Thursday, October 15, 2015

Seville trip

My favorite parts of the Seville cathedral were the huge columns and pillars and vaulted
ceilings.  The natural light provided in this enormous cathedral was amazing.

A tiled wall on a street in old town Seville.  Who knew
Studebakers were imported over here back then!

This was approximate 18 feet long and 10 feet high.
While berthed in Gibraltar we shared a rental car with Dennis and Virginia of S/V Libertad for a 2-day trip to Seville.  We knew nothing about Seville but Dennis wanted to go; so, why not!  We are always up for a little land trip when time allows.  And we thoroughly enjoyed this little trip.

It was nice that Dennis planned the whole trip.  We did not have to think about anything.  Just tell us where to go and when.  Made for an enjoyable trip because required no effort on our parts.  It was nice having someone else do all the research and planning.

Typical street in old Seville near hotel
Dennis had booked us into a small hotel in the center of old town Seville, called the Hotel Europa.  This was a great location for sight-seeing; we could walk everywhere.  And our first stop was lunch at a sidewalk café next to the cathedral where I sampled the Seville version of gazpacho and a tapas dish of cooked carrots over lettuce.  
Seville region version of gazpacho
This was the third version of gazpacho that I have tried since arriving in Spain and each has been different.  And none has been anywhere near as good as any of the Mexican versions in my considered opinion.  This Seville style gazpacho was creamy and pale orange, with tiny bits of ibérico ham drizzled with olive oil and with a slice of boiled egg.  Quite different from any gazpacho with which I am familiar.  The Mexican versions are far superior to my taste.  I am not a fan of the ibérico ham that is so ultra-popular in Spain.  Regular smoked ham is much better.

Main entrance to cathedral.  Scaffolding is there for
the never-ending renovations on this old building.
One side of the cathedral. Note the
weather vane atop the Giralda.

After a leisurely lunch we walked around to the opposite side of the cathedral searching for the entrance.  Once we saw the queue for entrance we immediately decided ‘no way’ we were standing in that line to see another cathedral.  Regardless of how large or special this cathedral might be.  And it was large all right.  This was by far the largest cathedral that I have seen anywhere.   The following day we visited the Santa Maria de la Antigua church and bought tickets for the cathedral, thus skipping the queue entirely when we visited the cathedral.

The upper parts are 2 segments forming a
triple organ in the cathedral.  They were
tuning the organs during our visit but never
played anything, just separate single notes.
In between the first and second segments
of the organs were 2 sections of seats
for priests during certain services.

The real name of this structure is La Santa Iglesia Catedral de Sevilla, or The Holy Cathedral Church of Seville.  

It was built over the main Almohad mosque of Seville which was built in the 9th century.  All that remains of the old mosque is the tower, known today as the Giralda, the belltop of the cathedral which is almost 100 meters tall and crowned by a weather vane.
Behind the grating was more gold than
should be in any church.
The gold wall and ceiling behind the
grating.  Such opulence!
It is beautiful but does nothing to
inspire religious feelings for me.
This cathedral was built in 1401 under the supervision of Alonso Martinez. Legend tells that when it was ordered to be built it was said, “Let us construct such a big building that those who see it finished may believe we are mad.”  Today it is the largest Gothic temple in the world and the third largest of all Christian centers of worship in the world.  The church has 5 naves and its chapels are formed by the supporting pillars.  The main altar piece is over 58-feet high and covered in scenes of the Old and New Testaments with more than 1,000 sculptures, one of the largest in all Christianity.  

With a history of working in the textiles industry, this
cape on display inside the cathedral was especially
interesting to us.  Fibers were stuffed beneath the
sewn-on designs to raise and emphasize the designs.
There are more than 500 artistic treasures housed inside the cathedral.  There are 80 Flemish stained glass windows from the 16th century.  On the right inside the cathedral are the mortal remains of Christopher Columbus.  His coffin is supported by 4 heralds representing the kingdoms of Castile, Leon, Aragon and Navarre.  Remember, Spain was not always so unified.
Close-up of one of the many designs
on the cape.  Interesting technique.

These huge metal collars and wooden inserts were used
to surround the columns when repairing and reinforcing
between 1999 and 2009.  Illustrates just how large

are these columns.

