Sevilla has been a pleasure to travel through. The city in a word would have to be magical. It has been everything that one romanticizes about the Spanish lifestyle: flamenco, bullfighting, white plaster buildings trimmed with yellow, tapa bars on every street corner, a thriving nightlife, towering cathedrals, an intricate royal palace, sprawling parques lush with orange trees, a traditional siesta period that is observed religiously, catholic festivals, and a easy-going optimistic attitude towards life. Not to mention the gorgeous Guadalquivir river and the sun which warms every corner of the city in endless summer, in spite of the current season marked on the calendar.
The first day we rolled into town, we went to visit the cathedral. It is the biggest in the world by interior volume (Catholics judge their churches’ sizes length wise only) and it is incredibly intricate. Afterwards we walked about the Barrios de Triana across the river. They were full of color, but quite devoid of life. You would think that after more than a month in this country, I would cease to be so shocked of the very real impact the siesta has on life here. Los Barrios de Triana eran muy moderno. However, even with the newer styles, the city of Sevilla has done an excellent job of retaining the style that is irrevocably distinguished as Sevillano. After a good walk and a lengthy discussion on the merits of the siesta period in society, we had the privilege of attending a flamenco show. Obviously I was entranced. It is rather unfortunate that such a spontaneous and unrehearsed part of the Spanish gypsy culture has become so commercialized and tourist driven, but I am grateful that the art has survived for me to view it.
The show itself was almost a spiritual experience. I am unashamed to say that I was afraid to blink just in case I missed something in the rapid paced dancing and strumming of the guitar. Afterwards my professor said watching my reaction to the show in particular was almost as fun to watch as the show itself. It seems that I can’t help the way the cante jondo resonates within my soul. I have felt of the pain of which they sing and still do often. For me, the guitar was the most mesmerizing part as the guitarist filled the tense silence with melodies so intricate they couldn’t help but weave themselves into my soul. Once again I was reminding of the longing I’ve felt to create a life here instead of return to Utah. Spain has that effect on me, it seems. it draws me in and whispers sweet romances to me of a life of exploration amongst the complexity of the Spanish culture. The longer I stay, the harder the thought of leaving becomes. After the performance we continued our partaking of Sevilla by meandering to a tapa bar. I had paella and croquettas. These are my two favorite Spanish tapas and always guarantee contentedness and a good night’s sleep following. Sevilla in particular is the most renowned for their tapas, and we proudly hopped from bar to bar trying endless kinds. Walking back to the hotel was a 40 minute affair through the dark, deserted calles. I found beauty in the oscuro, but my walking companions seemed a bit spooked by the silence of the Sevilla pueblos.
The next day was a hodgepodge of excursions beginning with a tour of the famous bullring of Sevilla. It was extraordinary. Bullfighting, to me, is an art form at its core along with the showmanship of conquering the elements of the harsh mortal world which we live in. I learned a lot about the history of bullfighting in Spain and was surprised to learn that it is possible for a bull to be saved from death in the ring. This happens rarely and only when the president of the fight believes the bull was particularly brave. In fact, it’s only happened 3 times in the history of the bullring in Sevilla, but the most recent bull will live out its life in peace back on its farm. We got to actually stand on the sand of the arena and I could almost taste the tension that had been felt there. Several people have died there and many, many bulls. There have been great victories and lives changed through the blood that has dripped onto the sand where I walked. It’s both daunting and fascinating to think about.
The rest of the day was ours to spend as we please. We visited the cathedral de la Macarena, which was dedicated to the worship of the virgin Mary. It was very modern compared to every other cathedral that I have walked through. We then visited El Archivo General de Los Indies, the place where all the records are kept of the conquering of the new world. I particularly enjoyed this find as we perused the thousands of record books on display there. I admire Spain for keeping such detailed records of their findings on the American continent because it absolutely changed the world as there was a conscious shift of world attention to the Atlantic Ocean. The excitement and anticipation of that time period must have been really something to behold!
After a quick tapas break we hit the grounds and rooms of the Alcazar Real, the spectacular Mudejar Christian palace. Unfortunately we were rushed through the buildings and grounds, but from my brief encounter it seemed to be everything that would befit a rich Moorish sultan would want in a palace. I found myself wondering why anyone required as many rooms and gardens when the royal family couldn’t be more than ten people.
At the end of the day I got dark chocolate orange gelato and walked along the banks of the river until we reached the Plaza de España. As I was paseo-ing and watching the fading light behind the trees, I couldn’t help but be grateful for the beautiful mix of culture and history that allowed me to be in that moment. We watched the sunset behind the Plaza to the tune of “Let it Be” played by a fellow who could play the guitar and the harmonica simultaneously. Life is just a grand thing, I think. The fog always seems to lift to reveal that the sun was there all along lighting my world in subtle, unnoticed ways. Sevilla has my heart.