March 23, 2010

Sevilla: Churches, Palaces, & a Bachelorette Party

Missed me? I'm back from Sevilla, our last overnight excursion for this program. It's sad to think it will all be over soon but I must say I think we went out with a bang!

Sevilla is the capital of Andalucia which means a couple of things.
1. It's old.
2. It's large.
3. It has a bunch of really old, large buildings.
4. There are TONS of English-speaking tourists.

But the old, large buildings were the first things on our agenda. On Saturday we saw the Alcazar and the Cathedral. Like every other part of Andalucia, Sevilla has a history rich in Muslim, Jewish and Christian history. The Alcazar, which is in between a palace and a castle, is a perfect showcase for all three religions. It first controlled by Muslims until the Spanish Reconquista, when the Christians came to power. When the Christians took over, they had to borrow a lot of money from the Jews to finance their pretty things, like the Cathedral. Because the Jews were so near and dear to their hearts (and wallets), they housed them in a special barrio (neighborhood) right next to the Alcazar, until the Inquisition when the Reyes Catolicos kicked them out too.

Muslims were obvi really into their reflecting pools. I want one in my house, too!

The Muslims like to decorate their architecture with scripts from the Qur'an. The top line is fancy Arabic while the bottom is common Arabic, which is written, read, and spoken by the people. The Muslims pride themselves on their literacy.

Forget what I said earlier. I want THIS in my house.

Warning: Whatever you do in Sevilla, DO NOT feed the animals in this pond. The pond is inhabited by ducks and giant fish. Someone tried to feed the ducks by throwing in a piece of bread form their sandwich and all hell broke loose. The second that bread hit the duck's mouth, the fish swarmed and attacked the poor duck. Luckily, the duck managed to swallow it in time to keep all of it's limbs but the fish went crazy after that. Please, don't do it.

The Cathedral of Sevilla is the largest gothic cathedral in Spain and the 3rd largest church in the world. Our charming tour guide, Joaquin, told us that when the Catholics set out to build it, they told the architects that they wanted something so grand and massive that everyone would think they were crazy for building it. And those Catholics do not disappoint! They tore down the Muslim mosque and put up a mammoth of a building, complete with a giant altar covered in pad de oro (gold-leaf). Some of Christopher Columbus's remains are encased in a tomb here, too. That's right - not all. Just some.

Outside the Cathedral (left) and Giralda (tower on the right)

The whole group in front of Christopher Columbus's tomb. Who would have thought someone's grave would make for a photo opportunity?

Beautiful altar covered in gold-leaf.

Even though the Catholics destroyed the mosque, they left standing la Giralda, a giant tower built by the Muslim sultan of the area. The Giralda is the tallest building in the city and it will forever be that way thanks to building ordinances forbidding new buildings to be bigger than the Giralda. To get to the top, you must climb up 34 sets of ramps. Not stairs, ramps. The sultan wanted to be able to climb to the top from his horseback so he told the architect to build him ramps. Now what you would want to do with a horse once you got to the top of a tower is beyond me, but that's what he wanted, so he got it. From the top you can see the white-washed walls of Sevilla sprawled out around you. I can't imagine how breathtaking it would be a on a sunny day if it was already so beautiful on that cloudy Saturday!

After we parted ways with Joaquin on Saturday afternoon, we had free time until 11:30 the next morning. What is there to do in Sevilla at night? Throw a fake bachelorette party, of course! We came up with an elaborate story about how I was going to "casarse" ( get married) and "despedir de soltera" (say goodbye to singlehood) for getting into a popular club in the centro. We even set a date (May 10th, btdubs) and decided we were all from New York. In the end, we didn't really need to make up this little white lie because there was hardly anyone in the club when we arrived unfashionably early at 11:30 PM. But the club filled up quickly and it turned out to be the best fake bachelorette party I've ever been to!

Bridal Party!

The next morning after shoving our faces at the breakfast buffet, we checked out of our hotel and headed to the Jardines de Maria Luis and the Plaza de Espana, where a scene from Star Wars Episode II was filmed. The Plaza is absolutely gorgeous in the summer, with bridges that span meandering moat lead to a huge fountain in the center. There are also benches that surround the Plaza and each one is dedicated to a different province in Spain. But unfortunately for us, the Plaza de Espana is not so pretty during off-months. Like almost everything else we've seen in Spain, it was under renovation to prepare for the bustling tourist season. Even the bench for Malaga was under construction!

Look familiar?

Pretending to sit on the bench. Womp.

There is a reason why Sevillanos are known for being very proud/arrogant about their city - it is full of culture, history, and 3 Starbucks. But I would take the beaches of the Malagueta and the silly one-armed Cathedral of Malaga over Sevilla any day!


Aunt Amy said...

Did you see the bullfighting arena? It was beautiful but sad at the same time. Poor toros.

Megan said...

No, we didn't get to see the bullring in Sevilla but we saw the one in Ronda. It's a brutal sport but it's such a unique and vital part of the Spanish culture and history. Hopefully I'll be able to see a bullfight in Malaga next weekend!