Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Seville, day one: Naranja Bonzana - A Dirty Street Orange Para Todos

Seville, Spain (Sevilla, España)
November 2015
Arriving into Seville in the evening, we rolled up to a street near our AirBNB and waited for our host to turn up after sending him a message. He said he'd be right down and a few moments later we saw a man standing about looking lost. I asked him "Manuel?", he nodded. I followed up with "AirBNB?", to which he shook his head sadly and wandered off. Then the real Manuel approached, hopped in our car which was embarrassingly full of all manner of road trip supplies, and directed us to the apartment's carpark. Once inside, he took the time to give us a few information sheets and talk us through a map of the city. We were ready to explore!
The next morning we walked into the centro storico and on the way we saw a fragment of a Roman aqueduct. It was built at the same time as the city walls, sometime during the reign of Julius Caesar. According to legend, it was the Greek hero Heracles who founded the city, which was first called Spal. During Roman rule it was changed to Hispalis, and during Moorish rule it was altered again to Ishbiliyya, where we derive the modern name. Ishbiliyya sounds very similar to the Spanish pronunciation of Sevilla: 'say-bee-ya'. 

A handy insight that Manuel let us in on was the combined entry ticket for the church of El Salvador and the mighty cathedral. Most visitors waste valuable sightseeing time in the long line for the cathedral when they could be skating on through to the church first. We followed his advice and later were able to enter the cathedral without queueing for either attraction at all!

The church was enjoyable, for me mainly because of the disco colours that the stained glass windows cast upon various pillars, walls and floors (and even me!). 

Once inside the cathedral, we decided to scale the Giralda first in case we ran out of time (the afternoon was already pressing on due to our terrible sleep patterns). Of Moorish construction, apart from the top part with the bells which came later, the tower is considered one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. Climbing up was a novel experience, as there were no stairs but rather a long ascending ramp. This was put in place so that the tower guards could ride their horses up and down.

On the way to the top, there were several rooms open in the centre which taught us historical facts. Don't try to quiz me on them though, as they whooshed straight out of my brain the second we were back at ground level. I did snap a picture of this complicated clock, though, so you're welcome for that.
I'll also mention that the whole way up, I would occasionally exclaim "TO GIRALDA!" all thanks to the film The Road to El Dorado. In the movie, you can make an offering to the gods by sending it "to Xibalba" (pronounced she-balba) and in one scene the protagonists shout it enthusiastically... I guess you kinda had to be there.

Admittedly, the view from the Giralda wasn't as wonderful as I was hoping for, but it was still a city view and gave us a good perspective. I like to be able to compare a map with a decently high vantage point so that I can imagine the map as a real city. That sounds weird, but when all you see are lines and squares on a bit of paper, you can forget how much goes into a city - all the little passageways and grand buildings, hidden gardens and bustling plazas.

We spent the rest of the afternoon finding all the different areas of the cathedral, including a room seemingly made solely for a small fountain.

One painting in particular caught Yannick's eye - that of Santa Justa and Santa Rufina, painted in 1817 by Goya. He gleefully pointed out that they were eating soup while a lion suckled their toes. Well, the story goes that these two 3rd-century sisters were potters by trade who refused to provide pottery for a pagan ceremony. They were ordered to renounce their Christanity, but resisted and faced several trials. Santa Justa was starved to death and thrown down a well. It was believed that Santa Rufina would give in after her sister's death, but her resolve only grew stronger, so she was thrown to the lions. However, the hungry lions did not attack, and instead were as meek as domestic felines. So the pagans had her strangled. Martyrdom, etc, the end.
You can see in the background a little Giralda, and that's because the saintly sisters were allegedly protectors of the tower and the cathedral, even protecting them from the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 (according to legend).

Spending a bit of time looking into each chapel, we saw a tomb in one which was set upon marble so polished that you could see a reflection.

We overheard an American couple say "Okay, how about we do Columbus and then we do the tower?" And indeed, Christopher Columbus was there as well! Although it's a bit uncertain where exactly his final resting place truly is, at least some of his bones are in the cathedral. His tomb was super fancy, with statues of four pallbearers hoisting his remains. Clearly the people of Seville thought him a top bloke.

Outside in the courtyard we gazed up into the trees and had visions of how much orange juice we could make from nature's bounty.

Though apparently the oranges growing on trees in the city taste rubbish and aren't worth the effort of collecting them. How sad! At least they look pretty.

On our way out, we noticed that the enormous door had an enormous handle with intricate designs. They don't make 'em like they used to.

Today's post was almost called: Caballo Del Vertigo - Animal-Friendly Buildings