Sunday, December 5, 2004

Log 29 - Getting to Know Seville and Area and its Roman, Muslim and Christian roots

Log 29 covers October 29th -  November 30th, 2004 where we spend some time chillin' and taking in some of the major sites in Seville.  This truly is a gilded city. 

Friday, October 29th - Plaza de Espana

Plaza de Espana in Seville
Well, we have finally arrived in the great City of Seville (Sevilla to the Spanish) and are excited to immediately begin discovering its history.  As a result of Columbus' landing in the Americas in 1492, Seville was given a monopoly on Spanish trade with the new continent and rapidly became one of the richest, most cosmopolitan places in Europe, which is clear to see by the numerous historic buildings and plazas.  Plaza de Espana, shown here, was built in 1929 for the Iberoamerican Exhibition, Seville's first great international fair.   Today it still remains the most visited monument in Seville and one of the city's favorite relaxation spots with fountains and mini-canals around the grandiose, semi-circular brick-and-tile building shown here.

Plaza de Espana is famous for this type of beautiful tile-work.  Each province within Spain features its own unique tile portrait depicting age old accounts of history.  The use of colors within the details is magnificent.  We spend quite some time looking at this great art work knowing we will revisit this plaza over our stay, and will probably see something new each time.

Tile mosaic at Plaza de Espana

Sunday, October 31st - Halloween

Our third Halloween away provided yet another unique experience.  We organized a party on the dock for all the international people we have just met.  Being a first Halloween for the Norwegian, French and Spanish kids, we had to explain exactly what was involved.  

We started off with crafts where scary faces and spiders were assembled, pumpkins were carved and apples were bobbed for!  

Treat or Treat on the docks at Club Nautico Sevilla

Then there was 'trick or treating' between boats, followed by a pot luck meal get together.   As you can see by the costumes, everyone caught on fast and the whole evening was a great 'ice breaking' party between all the new arrivals at Club Nautico Sevilla.  
Great costumes by all

Hotel Alfonso XIII

Hotel Alfonso XIII

Near the historic center of Seville and named for the king who commissioned it in 1928, Hotel Alfonso XIII, was designed to be Europe's most luxurious hotel.  It has served royal families, heads of state and innumerable personalities from all over the world (but not us!).  For the Royal Suite, it's about  € 1800 (Euros) per night ($C 3000). 

11:38 AM, Thursday, November 4th - The Cathedral

Seville's grand cathedral

Today, we decide to get out and see a couple of the major sights.  History is so much more impressive to us this way!  It's important to have an overview of the more recent history of Spain (or more correctly the Iberian Peninsula) to put together all the sights we will show you in this and other logs.  Briefly,  the Romans ruled the Iberian Peninsula  for about 600 years from 200 BC (when they beat the Carthaginians).   Christianity began two-thirds into this Roman occupation.  As Roman power and influence waned, the peninsula was gradually invaded by Germanic tribes from the north, particularly the Christian Visigoths who hang around until 711 AD, when Muslims from North Africa invade and overrun pretty much the entire peninsula within a few years (all the way up to today's France).  The Christians immediately begin to reconquer the peninsula, but it takes 8 centuries!  So the Muslims were here for a long time and their architectural footprints and influence are everywhere!  The area under Muslim control gradually and naturally shrinks to the south (the Andalucia - where we are) as the Christian Reconquista (reconquest) expands.  Finally, in 1492 and the same year Columbus discovers the Americas, Granada, the last Muslim possession, falls back to the Christian Kings.

Back outside the Cathedral in Seville, we discover that Seville was reconquered by Christians in 1248.  Back then, its main mosque, legacy of the Muslims, was used as a church until 1401 when the church authorities decided to knock it down and start again.  'Let us create such a building that future generations will take us for lunatics', they agreed.  Our experience of the place is that they got what they wanted in creating the largest place of worship in Spain and the third largest cathedral in the Christian world! 

