We returned to Seville (Sevilla) for a few days on the 1st of July. We had gone there last winter but our trip got cut short when Katherine sprained her knee. This time we took the fast train from Malaga, which was much easier
than driving. The train trip is less than two hours and we were a five-minute cab ride to the hotel with no parking concerns or thinking of negotiating the narrow streets (alleys) of the old town. I found another small old boutique hotel for this
trip, the Hotel Abanico. This hotel was totally authentic Old Spanish, right in the center of the old town about 10 minutes from the Cathedral.
As is our custom, we got checked in and then went exploring the narrow streets and alleys that
make up the historic old town part of Sevilla. Sevilla is a big city, with the “modern” part spread out along both sides of the Guadalquivir River. The Guadalquivir is the fifth longest river in the Iberian Peninsula and the only great
navigable river in Spain. Currently it is navigable from the Gulf of Cádiz to Sevilla, but in Roman times it was navigable to Córdoba. Sevilla is one of the most historic cities in Spain. It has a Phoenician and Roman history (Hispalis)
and then became an important center for the centuries of Moorish rule in the Iberian Peninsula (Al-Andalus) until the Castilian conquest in 1248. After the discovery of America it was the main trading port for the new world starting in the late 15th
century. Much of the wealth in gold and silver on all those Galleons from the Americas we read about in our history books came to Sevilla at the beginning of the Spanish Empire until the 1600’s.
Today Sevilla is the capital city of
the Andalusia region of southern Spain and well known for the flamenco dance (Seville's Gypsies, Flamencos, were the origin), bullfighting, tapas and some very historic sites such as the Cathedral and the Alcazar. Sevilla is the third most visited
city in Spain and outside of the old town has a number of wide tree-lined boulevards like Barcelona with an extensive park (Maria Luisa) to stroll though. The views along the Guadalquivir add to the beauty of the city as we saw by using a horse and buggy
We had excellent weather for the three days we were in town and spent the days walking through old town and visiting the Cathedral and the Alcazar with frequent stops to sample the tapas and sangria (excellent!). There is a small casino
about a ten-minute cab ride outside of town that got our attention in the late evenings after dinner with minor damage to our budget.
One shouldn’t visit Sevilla without attending an event the city is famous for.
So, our first evening we attended a flamenco performance at the Tablao Cuna del Flamenco which is one of the many venues in old town. This was actually the first flamenco performance we have attended since we moved to Spain. The two female
and two male dancers were accompanied by single guitarist and a singer to tell the story for the excellent dancing over the one-hour show.
The official name of this famous cathedral is the Saint
Mary of the SeeCathedral. Its claim is as the largest gothic cathedral in the world. Most of the structure was built from 1401–1519 by the Castilian rulers on the former site of the city's Mosque, with additions made into the nineteenth
century. It is lavishly decorated, with a large quantity of gold evident (my comment about all those Spanish Galleons). What we liked about this cathedral visit, besides the sheer size, was the extra exhibits of paintings and artifacts,
much more than Notre Dame, and the impressive courtyard filled with orange trees. When they were planning to build this massive cathedral the story goes that they had as a goal that it be said by future generations that they were all mad to attempt something
so big. They certainly succeeded.
A bonus for us Americans was the opportunity to see the catafalque of Christopher Columbus located inside the Cathedral. The explorer had a special connection to Andalusia and Sevilla, the city from
which he left for the New World. Although Columbus died in the Spanish city of Valladolid, it was his wish that his grave be in the New World, so his daughter-in-law took Columbus’ bones to the Dominican Republic, where he rested in the cathedral
of Santo Domingo until 1795. When the Spanish retreated from the Caribbean, the bones of Columbus came with them to the Cathedral. The catafalque is as much art as a resting place. The tomb of Columbus is carried by figures representing the kings
of the four regions of Spain: Castile, Leon, Navarra, and Aragon.
An extra part of the visit is to climb up the 35 ramps of La Giralda, the bell tower attached to the Cathedral that dates back to the twelfth century. It was originally built
as part of the mosque for the Muadhdhin call to prayer and was later added onto by the Christians. Officials who rode their horses to the top of the tower used the ramps. La Giralda gets its name from the weathervane attached to the very top.
The Alcazar (Fortress) faces the Cathedral and was the Moorish Palace built upon an early Roman construction. Started by the Moors in 1181, work on the palace continued for 500 years. The Castilian rulers took
over the palace and it has maintained a Spanish presence ever since. Once again we were able to see the intersection of Moorish and medieval Spain as the place architecture combines Arabic (Mudejar) and Renaissance styles. The tile work and gardens
were especially impressive and much of the old structure has been preserved. There is even a separate exhibit of tile art going back for centuries. That was another reminder of the Moorish influence in Spain where most every house exhibits colorful
tile work throughout (including ours). A trivia addition is that multiple scenes for the hit HBO series Game of Thrones were filmed in the Al Alcazar.
Plaza de Espana
Out horse and buggy ride took us to another
Sevilla landmark. We have seen many Spanish Plazas in Spain so far but this one is the most impressive. It was built as part of the Ibero-American Exposition in 1929 along the edge of the beautiful Maria Luisa Park to showcase Spain's industry and technology
exhibits. The complex is a huge half-circle with buildings continually running around the edge accessible over the moat by numerous bridges representing the four ancient kingdoms of Spain. One more film trivia, this location was used for the Academy
award film Lawrence of Arabia.
A Must See City
One could easily spend a week in Sevilla just to see all the tourist sights but also to enjoy the relaxed lifestyle along the wide streets by the river or the twisted alleys
of old town. A trip to Spain should include Sevilla!