Another weekend, another city. This program does an amazing job of showing us a lot of Spain! This blog is all about Seville and Cadiz. Seville is the largest city of Andalusia with over 1.5 million people. Like most of Andalusia, Seville used to be under the reign of the Moors until being taken over by the Catholic King Ferdinand during the Inquisition. Therefore, the city hosts a collection of Islamic architecture and Catholic churches.
The first place we visited in Seville was a gorgeous palace called the Alcázar. The palace was built for the Moor king by the Almohades. It was later expanded upon by its Catholic inhabitants. The palace consists of gorgeous gardens, a swimming pool, ornate rooms, and millions of individual handcrafted tiles to create exquisite mosaics on the walls and floors. These tiles must be made individually, hand-painted a specific color and placed in a kiln. Certain temperatures bring about different colors, thus making the process long and intense. The result is absolutely magnificent. Here is an up-close look of the tiles, and my face.
After the tour of the palace, we made our way to La Giralda, a huge tower connected to the cathedral that provides a magnificent view of Seville. (see first photo) A unique feature of the tower is that it does not have any steps leading to the top. Instead it is a series of 43 ramps! The intention was to allow for horses so that those who wished to reach the top did not have to do so on foot. I wish we had had horses. After the ascent we roamed about the impressive cathedral of Seville. Unique to this cathedral is its claim to having the remains of Christopher Columbus. Interestingly enough another site in Spain also claims to have his body, so it is unknown whether or not Seville’s claim is true.
During our free time we had a few options of things to see or do. I opted for the Museo de Bellas Artes. I was not disappointed. The museum is a quaint building with a beautiful central patio, more decorative tiling, and, of course, beautiful artworks. The most impressive room was this, a cathedral-like space with tall, ornate ceilings and enormous paintings. I actually did go weak in the knees.
We ended the day with a spectacular flamenco performance! Traditional flamenco dance is rooted in gypsy culture and has since become a defining aspect of Spanish culture. Dancers wear clicky shoes and stomp and clap, snap and twirl with the most drama and passion a human can muster. The guitar crawls up and down the most impressive sequences of notes, and the singer cries out, sometimes happily and sometimes quite forlornly. It’s such a passionate, emotional art. My favorite part of the entire performance was the shouts of the other dancers and musicians while one of their own was dancing. They would call out “habla,” which means “speak.” In this sense the entire art is a conversation between dancer, singer, guitars, and the other dancers (who become a rhythm section for the soloist). I love the concept of dance and music being a conversation. Unfortunately we were not allowed to record the performance, so instead here is a YouTube find of another flamenco performance in Seville. Listen for the “habla”s.
In addition to time in Seville, I also went to Carnival in Cadiz. That was a sight to behold. It was fun to see everyone in costume having a good time! While there a friend and I went to the art museum of Cadiz and explored the city. We met all kinds of interesting people. Cadiz is a very small place; it is a peninsula, nearly an island, on the Spanish coast. For this reason, it is the ideal location of crazy parties like Carnival. While I would never choose to go again, I am glad I can say I went. Talk about a cultural experience!
Ending this blog is a mini-bio about another one of my orientation leaders: Ángela! Ángela Epilef Ziur is a University of Granada student in her final year of studying translation. She is practically fluent in English, French, and Chinese, and, of course, Spanish. Next year she will be studying for another year in California! She has promised to come visit Michigan and says that she loves the snow. I don’t think she really knows what Michigan snow is like… Ángela is a total sweetheart, full of energy and excitement all of the time. She is very kind and always excited to meet new people. It is easy to see that she is an extrovert through and through. The quote that sums up Ángela perfectly is what she says easy once every five minutes: “¡QUÉ GUAY!!!!!” Yes, that loud, and excitedly. This phrase essentially means cool, and is a very common Spanish slang phrase. For Ángela, it is the motto of her life. 🙂