Seville: The Big City


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July 4th 2008
Published: July 6th 2008
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Sevilla Church with MinaretSevilla Church with MinaretSevilla Church with Minaret

My first day wandering around I found this church with a very obvious Islamic minaret. I love seeing the Arab influence here but it is troubling how all the mosques have been turned into churches.
Coming to Seville was a shock. At first I thought I might have made a mistake. I was so enamored with Granada's small town cuteness that Seville'e metropolitan feel was an unexpected change. But now that I have adapted a bit and gotten a feel for the city - I love it here too. It's quite metropolitan but, being a big city, has a lot to see and do.

My first day here I just walked around and tried to adjust to the city. I stopped by the tourist office, got a free map, found my hostel, left my backpack and set off to get lost. I think that getting lost in a new city is the best way to get to know it. After wandering for a few hours I can get out my map and try to find my way back to the hostel (which I had marked on the map before setting out). It's partly a way to judge the people of the city also. I like to know if they're helpful when I'm lost or if they are going to be rude to me. Seville was neither since almost everybody I asked was also a tourist.
Alcazar Garden FountainAlcazar Garden FountainAlcazar Garden Fountain

I started my tour of the Real Alcazar with the gardens since it was already getting hot at 9am. The fountains all had gold fish, large carp and friendly ducks.
They were nice but not most were just as clueless as I was. Lesson 1: Seville has less Spainards than Granada.

The second day I got up and headed out to see the Real Alcazar, which I was told has the most Arab architecture in Seville. I agree it has Arab architecture but it was actually built for the Spainsh crown and the only reason there is any Arab feel to it is that the king who comissioned it liked Arab architecture better than European. I concur. Later kings added and changed bits of the palace so not all of it is in the original style, but I would say that the original parts are stunning while the later European additions are not quite as beautiful. They are joined together with strange passageways so that you can leave a courtyard with a fountain in the middle and Arabic inscriptions around the columns and the sort of tilework that is in the Alhambra - then up a little stairway be confronted by a large statue of Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus. The contrast was more than confusing. It wasn't at all like the Alhambra in Granada where the Arab architecture
Baroque Walls and Arab KioskBaroque Walls and Arab KioskBaroque Walls and Arab Kiosk

Again, the Arab-European mix is endlessly fascinating for me.
has more recent European additions on top. Since this was a palace built for a Spainsh king and it has stayed in the royal family, the original archictecture is well taken care of and has not been changed. It's just that a giant gothic palace was built a few centimeters away and the two are joined by oddly placed passages. The gardens are amazing and quite extensive. I wandered around the whole complex for over four hours and I doubt I saw it all. I finally had to leave because my feet hurt. I would love to have stayed all day.

That night I followed a few others from the hostel to a flamenco dancing performance. There are flamenco shows every night in Seville and I knew I couldn't leave Seville without seeing some live flamenco. I asked around and got reviews of several places - some good and some not so good. The place I decided on was in the courtyard of a hotel which was constructed like a Marrakechi riad. There were chairs set up for the spectators around three sides of the courtyard and a wooden stage in the middle. It was an intimate little place
Extensive GardensExtensive GardensExtensive Gardens

I'm not kidding. The gardens go on forever and it would be easy to be lost there.
with only about fifty chairs and lots of hanging baskets of flowers and vines climbing the wall behind the stage. Two men came in dressed in black. One was the guitarist and the other was the singer, who also did a little percussion with by clapping and tapping his foot. In such a small space even the foot tapping was loud and the acustics of the courtyard were excellent. After a song the dancer came in. She wore a black flamenco dress which has frills at the neck, wrists and from the knees down but otherwise is very tight to the body. She was amazing. Not only was the dancing spellbinding but she was the main percussionist. The stage and her shoes must have been especially designed for flamenco. In most dances the dancer follows the music but she seemed to lead the music. Her hand movements are exactly like Maryam's when she dances, so that part looked very Arab to me. Her body movements were much more lively though and seemed more European and Roma (gypsey). After a few songs she took a break to change costumes and we had a musical interlude. Her second costume was also very
Arabic Inscriptions and TilesArabic Inscriptions and TilesArabic Inscriptions and Tiles

The Arabic words here aren't as clear as in Granada. They're more for decoration than for being read, since the palace was built for a Spainard.
traditional but in red, not black. I didn't have any expectations going into the evening, since I knew absolutely nothing about flamenco, and I was blown away. The courtyard was too dark for my photos to show you anything (sorry) but it was very magical and I am so glad I went.

The next day was the real tourism. I started off the morning with an Australian named Tess who I had met at the hostel. She had a thorough list of tourist sights in the city so I asked if I could tag along with her. We started off at the bull fighting ring. The night before there had been a bull fight but I had decided flamenco was more my style. In retrospect I think I made the right decision. I would rather learn about bull fighting than see the real thing. During the day they do tours of the arena and tourists can visit a museum in the basement below the ring. I learned a lot about bull fighting (since, like flamenco, I knew next to nothing). Each door into the ring serves a different purpose. For example, one is for the bull to enter. The
King's ChambersKing's ChambersKing's Chambers

The Spanish Royal family still uses the palace, but they only live in some upstairs rooms, leaving the former bedroom to the tourists.
body gets dragged out a different door after the fight is over. One door is for the matador to enter and there are two reserved for his exit. One exit is for "sucessful" matadors and the other is for the losers. A matador is considered successful if he has managed to get three trophies in a single day. A trophy is an ear or tail from a live bull. It turns out to be quite complicated and each matador works with a team of five other men. Two start off on horses, working the bull, then three enter on foot and fight some more before the matador himself gets a crack at the bull. There is some sort of judge also who can proclaim the matador "successful" and who also has the power to pardon the bull from death if he has been especially courageous or a particularly good fighter.

