We met the bus at 8:20am to go to Sevilla. We drove through rolling brown fields in which nothing seemed to be growing at the moment alternating with rows and rows of olive trees (which I don’t think I’d ever seen before). We arrived in Sevilla shortly after 10:00, and drove by a number of sites of interest (mostly buildings representing various countries that were built for some sort of exposition in 1922) before arriving at the Plaza de España (also built for the whatever in 1922).
This was a giant semi-circular building made of orange-gold brick and lots of tile surrounding a large fountain. All around the inner edge there were tile bits representing various cities of Spain.
This picture was taken from one of the little bridges inside the semicircle, looking at one of the towers on the end.
We were let loose for half an hour to wander around, look at the tile, take pictures, and have a pit stop, which we preceded to do. Kona and Kelly and I had a surprising amount of fun wandering around commenting on the tilework (“Do you suppose that’s supposed to be Ávila? I wouldn’t want to wear that into battle.” “And hey, this one’s like, ‘GRRR, I am dark!'”).
The local bathrooms were not spectacular, and in fact might have been in the running for worst ones yet – except that the bus station at Segovia trumps all other contenders by several degrees of grossness. These at least merely provided the impression that they were having a bad day, and might be better at other times.
Once our half hour was up, we trooped back on the bus to be let off at a random spot and walk over to the Cathedral (past trolley tracks! There are trolleys in Segovia! And they’re really shiny and new-looking. Also, they have their own streets, so it’s a trolley-and-pedestrian-street).
The cathedral at Sevilla, we were informed, is the third largest in the world. This picture does not begin to convey its massiveness. That tower you can see is one of the few bits remaining from an earlier mosque; it has 34 ramps leading to the top – ramps so that the muezzin, who would need to climb it five times a day to give the call to prayer, could ride a horse up rather than walking.
The guide didn’t tell us when the cathedral was built, and as we stood staring up at it, I allowed myself to hope that it was, in addition to being the third largest cathedral in the world, tasteful. I was really surprised when we got inside and I discovered that it actually was.
There were, of course, some of the requisite badly overdone bits (which, on the whole, I didn’t take pictures of because I didn’t like them), including a 20(? 30? I don’t remember)-meter-high wall covered in depictions of the life of Christ, which was apparently covered with a ton of gold in the form of gold leaf (and in this instance I literally mean a ton).
AND we were allowed to take pictures. AND there was enough extra lighting that my pictures kinda-sorta came out okay (though all of them, even the ones that aren’t blurry, tend to be kind of yellow. The cathedral was not yellow; it was grey stone. All over. And while they did decorate bits of the roof, it was just carved stone, not stone covered in gold, which made me happy). Of course, as I’ve mentioned, my camera doesn’t like the low-light, but at least a few of the photos are passable. And I hope that they begin to convey to you the scale of this cathedral. Because it was huge.
We then had an opportunity to climb the tower, which I took (I figured that if they got a horse up there, it couldn’t be some narrow spiral staircase where you had to flatten yourself against the wall while someone else squeezed past you. And it wasn’t. It was a series of ramps, for the most part plenty wide for two people to pass each other (though towards the top it got a bit narrower, and then it was merely wide enough for two people to pass each other with both people continuing to move). Did I mention that there were 34 ramps? The climb was really bad at some point in the teens, say 15 or 16, when you’d lost your first wind and weren’t even halfway yet, but by 23 or 24 I’d really gotten into the swing of things and was doing pretty well. I wouldn’t want to climb that five times a day, though. And we didn’t even go the whole way to the top – if you go back to the picture from the outside, we only went up through the wide part, and hung out around the bells. I don’t remember how tall they said the tower was, but 67 meters sticks in my head – unless if was 87 meters. I don’t remember heights terribly well in Spanish (or, for that matter, English).
The view from the top was pretty impressive, though.
I did figure out when the cathedral was built – they started in 1401, an excellent time for High Gothic architecture.
After we climbed the tower and wandered around a bit taking pictures, we met in the plaza of the cathedral (also left over from the mosque; it had a nice fountain and troughs where water would have run, and orange trees (bitter)). Since it was my birthday, I made an effort to get myself into more of the pictures than usual. This is the tower behind me.
There was a street act dressed up as Don Quijote. As I was taking a picture of him, he out of nowhere bopped Jonathan (one of the adults associated with the program) on the head. I think I made several peoples’ days by capturing this act mid-motion.