A planter in the extensive gardens
of the Alcazar

Walking on past the cathedral on our first day we entered the Alcazar.  The Alcazar is a group of palaces sometimes called Reales Alcazzres.  For 1,000 years it has been the center of power and a royal residence.  The royal residence is on an upper floor today which is closed to the public tours.  Some of the palaces have both Arabic inscriptions worshiping Allah contrasting with Gothic writings remembering the builders. 

A pool filled with fish inside the Alcazar
One arch providing access to a room had the inscription “only God is victorious” repeated several times in Arabic.  There are many paintings of all past kings of Spain.  These palaces are comprised of a mixture of Arabic architecture and Gothic architecture.  It is like walking through different centuries as one passes from one to another wandering through the adjoining buildings.  The Arabic architecture was preserved and maintained after Christianity dominated the region.  

The Alcazar is even better preserved than is Alhambra to the naked eye of a tourist observer.

Dennis, Virginia and Judy waiting in
queue for entrance to Alcazar.
The gardens in the Alcazar are impressive.  These span many acres and every type tree and vegetation can be found.  I overheard a tour guide saying that during the medieval times most of the gardens were dedicated to vegetables.  Today few vegetables can be found growing in these gardens but flowers and shrubs are abundant.  Pools are found everywhere one turns both out in the gardens and in the courtyards of the Arabic inspired palaces.  I have not included any photos of building interiors in the Alcazar because these are so similar to what we saw in Alhambra and I posted too many photos then.  But this tile pattern does deserve to be posted.

Look closely as this tile pattern.  A very intricate
work of art covering several walls inside Alcazar.

Leaving the Alcazar we wound our way through narrow streets to find the Museo del baile Flamenco, or the Museum of the Flamenco.  Bill and I had no special interest in watching flamenco but Dennis was keen on this, so we went along.  And are we ever glad that we did!  The museum provided us with an insight into what comprises flamenco and we needed this introduction.  We thought it was just a form of dancing.  That does not begin to explain it.

No flash photography allowed during performances.
Those with iPads got much better photos than my
old SLR camera.
There are several forms of flamenco dancing but there is also more to it than just dance.  The acoustical guitar is a very large part of flamenco, and there are variations of that music.  And the haunting Moorish vocals add an element that is integral to the experience.  Flamenco originated in Andalusia, which is now a region of Spain.  Flamenco was a very important part of the lives of Gypsies, both for celebrations and for their everyday lives.  

Mercado del Triana, dedicated to a district
of Seville famous for flamenco

Gypsies arrived in Andalusia from the south of Spain in the 15th century and brought flamenco with them.  It is believed that these particular Gypsies came originally from a region in the north of India called Sid.  The first document which certified the Gypsies entering into Spain is dated 1447.  It is believed that from that moment the flamenco of Spain was begun and it continues today.

We were very, very impressed with the flamenco performance at this museum and would heartily recommend it to anyone visiting Seville.  There are many venues to see flamenco in Spain.  According to the hotel concierge, this is the best in Seville.

Plaza de Espanya
(crappy iPhone photo)
Plaza de Espanya, porcelain tiled fence.
Beautiful; but poor quality iPhone photo
Later that evening we took the light-rail train to another area of town and visited a night market celebration of nations.  There was food from different countries and we enjoyed unusual Mexican food as well as a few other tidbits, plus some local candies.  Then we walked over to the Plaza de Espanya.  This plaza is lit at night and is beautiful.  Best to visit here are night rather than the heat of day.  We were all very impressed with the porcelain tiles on the fence/rails surrounding the pools around the plaza.  By the way, the recorded voice on the train pronounced ‘plaza’ as ‘plata’ which is something new to us.  I have never heard that word pronounced with a ‘t’ instead of a ‘z’ sound.  There was a gigantic park next to this plaza where groups of men were practicing drums and bugles.  Enjoyable.

The Parasol in Seville
The following day we visited the Parasol.  We had not heard of this before either, but Dennis had researched it.  This structure was very controversial at the time it was built, which was obviously sometime during the last century, certainly no older because of the construction techniques used to build it.  The Parasol was considered too modern to be in Seville.  But it was allowed to remain.  And something very good came from its construction.  
Model of the Parasol.  The real one is quite large.

Beneath the Parasol construction of a car park was begun in 1999 which led to the discovery of the ruins of an old forgotten Roman city.  Today part of those ruins comprise a museum beneath the Parasol called the Antiqvarivm.

