was going to spend the rest of his life.


A young man arrives in Madrid

Ernesto got down onto the platform, took the subway, passed in front of the left luggage office and the ticket office and went out onto the main road. For a 16 year-old young man who had grown up in a small country village in the north of Spain, his arrival at the North Station that evening in May represented an immense shock. Never before had he been in a place with so many people, so many cars, so much noise, but what impressed him more than anything was the smell - a smell of exhaust fumes, of trees in blossom, of fried food, of petrol, of the life of a big city. As he walked up the avenue, his grandfather's old suitcase in his hand and his sleeping bag on his back, Ernesto felt happy and excited but at the same time scared. He didn't know then that this was the city where he was going to spend the rest of his life.

Literary texts like this can often look rather off-putting to start with but the questions can often be quite straightforward. Remember:

  • Don't panic if you don't understand everything when you first read the passage. You don't have to understand everything - only the bits which provide the answers to the questions.
  • Look for clues in the questions which will help direct you to the right part of the text, eg here 'impression' in question 3 might direct you to impresionó in the passage.