For the first time this semester, my friends and I planned a trip of our own. What better place to travel to than the heart and capital of Andalucia: Sevilla. One of the first differences I noticed from Granada were the colors. While Granada consists of pearl white and grey, here, everything is yellow, peach, and bright white. Sevilla is also on average much warmer than Granada, and the weekend we chose lived up to this expectation. For the first time in months I wore a tank top outside and actually began to sweat in the mid-heat of the day. The city layout is also contrasting; the buildings are more spread out, allowing a clear view of the sky. I don't know if it is because of the color scheme, the temperature, or the open air feeling, but Sevilla is perhaps my favorite place I have traveled to so far in Spain.
Before leaving, Jordan found us a nice hostel online called Sevilla Inn Backpackers. From the title we could tell it caters more to an international crowd who did not necessarily speak Spanish. It is in the heart of the city and boasts friendly staff, cleanliness, and organized activities. For my first hostel, I was very impressed! The place is extremely secure with three front doors, comfortable beds, and indeed dirt-free. They also offer a free locker, free internet, a free walking tour, and free breakfast. And of course, who could forget their beautiful rooftop terrace. From here we could see the tip of the Cathedral and our street, Mato Gago, below.
We met several other travelers staying at SIB. Some were like us, students who wanted to see cities around Spain, while others were just roaming through Europe. A few were traveling by working for their keep - if they helped run the Inn, they could get a free bed. We made a friend with one of the many Germans who were there that weekend named Sandro (pronounced Zandrho). He was visiting Sevilla from Granada as well and traveled around with us for the few days to follow.
The Alcazar, commonly referred to as Sevilla's "Little Alhambra," is a wondrous palace in the center of the city. The enchanting center is disguised by a rather plain and unimpressive entry way. After the first few palaces, I thought, ok I can see why they call this the "Little Alhambra". It has many of the same Muslim architectural elements, including mocárabes, porticos, zocalos, and cúpolas. (My Spanish Art class is paying off!) However, these elements are not laid out with quite the same precision nor expertise as the Alhambra, hence "little". However, when you reach the center of the Alcazar, you are smacked with a gorgeous view of endless gardens. By this point, our group of eight had dispersed and Rachel and I were left to explore these gardens on our own.
We ventured first into the orange groves. Rows and rows of sun-soaked trees shaded us in heavy canopies, pregnant with their deceptive delights. I call these Oranges of Eve; they look so juicy but are never to be eaten. Then we snaked our way through the labyrinth of tall bushes, turning corners and crouching under sculpted archways. Beyond this maze, a spacious patch of green lawn presented itself, filled with love-struck couples and colorful peacocks sunning themselves in the Sevillan heat. I felt like little Alice lost in a wonderland, minus the creepy caterpillar and apprehensive rabbit. After climbing some gnarly rooted trees and watching ducks cool off in ponds, Rachel and I reluctantly left our garden (at the suggestion of security guard because it was closing). I had never felt so much like a child since... I was a child. Free to explore, climb, skip, wander, and lie in the grass staring up at the clouds, watching all of my worries blow by.
El Barrio de Santa Cruz
Sevilla is well known for its Jewish neighborhood, Santa Cruz. Our walking guide, Jessica, took us through the barrio and taught us many facts and secrets that live in these old walls. The walkways are composed of spaced out pebbles instead of flat cement in order to lessen the heat on one's feet during the summer. The passageways are purposefully confusing and have multiple names because the Jews wanted to confuse the Christians when they galloped through on conversion and massacre missions. There are old aqueduct systems, small restaurants, mom-and-pop shops, and of course, orange trees in every plaza. We also learned about Susona, a Jewish girl who forbiddingly fell in love with a Christian prince. She heard her family talk about plans to kill the royal family, and out of love for her prince, told him this secret in an attempt to save him. But the prince felt obliged to tell his father, who then barreled through the barrio, killing all of Susona's family and friends. She was spared, perhaps on the prince's orders, but her guilt was even worse than being killed. Susona had betrayed everyone she loved, even though her intentions were good. Her relationship with the prince had changed forever. Out of her sorrow Susona killed herself and left orders in her will to place her head in the window of her home for everyone to see and feel the sorrow she felt. The barrio is filled with many of these tales and is a mystifying place to see.
El Catedral y La Giralda
Both beautiful sites to observe, the cathedral with its tomb of Columbus and the accompanying tower with its agujas, pináculos, y gran vista de la ciudad. Atop the Giralda stands a lady, weighing in at two-tons, who turns with the sway of the wind. It is hard to imagine how such a cumbersome woman can function as a weather vein, but she does indeed rotate.
El Rio y El Torre del Oro
During Jessica's tour, we passed many interesting sites, including a famous hotel, Alfonso XIII, where Johnny Depp, Madonna, Cameron Diaz, and Tom Cruise stayed. We snuck inside to get a peak, and the hotel is decorated and trimmed from head to toe. Even the elevators are beautifully crafted out of maple and adorned with carvings and flowers. It resides by the river in Sevilla, which Emily and I walked along one evening to people watch. Right along this river is El Torre del Oro. Though it is called the Tower of Gold, there is no gold at the top as many had hoped. At first I recognized this monument, but couldn't remember where. Then I thought back to my home in Virginia and our dinner table. Ah ha! That's where I had seen it before. We have a trivet with this exact picture on it! I remember staring at this painting during meal time and imagining myself as one of those people walking by the old tower, well versed in European travel. And now, I realized, I am becoming one of those people.
La Plaza de España y El Dia de Andalucia
If Sevilla is the father of Andalucia, La Plaza de España is its mother. A small moat surrounds the open square, where families enjoy paddling in the sun. The half circle is bordered with columns and in between each are mosaics of the regions of Spain. It is hard for me to describe because it has a silencing effect on you when you step into its center. (It's even harder to photograph). Across from the plaza is a park with pools, ceramic backed benches, runners, and palm trees. Rachel, Sam, and I stayed for El Dia de Andalucia and were drawn by the music into this park. We discovered its source, a high school band with trumpets, trombones, flutes, and clarinets celebrating their beloved region. We packed sandwiches and found a ceramic tiled pool to kick back by and listen. After eating, I laid down in the grass, let the sun warm me up like a lizard, and rested.
Hasta la próxima,