The museum is situated 18-feet below current ground level and shows the diverse ways of life of Seville’s ancestors.  The area was first settled around 40 A.D. by the Romans.  At that time the city was much closer to the sea.  One of the major businesses discovered of that time period was a fish salting factory.  Another was a factory where oil lamps were produced.  But it was the fish salting factory that was most interesting.
Sign showing oil lamp with erotic scene
And that actual oil lamp was on
display in a glass cabinet. Along
with dozens more.

Roman fish salting factory. Each of those
pits was about 10x12' and 10' deep.
The tubs where the fish were soaked in brine had their bottoms situated at a level lower than the River Guadalquivir (even today), and the tubs would therefore fill with water which was controlled by manual pumps.  Many varieties of fish were salted and preserved here but the most common were 2 very ordinary fish – sardines and horse mackerel.  These 2 fish were soaked and salted and used to make Hallec, a savory, strong-tasting paste that most ordinary citizens could afford.  Only the more wealthy citizens could afford the other varieties of whole salted fish.

A game carved into stone from Roman times.
There were several of these in the museum.

What I found most interesting in this museum were the old Roman sewage channels running from each home and joining to drain away beneath ground.  The Romans really were ahead of their time when it came to sanitation.  Their accomplishments for handling waste and water are still a marvel of accomplishment today.

I loved the sign for this statue.  It stated that this is
a bust of a man sitting and fishing.  I think this is
a torso, not a bust; and cannot see how they could
discern that he was supposedly fishing.

Dennis and Virginia walking ahead of me atop the
Parasol.  This is a large structure.
After enjoying views of the city in every direction from atop the Parasol, we moved on to visit a church to see a spectacular organ.  And many other displays of wealth common to the Church.  These displays are beautiful.  And very, very ostentatious to this non-devout non-Catholic.  Seems like such a waste to me.  I am skipping any photos of that church.

One of the treasure rooms of the cathedral filled
with paintings and statues.  Other treasure rooms
were filled with religious items made from gold.

Then we visited the cathedral for even more displays of gold, silver and priceless works of art.

Statue of Christ in one of the side alcoves
in the church dedicated to mariners.

We crossed over the river to visit a church dedicated to mariners.  No flash photography was allowed inside.

Bill and Dennis waiting for lunch beers.

Next we enjoyed a leisurely lunch overlooking the river.  A nice day.

Dozens of these lovers locks on the bridge railings

Walking back over the bridge Virginia pointed out all the lovers’ locks attached to the bridge side railings.  She said these were so thick on a bridge in Paris that the bridge suffered structural damage from the weight of the locks.  A section of that railing with all the locks attached was removed and placed nearby on display, and then the railing was replaced in such a way that prevented locks from being attached again.  I had never heard of lovers locks but apparently these are a big deal here in Europe.  Wonder if this is something that is done back in the USA?

Virginia and Bill crossing bridge in Seville
One final thing to mention about Seville:  IT IS HOT!  Really hot!  I am very glad our visit was in early October because I could not have survived the heat of August in Seville.  The waiter for our river-side lunch told us that 2 years ago in August at 7 p.m. the temperature one day was 52C.  That is 125.6F!!!  Plan your visits to that area accordingly.

The drive back to Gibraltar was easy.  And crossing the border between Spain and Gibraltar went quickly and easily.  One never knows how the crossing officials are going to behave.  Sometimes one is just waived through; they do not want to even see your passport.  And the passports are not stamped going either way.  Going from Gib to Spain the first time I asked to have my passport stamped and was told this was not possible.  Yet on that same trip we asked if we could pay to have our passports stamped INTO Gibraltar and the official happily stamped us in at no charge.  Even though he did not want to even open our passports until I requested the stamp.  Returning to Gib this time the official did check each passport and confirm photos matched faces.   Just never know how one will be treated at this particular border crossing.  As was proven the following day when Dennis and Bill brought the rental car back to the agency on the Spanish side.  When walking back across the border into Gibraltar, it was discovered that Bill had picked up my passport instead of his own.  The official was decidedly displeased when Bill laughed out loud when this was discovered.  Bill had a photocopy of both his passport and mine in his wallet, but this particular official insisted that he see Bill's actual passport.  They held Bill at the border crossing while Dennis came to our boat and collected Bill's passport; then returned to the border crossing to bail him out.  During all this mess it was discovered that Dennis had left his wallet in the rental car.  They returned to the rental agency and the car was checked but the wallet was already gone.  This morning was a comedy of errors. 

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