Capilla Meyor - The Major Chapel

We can't even begin to show you the sheer size and wonder of this broad, five-naved cathedral.  The main building is 126m long and 83 m wide, with a height of 37m at the center of the transept.  It was completed by 1507 and was originally all Gothic, though work done after the central dome collapsed in 1511 was mostly in Renaissance style.   Shown here is the Capilla Mayor, considered the jewel of the cathedral with the biggest altarpiece in the world!  We marvel at the stained glass and incredible details, and find it unfathomable as to the effort and coordination required to bring this magnificent building to its current state.

Monument to Christopher Columbus

When we entered, we opted for an audio-guided tour, which adds tremendously to the detail hidden within the numerous famous paintings, sculpting and architecture.    A must-see for our family is the tomb of Christopher Columbus!  The great sailor's remains (or rather, his probable remains, for no one's completely sure that the real ones didn't get mislaid somewhere in the Caribbean) were brought here from Cuba in 1899.  The monument shows four pallbearers representing the kingdoms of Spain at the time of Columbus' 1492 voyage. 

3:00 PM, Thursday, November 4th, - The Giralda Tower

Giralda Tower - a minaret to a Muslim mosque

After a couple hours exploring inside the Cathedral, we head to the passage connecting it to the Giralda.  'Giralda' is the name of this tower, built as part of the previous Muslim mosque.  From this tower (called a minaret), the Muslim faithful were called to prayer five times each day by a muezzin, or crier. Such a tower is always connected with a mosque and has one or more balconies or open galleries. At the time of the Prophet Muhammad, the call to prayer was made from the highest roof in the vicinity of the mosque.

As an emblem of Seville and its rich history, the Giralda forms an elegant and tall silhouette next to the Cathedral.  This structure was originally 76 m high and built as a minaret to the mosque in the 12th century.  In 1568 the Christians fitted the minaret with a bell tower and at the very top is El Giraldillo, a bronze weather vane representing Faith, whose nickname Giraldillo also gives its name to the tower.  These additions increased the height to 96 m from sidewalk to tip of weathervane. 

Views from inside the Giralada

We find the ascent to the top quite easy as there is a series of ramps (not steps) all the way up, which enabled access to the top long-ago to be made on horse back.  As we climb, we are not only enjoying the great views, we envision and hear the horses hooves clomping up the well-worn old stone. 

As we depart the Cathedral grounds, we decide to attend a flamenco concert tonight we have heard about.  Chris and our onboard guest Nik walk for tickets while Sheila and the boys head home to make a quick supper. 

8:43 PM, Thursday, November 4th, - Flamenco Concert

Cultural Center of El Monte - Flamenco Concert

Flamenco is a mix of song, dance and music born of Gypsy and Andalusian culture.  It is also strongly influenced by the Arabic culture, which filled it with sentiment from the persecution of Andalusian Moors (Muslims) and Gypsies after the reconquest by the Catholic Kings.  Centuries later, in the 1970's, musicians started mixing traditional flamenco with jazz, rock, blues, etc. creating a new flamenco sound which has brought appreciation of flamenco rhythms to millions who might otherwise have passed it by.   This concert is very traditional with distinct Arabic influence in the singing.  Gerrit asks at one point, "Is she crying?"  We need more shows to be able to hear and see distinction because this certainly was a far-cry (or was that a wail) from the familiar Gypsy Kings style we have enjoyed. 

Friday, November 12th - The Alcazar Palace

Today we find ourselves within the walls of the first royal palace in Seville.  The Alcazar began life as a fort for the Cordoban governors of Seville in 913, and has been adapted and/or enlarged in almost every century since. 

A fountain in Seville's first palace - the Alcazar

If you paid attention to the history lesson above, you'll have placed the starting date as being under Muslim occupation.  Cordoba was then the peninsula's Muslim capital, and Sevilla an out-post.  The Alcazar now feels like an Arabian Nights fairy-tale with finely etched domes, keyhole arches, and comfy courtyards.  While the décor is Moorish (or Arabic) in style, we saw depictions of peacocks, animals, and kings, which you apparently don't find in true Muslim décor.  The walls are ornamented with a stylized Arabic script that relates New Testament verses. Quite an interesting mix in this palace shared over time by many Muslim then Christian monarchs.