These were the Gardens of Murillo (I think it was Murillo. Some apparently-famous person that I had never before heard of in my life), and we may have been told that these were gum trees. I just thought they were cool.
The gardens lead us to the Alcazar Real, the Royal Castle. I really liked the Alcazar Real; while it was built by Christian kings, it was built in the time of the convivencia, the more-or-less peaceful coexistence of Christians, Muslims, and Jews, and the architecture was very strongly mudejar, Arab-inspired. We were allowed to take pictures and I took lots, but even as I took them I was aware that I wasn’t taking very good pictures. Suffice it to say that the Alcazar was really pretty, lots of shaped plaster and tilework and shaped arches and tiles and stuff.
After being given a tour of the Alcazar, we were let loose and informed that we could do whatever we wished for the remainder of the afternoon. Many of us were HUNGRY, but also wanted to hang around the gardens inside (and by inside, I mean within the outer wall that the program had paid for us to get inside), so we found the cafe-place, discovered that it wouldn’t be awkward to have our bag lunches there, and ate. I was sung at. After, we wandered the gardens a bit (it was odd; while this was clearly a formal garden, it was not a formal garden in the sense that I am accustomed to. This is something I’ve noticed several times, actually; the colors are different, and often they’ve gone to seed a bit but are still beautiful. Our guide had recommended that we go look at two rooms with tilework and tapestries, so we did that, and then wandered up a little staircase inside a wall that divided two different parts of the garden.
Once up there, we discovered that the windows were excellent for sitting in, and since Kelly had been requesting a shady bench for some time, we settled down. This is Kona (I was sitting in the other half of the window, only I had gotten up to take this picture). Kona had a book (Emma. I may see if I can borrow it when she’s done), but I think it’s a measure of how tired I was/how much walking we had done that morning that I sat there for 45 minutes or an hour and was perfectly content to not do anything at all. At some point Kelly wandered over and shared the window with us. After a while she advocated a change of location, so I suggested walking to the end of the wall to see what we could see – which turned out to be something that might be a hedge maze (among other things). I was all for investigating the hedge maze, so Kelly and I wandered down to look at it. It turned out to be a hedge maze, rather overgrown, though not very mazelike (the puzzling bit was whether a given gap was intentional or not; there were several that seemed to be too gaplike to be wall, but not gaplike enough to convince us that they were intentional). But it was fun, and after wandering around for a bit we wandered back out again.
After looking at some of the building things we’d seen from the wall, we found a shady bench by a water feature and watched ducks for a while. You can see the reflection of one of the building-things (but not the ducks – they were asleep at this point. Later a woman woke them up by flicking water at them for no reason that Kelly or I could observe; we determined that it was quite rude). After a while we determined that we should head back to the meeting place, and arrived in plenty of time with a minimum of disorientation. I got myself a birthday ice cream cone from a place I’d noticed when we got off the bus. The milk here may be a bit odd, but the yogurt and the ice cream are both just fine.
When we got back to Córdoba I was pretty wiped out and had sort-of decided that I wasn’t doing anything for my birthday, but other heads had decided that there would be a party expedition meeting at the Puente Romana at 11:00, and I would come, please, because they could hardly celebrate my birthday without me . . .
Since I was promised that they would try to acquire a beverage that I liked, I was persuaded to come (after being distracted by a parade of mounted policemen. And a few policewomen). I laid low for the rest of the afternoon/early evening, and met them as promised. We wandered along the river to a bit of wall overlooking some grass overlooking a river, and they broke out the goodies: very cheap wine, carbonated beverages to mix with it, pineapple-orange juice for me, and a selection of cake-pastry things from the good bakery. We all agreed that the cakes were excellent, but the beverages seemed to leave something to be desired. It was decided that orange soda and wine were okay when mixed, even if everything else was pretty terrible, and we hung out and talked for an hour or so, sharing the cake. I had a good time. I was not persuaded to come to the Irish Pub (while it was described as “American ’90’s music, in an Irish Pub, in Spain, the Irish Pub was the place where I had so disliked the first party, and anyway, it was close to 1:00 in the morning, and I was tired. So I left when we were close to my apartment (a few other people wandered off at that point, too).
I got a scarf and some toiletries from my host mother. It’s a very nice scarf – even if it is pink and orange. The gold thread is pretty cool.