After the bull ring we headed to the "Archivo General de Indias" - the "Indias" being the Americas. It was fascinating for me but since it is all in Spanish and all about the Americas, Tess left to go see the cathedral which didn't interest me as much. The
CourtyardCourtyardCourtyard

This was one of my favorite little courtyards but the doorway behind me leads up to one of the passages to the gothic palace and seems so out of place.
exhibition in the Archivo is about the Spanish exploration and colonization of North America, particularly with regard to the area which is currently the United States. I tried to take notes to improve my teaching of the Spanish influence in the US for my Spanish 1 classes. What was most interesting to me was that though I already knew most of the facts in the exhibition (names and dates) it is all presented quite differently here. I learned about Spanish colonization from an American perspective, from American teachers using American textbooks. While the facts are the same, some of the aspects I find most interesting and have learned about the most, like the diseases spread and the massacres commited, are barely mentioned here. The exhibit focues on the documents that are stored in the archive of Seville. I saw the original hand written account of Cabeza de Vaca's trek from Florida to Mexico after being shipwrecked. I saw treaties written to be "signed" by the tribes living in the Americas. I saw reports made by Spanish expolorers about their findings. I saw the first pencil drawing of a bison that saw sent back to the Spanish crown. It was a
Virgin MaryVirgin MaryVirgin Mary

Leaving the previous courtyard and winding up some stairs I was confronted by a very different kind of room.
very thorough and well prepared exhibit and I wish all my Spanish students could have seen it. It went through history from the first voyages all the way to the Declaration of Independance and founding of the current US government. They even had one of the first paper bank notes made by the fledgling American government. It was a bill for four dollars. I never knew they made four dollar bills. In short, it was fascinating and I was very happy that I know Spanish since nothing was in English. Note to my students: study harder!

After the Archivo I tried an art museum which was nice because it was free and air conditioned, but somehow I just wasn't in the mood for centruies old paintings of saints I know nothing about and countless images of Jesus on the cross. I was reminded of my cousin Isaac who got stuck in a part of the Louvre that only had old religious paintings. Some of the painting in the modern wing were very nice, but otherwise I just kept thinking about what I had seen in the Archivo and the descriptions of the Hopi and Navajo uprisings in the Sangre
Palace Door to GardensPalace Door to GardensPalace Door to Gardens

The doors from both the Arab and gothic palaces lead directly out to the gardens, so that everywhere in the palace you can hear the calming sounds of the fountains outside.
de Christo Mountains of New Mexico. Apparently being sent to the military post in Santa Fe was like being banished to hell.

Next stop was the bus station for a bus to Portugal, since tomorrow I'm leaving the city. Seville was beautiful and I learned a lot here but I can only take so much city. I asked what they had for bus tickets to Portugal and was told my choices are Lisbon, Faro and Lagos. I know Lisbon is the capital and Iºm not ready for another city just yet so I asked of Faro and Lagos are in the south. The answer was si, so I asked how much each ticket cost. I wanted to go out to the south-west coast. Faro was only 14 euros and Lagos cost 20, so I went for Lagos, reasoning that it must be closer to the western coast. When I got back to the hostel I got out my map (which I should have had with me at the train station) and found that Lagos is almost exactly where I have been wanting to go.

While at the bus station I also learned that today is the 4th of
Minaret of the Seville CathedralMinaret of the Seville CathedralMinaret of the Seville Cathedral

The main cathedral at the center of town is only a stone's throw from the Alcazar and was obviously once the city's mosque. It's the third largest church in the world and has added a bell to the minaret from which the call to prayer should be heard.
July, so on the way back to the hostel I stopped by the grocery store to look for something appropriate to celebrate with. Seville isn't big on American food but I did find a Budweiser and decided that would have to do. I got some bread and roasted red peppers to make appetizers with but I couldn't find anything blue to go with the red peppers and white bread. The only toothpicks they had were brown. Nevertheless, back at the hostel a group of Estadounidenses had gathered on the roof patio which has enough chairs and hammacks for a sizable crowd. We sang songs from the movie Team America and made fun of each other's states. No fireworks, but still a good 4th of July by my standards.


Additional photos below
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Royal Seating at Bull RingRoyal Seating at Bull Ring
Royal Seating at Bull Ring

The empty ring itself isn't anything to look at but I liked the ornate seating reserved for the royal family above the door the successful matadors exit through.
Mother of The BullMother of The Bull
Mother of The Bull

The museum had lots of interesting artifacts documenting bull fighting in Seville through the past three centuries, but I liked most this cow who produced the only bull to every kill a matador in Seville. She was immediately killed so she couldn't produce any more "assasin bulls."
Indias = AmericasIndias = Americas
Indias = Americas

Cameras weren't allowed in most of the museum, but at the entrance is this introduction to the archival documentation of Spain's involvement in the "Indias."


7th July 2008

hi, houda your observations and comments of the places you have visited are very accurate and in place, and i would asume that your knowledge of the muyslims culture and art were helpful toyou to see things that other tourists wouldn't pay attention to. its really nice to read your blog
10th July 2008

Desfruta!
Zuuin, estoy a ver tus fotos, estan supermegaguay! Yo he enviado una email a ti, no sé como volver a otros dias en tu blog...jeje. Besos y desfruta la viaje!
11th July 2008

Hi Heather!!
We are just heading out of town and I found your website address in a file--from the last time! Isnt that crazy? So I don't have time to read this right now, but know that I am thinking of you and when we come back on Sunday, I will read everything and write to you! The pictures look awesome! Take care and miss you!!! xoxo Wendy

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