Gardens at the Alcazar Palace

The outside gardens are a beautiful compliment to the palace with gentle murmurs of water combined with the smell of flowers and orange trees.   It is easy to see why it still remains the official residence of the current royal family. 

Monday, November 15th, 2004 - Homeschooling at it's best. 

Today's homeschooling involves Mark from s/v Arcturus giving a lesson on scuba diving.  Being just two on board (Mark and partner Murphy) they have room to carry tanks and all the requirements for diving.  
Mark is super good at answering all the questions and even lets the boys try the breathing apparatus. 

May we introduce BUC!

Black Ugly Car = BUC

By the way, back in Portugal we bought this car for € 500 for our six-month stay in Seville.  BUC is an acronym for 'Black Ugly Car'.  Well, he's not that ugly and he gets us around to all the sights, grocery stores, and airports for visitors.

Wednesday, November 17th - So long Nik!

Take care Nik...see ya back in Canada

Well, after almost 7 weeks with our family, Nik's family is missing him terribly and we think Nik is missing his.  It has been a great opportunity for us all and he'll forever be in our hearts.

Chris and Gerrit drive Nik the two hours SE to Malaga, Spain where he is able to get his fingers wet in the Mediterranean Sea before catching a flight to Norway to visit some relatives and then back to a Canada, all just in time for winter!  Not bad for a 14-year old. Godspeed Nik!

Nik at the Mediterranean before flying home

Sunday, November 21st, - Ancient Roman City of Italica  

Italica and its Roman ampitheatre

Our first sight-seeing trip is all of 8 km northwest of Seville to the site of the Roman city of Italica.  Founded in 206 BC as a place of settlement for veterans of Rome's victory over Carthage at nearby Ilipa, Italica's name makes reference to Italy, the original homeland of the first inhabitants.  
Excavation of this huge archaeological site has uncovered broad streets, public bathhouses, walls and the impressive ampitheatre shown here, which is said to have been big enough to hold 25,000 spectators for the Sunday feeding of the lions!  

Old streets uncovered and rebuilt

Roman streets complete with underground plumbing

The city was very advanced with running water being brought in by an acquaduct to cisterns and from there passed to the public fountains and main buildings.  Waste water passed into drains, which we could still see through railings at the junctions of the streets.  One of these drains is clearly visible as a black square just below the people in this photo of  a Roman walkway, still in its original condition.  Much of the old city remains uncovered though archaeological work has not stopped.

Wednesday, November 24th - Keeping Cool in Seville's heat

When we arrived in Seville, we were very happy to once again be greeted by the smiling faces of a Norwegian family on board the s/v Stroller, whom we had originally met back in Portugal.   We (and apparently they neither) had no idea they were coming here for the winter.  Ola being 11 years old, along with Henrik at 8 years old are great kids that our guys really enjoy the company of.  Chris caught up with them keeping cool by filling up with water and squirting each other.  In this carefully choreographed photo, they simultaneously squirt straight up in the air.


Tuesday, November 30th - Boat projects

Tioga at berth at Club Nautico Sevilla

Our first month has been quite hectic as we try to get a feel for the city.  This day finds us back in reality with tons of boat projects also to do.  Today, we washed all the sails down with fresh water and luckily a perfect breeze came up to help dry our genneker before storing it away for the next 5 months.  Yes, we are tied to the dock at Club Nautico Sevilla with a beautifully trimmed sail! 

In Log 30, we continue to explore the fabulous sights in the area, with a trip to Cordoba, the historical Muslim capital of the Iberian Peninsula, Christmas in Seville, and a trip to see where Christopher Columbus organized and departed on his famous voyage and discovery of the Americas. Stay tuned!