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Seville, Spain (part two)
The Cathedral of Seville is the largest Gothic Church and the third largest Church in the world with priceless artwork and South American gold pieces of metal work. The inside of the building has high arches and domes (42 meters) that are awe-inspiring and the outside is a tour de force of Gothic architectural mastery. Inside of the 80 chapels (small sub rooms for worship) are different idols of a saint for people to pray to. These idols are the focal point for all worship in the religion. After being in Africa, Asia and South America….I think Spanish Catholicism is the most idol centric religion we have ever seen. One night, a multi-hundred person procession carried a giant idol of Mary, on the backs of dozens of well dressed Spaniards, to a distant convention center so that Mary could preside over the Sainting (?) of a famous nun from Seville.
Also in the Cathedral of Seville is the remains of Christopher Columbus in a venerated position. He helped Spain become what it was. All the gold, silver and riches of the Americans, came straight to Seville…then out to the rest of Spain. Funny how in school I never hear about his diligent efforts and success in killing off entire islands of indigenous people. There are few truly genocidal individuals in history, but he ranks as one of the most admired. Not that I can judge him by my values/time period…but there is a reason that Central Americans still think of him as a evil person.
We slowly walked up the massive bell tower, around and around til we could see the entire city. It is a converted minaret from when the Moors ruled the area.
If the Church is a religious focal point for the city, the Bull Fighting Ring is it’s entertainment center. You can see it in the distance of the photo below. We stayed clear of this important cultural activity and location for more reasons that we could count. Our sightseeing was cut short by a ringing in our ears…ringing of giant bells above our head. Time to get something to eat
Following a group of local college students, we find a sandwich shop with 100 different sandwiches. They cost 1-2 Euros each, are almost undecipherable and come with a large mug of “Cervesa Clara”. The “Claraita”, as the locals call it, is half local light beer and half lemon soda water. Wow, it was delicious, I can’t believe that this is the first I have heard of this!
One of our final “must visit” locations is the Alcázar. A ancient castle/fortification/royal residence that has history reaching back to 1180. The current King and Queen of Spain call this their home. Mixing Moorish and Christian styles with generations of designs it stretches for acres. In one of the rooms is where in 1492 Christopher Columbus presented his crazy plan to sail to India via a western route, to Queen Isabella. No photos could ever capture this pinnacle of design, but here is a weak attempt.
On Saturday, we joined the local English congregation and offered bible studies to those in the local area. Our focus was on the English speaking African street vendors. We would ask if they had time to visit about a particular point in the Bible. Almost all gladly accepted and we would visit with them and share a few points from the Bible. Simon, a local Brother has many Bible studies and does a great job of showing how Bible council can help the immediate and practical issues that his student is having. It was great fun and it was only the afternoon heat that drove us back to our apartment in the late afternoon.
Seville has been great to us, sharing its beauty, food and friends with us. Having said that, there is ugly here too; from the “African Brothel” down the street, the chronic smoking (even with little children in their arms) and rampant alcoholism.
The part that sticks out the most to me is the streets at night. The Spanish culture doesn’t even think about dinner til 9-10PM, after which they walk and enjoy the city. We must have walked miles around the city, getting lost, finding our way only to take a turn so that we could get lost again. We hope to visit Seville again someday….if for nothing else to visit our new friends and to get me another mug of Lemon Beer!
Our arrival into Seville from Fez was like stepping into another world. Everything I have ever heard about Europe is here, the history, the food, the drink and the culture. Narrow streets zig back and forth then suddenly explode to a plaza or park dedicated to a long forgotten King/Prince/Conqueror or forgotten Hero. Existing for over 2000 years has created a layer cake of sorts, with the new Seville, pressing down on the old Seville, itself compressing the older Seville.
Having put Tamara into third-world hostels and pensions for most of our life, I surprised her with renting an apartment for the week in a quiet neighborhood in the heart of Seville. The “Feria Attic”, as it is know was small, modern and came with a large private deck. It was so nice to be able to retreat to our personal environment when the heat, noise and commotion taught us the value of the Siesta. Not that you had a choice as everything in the city closes from 3-6PM.
The Plaza de Espana is a beautiful, if gaudy, complex in the middle of the city. Surrounded by an extensive and intricately design park, this building is the current seat of government for the area and is a bizarre mixture of historical styles.
Later that night we take a local bus outside the city to a Kingdom Hall that has an English congregation. There we meet lots of great friends and spend quite a bit of time visiting. The English territory is mostly made up of Spanish, British and African immigrants from Sudan and Nigeria. The Africans come to Spain to make a new life but end up selling tissue and flowers at the intersections of main roads. Often these men fall into drug abuse, alcoholism and depression. What a difficult life these “economic refugees” live. Having become comfortable with African culture, I quickly made friends with a few of the African Brothers. The warm brash nature of the Nigerians is muted and stifled by not being able to speak the language. Even after years of being in the country, most cannot speak Spanish.
After meeting a group of friends invite us out to a Tapas restaurant and help us make sense of the menu. Sitting at a table of Nigerians, Spaniards, British and Peruvians it amazes me how much we have in common because of our goals in life. The focus of everyone at this table was not to get rich, not to gain some position of power but to help whoever they could to know the truth about the Bible and improve their quality of life for the long run. It was a great night that was only possible because of our real Brotherly love. It is something that most people in the world will never experience.
