Amanda Bennett: A Year in Zaragoza, Spain

Sevilla: Catedral, Alcázar, y Amigas Españolas February 17, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — psychohistoria @ 10:36 am

La Giralda, the tower outside the Catedral de Sevilla. Rather than stairs, the top is reached by ramp, built by the Arabs so that the muezzen, the man who calls the faithful to prayer, could reach the top quickly on horseback.

A view from the Patio of Orange Trees in the Sevillan Cathedral.

Looking down on the Patio de Naranjos from the top of La Giralda.

Our first full day in Sevilla was filled to the brim by an interesting myriad of experiences. After breakfast, we were given maps and told to be at an obscure Spanish high school by noon.

The Arabic roots of the city still shape its modern architecture, such as this neo-mudéjar bank, a building we just randomly passed wandering around. One thing I love about Spain is the beautiful architecture around every corner!

We wandered through the old part of the city down to the water again, and then began to work our way up to the school, passing the Plaza de Toros (bullfight ring) and the Torre de Oro (where the gold from the Americas was stored when Sevilla was a bustling river port city in the sixteenth century).

The Torre de Oro

Once at the school, a group of 15-year-old dance students demonstrated the sevillanas for us.

Sevillanas is similar to flamenco, but with set steps and without improvisation.

In a slightly awkward activity, we proceeded to the gym where we met up with Sevillians our age. We had about half an hour or so to chat with them, in which we exchanged tuenti and Facebook contacts, and then proceeded to lunch at the school’s cafeteria.
A few girls invited a couple of friends and me to come watch their basketball game that night, so we were excused from dinner at the hotel and allowed to go. Spectators were sparse, but we picked up quite a few colloquial phrases talking to the few students who were also there.
After the game, five Spanish girls accompanied us to dinner, taking us to a restaurant specializing in montaditos. The food was wonderful: we could choose from about a hundred mini-sandwiches, all priced around 1,50 euros. There were even great vegetarian options, mainly a cheese-arugula-fruit sandwich and a delicious brie one. And the company was great! How is it that after five months in Zaragoza, I still have no Spanish friends, but after one day in Sevilla I had five?! After a great hour or two of talking and laughing, we ended up taking a taxi back to the hotel in order to get there before our midnight curfew.
Between lunch and dinner with our Spanish counterparts, we visited the city like the tourists we were. Orienting ourselves towards the cathedral, where we’d have a guided tour that afternoon, a group of friends and I passed the old Real Fábrica de Tabacos (Royal Tobaco Factory) building, now a site for the University of Sevilla.

Entryway to the Real Fábrica de Tabacos.

We popped in to look around, and lost ourselves in reveries about going to university in Spain…

A university patio.

but pulled back to reality by security guards telling us that we couldn’t go up those stairs!
The Cathedral was rather impressive.

The “Puerta del Sol”, Sun Entryway, to the Cathedral

A boveda in the cathedral.

La Giralda

Its fifteenth-centry Gothic architechture is flanked by La Giralda, a tower based on the minaret which stood as part of the Arabic mosque.

View of the Plaza de Toros from La Giralda.

View of part of the Alcázar from la Giralda.

Another view from La Giralda.

The next day we visited the Reales Alcázares, led there by our teachers in a labyrinthine route. Due to a pesky traffic light, however, my group was separated from the leaders. However, using my stellar sense of direction (also known as asking people who look like they know what they’re doing), we took a lovely scenic route through little plazas and wound up arriving before the other group.
The Real Alcázar – meaning royal fortified palace – was first begun in the tenth century, by Abd al-Rahman III, the first Andalucían Calif.

Remains of the original tenth century walls.

It was later expanded during the Reino de Taifas and then adopted by the Christian kings. The Reyes Católicos (Isabel and Fernando, who finished the reconquista and were reigning when Columbus discovered America) were those who most greatly enriched the alcázar.

Mixtilinear arches finished off with geometric decoration, then calligraphic decoration, followed by vegetate decor, more arches, and the beginning of a mocárabe, or roof with stalactite-like decorations.

I love Arabic decoration. The intricate details and the painstaking concentration result in a meditative decoration that covers almost every inch of the palace walls.
The multifoil, horseshoe, and mixtilinear arches are gorgeous.

A patio with naranjos (orange trees) and a pool. The orange trees are in lowered beds so that the fruit could be picked while passing with less effort.

The patios give the palaces a lush, relaxed feel and are inspired by the muslim idea of Paradise as a garden.

Even the doors, doorways, and door-frames are decorated down to the last inch.

After lunch at Bar Ajoblanco (a steaming hot curry quesadilla and a beet-stained-pink couscous salad) and dessert at a French juice bar (hot and soft crepe with honey and mountains of whipped cream), we boarded the bus to head to Granada, where even more Arabic decoration and ambiance awaited us!


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