December 15, 2013

#134 Seville


Rumor has it that the best time of year to visit Seville is Semana Santa (Holy Week).  Every evening in the week before Easter members of the city's cofradias (brotherhoods) slowly parade through the streets.  There are hoods, bare feet, dragging chains, candlelit processions with elaborate floats of Mary or Christ and singing.  Our guide told us all about the procession his parish sponsors every year, and it lasts twelve hours.

Our guide was the young, cute one!

Our first stop of the day was Real Alcazar de Sevilla - a palace that is still the official residence of the royal family when they are in Seville.  Our excursion tickets noted that the Alcazar may be closed if the royals are in residence, but our guide told us that they have only stayed overnight twice in about ten years. The last time was for the Davis Cup (or some sporting event).


It has existed since the eleventh century. And La Casa de Contratacion was built to regulate trade with the new world.  It included a large staff of cartographers, navigators, archivists, administrators, etc., including Amerigo Vespucci.  It also levied a 20% tax on all goods entering Spain as well as additional fees to provide naval security, maps, etc.  Christopher Columbus met here with Ferdinand and Isabella after his second voyage to the new world.


Salon de Embajadores (Hall of the Ambassadors)


In March, 1995 the Infanta Elena was married in the Seville cathedral and the reception was held here.  It was Spain's first royal wedding in 89 years, her parents having been married in Greece and her grandparents in Italy.  It was a pretty big deal.


Alcoba Real (Royal Bedchamber)

Very similar architectural style to Alhambra in Granada in many parts of Real Alcazar, although many areas of Alacazar were renovated to reflect the modern style of the royals of the time.

Patio de las Doncellas (Patio of the Maidens)





Patio de la Monteria


Patio de las Flores 



There are loads of orange trees all over the property and they all smell delicious.  Our guide informed us that there are actual sweet and bitter varieties and you definitely do not want to pick and eat a bitter orange.  They are used in marmalade and flavorings, but not to just eat.  You can tell it is a bitter orange because of the second tiny leaf between the stem and regular leaf.

Jardin de la Danza (Garden of Dance - Not Garden of Tony Danza)



Fuente de Mercurio (Source of Mercury)



Our next stop was the Catedral de Sevilla (Seville Cathedral) which is just around the corner from Real Alcazar, but it was packed!  And, unsurprisingly, had a restoration project going on.  However, if you get a chance check out their website HERE.  It is pretty cool, and I love the hourglass waiting icon.

Like many holy structures in this little corner of the world it has see-sawed between mosque and cathedral.

When we are lucky original elements survived the changes.

And you are left with the best of both religious architectural elements.

Can you tell I think this is one of the most awe-inspiring structures I've seen?

The towers are fall-over-backwards-trying-to-see-the-top tall.

And there is a crocodile hanging from the portico.

El Patio de los Naranjos


La Giralda (the bell tower) was a minaret during its incarnation as a mosque and had a circular ramp built inside it.  The Muezzin must sing the call to prayer five times a day and had the ramp built so he could ride a donkey to the top instead of climbing a bazillion stairs.  Way to problem-solve, Muezzin!
It also has a high-tech weather-vane topping it today.


Puerto de la Concepcion



Much of the interior was blocked off for renovation so although the cathedral is among the most spectacular in the world we didn't get to see much of it.  

Also by this point in the trip there had been 10 ports in 11 days so I was also down to having very few shits to give.  Especially since many of my fellow cruise mates were the sort that wear on every last nerve.  

This is the altar that gets paraded through the city during Holy Week.

"The Vision of Saint Anthony" by Murillo in 1874 thieves cut out the figure of the kneeling saint and took it off on an around the world trip.  It turned up several months later in New York where a curator bought it for $250 and returned it to Seville where it was repaired.  You can still see where it was cut.


The cathedral is the final resting place Christopher Columbus.
There has been controversy between the Cathedral of Seville and a church in the Dominican Republic over where Christopher Columbus' remains were interred.

After mitochondrial DNA testing (using DNA from Diego Columbus, his brother - also buried in Seville) the city confirmed that their remains were definitely that of the great explorer.

That does not mean, however, that the remains in Santo Domingo are not authentic.  Columbus' remains were relocated several times and may have been separated or scattered, but the Dominicans refuse to acknowledge the Spanish DNA tests or allow tests done on theirs.

Spanish Scientists are also trying to unravel another great mystery of Columbus: his country of origin.  He is traditionally thought to be from Genoa, Italy, but when he wrote back from the new world the letter was in Spanish and used words and phrases influenced by the Catalan language (Barcelona is part of Catalonia).  This along with some other science-y stuff has popularized the theory that he may have been a Jew from Catalonia who purposely covered up his origin due to Jewish persecution in late medieval Spain.

Scientists are analyzing DNA samples from 350 men in Catalonia with the surname Colom, and 80 men in Italy with the surname of Colombo.  This DNA study has been delayed because the Italian information is scant...the Columbos are less cooperative than the Coloms.

"Virgen de la Antigua" from the 14th century the oldest painting in the cathedral.

Following the cathedral and a fabulous (and edible by me) lunch (clearly labeled seafood!) - our guide took us to Plaza de Espana for a quick trip.  He told us over and over that it would be a short stop, that he knew we were tired, and that we should just get off the bus and see it, we wouldn't regret it.  He was right.

In 1929 Seville hosted the Ibero-American Exposition to increase and strengthen ties between Spain, Portugal, and their former colonies. Each country built a pavilion (built to last, they still are in use some are museums, some are still consulates and embassies for the country that used them in 1929) to host their delegation.

The Plaza de Espana was the centerpiece and administrative center of the world fair.





The real highlight, though, is the azulejos, painted ceramic tiles.


The masterpiece of the azulejos are the 58 benches that line the facade of the main building.  These azulejos are allegorical paintings that represent the provinces of Spain.


This was my last stop in Spain, and I was really pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed my time there.  It was never at the top of my list of places to visit and I'm not sure why.  (Probably because the rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain, which made me think it was hot, dusty, and miserable.)  

Spain was delightful, and I definitely want to return.  Obviously I want to revisit Barcelona ... because, Maria, duh, but I also want to see Madrid, Basque Country (I've heard how beautiful San Sebastian is), and suddenly Mallorca seems very important.