More about Seville in my next post.
Tarifa, Spain –
A nauseating four hour bus ride took us from Malaga to the tourist town of Tarifa, famous for world class windsurfing. German, Australian and British youth spend months on end living on the beach, staying in vans and tents, just so that they can kite-surf and windsurfing. The vans come into town once or twice a week to load up on beer and to repair their equipment, then they head back to the beaches. It is the second best place in the world (after the Columbia Gorge) to windsurf. We never made it to the beach but I heard it is something to experience….just not our type of experience. We also would not go to ever popular bull fights, but it is interesting to know what different people/cultures enjoy.
The old part of town is a ancient white washed walled city, built around 1290AD and it was our goal to find a small room somewhere in walled city to spend the night. Unfortunately, there was a festival and it took us a few hours to find one of the last rooms in the Medina (Old City).
The Inn’s keeper lead us up a tiny spiraling stair case, deeper and deeper in the hodgepodge building. Round and round until we pop out onto the roof, where our small room overlooked the other rooftops. Well, Tamara popped out onto the roof, I had a sudden and urgent desire to lay down. It really seemed important that I lay down right there and then but while I was trying to do this, I noticed that my hand was on my head, checking the factory seal. I apparently, knocked my head hard enough to stun me.
Once we rested up, we explored the city, wandering around the spiraling paths and road ways deep into the beautiful city. Some of the roads were just big enough for a car to pass and we watched a wide-eyed tourist foolishly snake his car off to some dead-end somewhere….never to be seen again.
Eventually, we ended our walk on the coastal defensive wall, overlooking Africa! Just a short ferry ride away was Morocco and the next leg to our adventure. Tarifa has the distinction as the most southern part of Europe. It felt strange to look across a body of water and see another continent….let alone Africa!
Back in the town center, the festival was just warming up. Sharply dressed horse riders toured the streets with elegant prancing horses at attention. The colorful local population were starting to crowd the cafes, singing and playing guitars. We dined on spicy red tuna, pork cooked in onions and shrimp (complete with heads and legs).
Below is a snap of our breakfast that we gobbled down late the next day before we rushed off catch the ferry to Tangier, Morocco.
Malaga, Spain –
As one of the oldest cities in the world, Malaga has a amazing history. From the Phoenician (Canaanites) to the ancient Romans to the Arab “Crusaders” (Mo0rs) to the Christian Crusaders, it seems everyone has wants to settle in Malaga.
The city itself is as jumbled as its history, with extensive pedestrian labyrinths ( filled with expensive trendy shops, Tapas bars and dance clubs ) to ancient amphitheater and castles tucked between the upstart Catholic churches. The nearby beach is littered with old bulbous German women, even older lecherous French men in Speedos and young Spanish party goes sleeping off last nights celebrations.
Our 35 Euros bought us a sparse room with 4 single beds and a wonderful view of the city. The ceiling fan did a valiant job of trying to keep the heat at bay but with the change in time zones we struggled to sleep. Not that the locals seem to sleep. The earliest you can find lunch is 2PM and dinner isn’t served until after 9PM. As the clock sneaks up on midnight, you will find young children with their parents eating dinner in the ubiquitous café’s or strolling around chatting to those looking for some dinner.
One of our highlights was visiting the Picasso Museum with its expansive collection of his early and later works. Pablo, being from Malaga donated much of his formative works. It was enlightening to see his repetitive attempts at a subject, often times with different media, in his attempt to capture what he felt.
We are still wrestling with the Spanish cuisine as it is far different from what we expected or have had before…..well that and we didn’t think to bring a translation book! Eventually, we just decided to quietly follow some of the older locals hoping that they would not lead us astray. We ended up in a bar (not the alcohol type bar) that we slowly figured out was named “The house of specialty pig”. The ceiling is covered with hanging legs of pig, the walls have photos of famous pigs, refrigerated glass cases of strangely shaped items we assume came from pigs, are set off to the side for patrons to window shop.
The menu, being in Spanish, is very difficult to decode but is filled with words translated as foot, nose, egg and tail. About this point, I am about to abort the whole trip and go find a Burger King but Tamara takes a stab and orders with some concerned gestures and broken Spanish. What we end up with is cold cucumber and tomato soup (I like my gazpacho hot) and slices of 2 year old cured pig from a particular region of Spain. The pork, what the Spanish call Hamon, was amazing and quite unlike anything we had eaten before.
The people are so warm and expressive. As an example, when the proprietress discovered that Tamara and I had been married for 18 years, she brought us Champaign and flowers to enjoy on the small deck overlooking the city. Keep in mind this is a cheap hostel that doesn’t even provide soap.
Tomorrow, we catch a early bus to the south. Malaga has been really nice, yet there are some mysteries. One such mystery is we have seen dozens of locals with their left arm in slings, casts and wraps. From a 3 year old boy to fashion ensconced youth to older women….all on the left elbow and arm. Not sure we will ever find out what that is about but like Picasso’s work, half of the art is in what is drawn and equally what is not drawn.