Where Madrid is a city of wide promenades, grand plazas, and the latest in arts and culture, Seville is an ancient city with winding, tiny streets, throngs of people laughing from buildings built centuries before they were born, and a severe reverence for the holy.
Seville, I have learned, is a city with very rich roots. Starting with great Islamic kings, a long sucession of cultures overtook this port city and each added their incredible cultural and monetary wealth to the mix. What you find today is a cosmopolitan city that beautifully blends a variety of cultures that otherwise stand apart.
But what made Seville most interesting to me was that this noble heritage can be seen on every block that your feet may carry you down (within the old city limits). Although my brain, logical to a fault, was initially greatly annoyed to find there was not a single street in all of Seville that held a straight line for more than a block, awe soon took over.
We arrived in the airport and asked a taxi driver to take us to our airbnb lodging. Immediately our cabbie made faces and loudly called over his friends. Knowing no Spanish, it was highly amusing (and slightly worrisome) to see them all exclaiming surprise at the street name, all shaking their heads, shocked and appalled at the sight of a street they didn’t know. When, after consulting a gps, we arrived to our street, we couldn’t believe our eyes. It was just wide enough for one person to walk down!
The streets, except by the river, were all only wide enough for one car to drive down, with no room for error or parking. Frequently there were steets made only for walking, paved with cobblestone or brick, which rang with the sounds of people in bars in one of the tiled buildings or horses and carriages coming down larger passageways further on.
I have been re-reading Pride and Prejudice and found that my imagination could not help but slip backwards in time, placing me in a romantic and decadent place (for the rich).
I wrote earlier that I felt surprisingly comfortable and at home in Madrid, but the last few days in Seville gave me a taste of Spain as I imagined it: with spice, antiquity, and passion abound.
What furthered my feelings of awe in Seville were the extraordinary displays of wealth that each previous generation left behind. We began our many tours in the great cathedral that stands in the center of the city. Ranked third largest in the world, its spectacular height and incomprehensible detail showed just how much weight and money was poured into religion at the time. No words or images can do it justice.
We saw a succession of three palaces as well, and found more on almost every corner we came to. I was surprised to find that Islamic rulers created the bones of two of the three palaces we toured, and, instead of demolishing their highly-detailed plaster and tile decorations, the Christian elite who next took them over simply built Roman-inspired arches and rooms around the core of the palaces.
Although I have an hour and a half to wait for my flight, I won’t bore you with the oohs and aahs of room after room of dramatic splendor. I’ll leave you with a few images, and beg you not to judge from the two dimensionality. Go to Seville and see for yourself! (And don’t forget to invite me along!)