Alright I am staying true to my word and tell you all about the trip to Cordoba and Sevilla that I went on a few weeks ago. This trip was actually mandatory and organized by NYU and I didn’t really have a say in going. I know this sounds incredibly hard to believe but I did not want to go to either cities that weekend. I had already been to both twice and the trip came right before MID TERMS. As you can tell, I was really, really, really mad at NYU for planning a trip right before exams. When was I going to study? In the hotel? On the bus? I can’t read in buses because I get car sick. In the hotel we literally fell asleep as the light went out since we were marching around all day long visiting things. I know I am whining and I shouldn’t sound so ungrateful since many of you who read this blog have not been to either city, let alone multiple times like I have. But I can’t promise to keep the disgruntled tone out of this post. By the way this trip took place between October 22nd and 24th, about 3 weeks ago.
We first hit up Cordoba on Friday and got there just in time for lunch a little after 1:30. (Spaniards usually eat lunch between 2 and 4). We entered Cordoba on the Roman bridge (I am starting to realize many Spanish cities have one) and were immediately greeted by the mosque/cathedral/I’m not sure what to refer to it so from now on it will be called la mezquita which is what it is called by Spaniards. The mezquita is really big from the outside and makes you realize that back in the day the Arabic Moors were once a very powerful people.
We separated for lunch and I ended up eating with some of the literature track girls that I don’t often get to hang out since we don’t share any of the same classes. One of the girls in that group is actually my new roommate! 🙂 One of the girls tried a Cordoba “typical dish” and for the life of me I cannot remember what it’s called! But it was some meat type dish. I also decided to go the local route and tried salmorejo, which is a lot like gazpacho but a lot thicker and is made from tomatoes, bread, oil, and garlic. The orangey color kind of threw me off. I wasn’t too crazy about it to be honest, but at least I can say I tried something new.
After lunch, we convened back at the mezquita and off we went on a very rushed tour of the building. I have been to the mezquita before and it will never cease to amaze me, that’s for sure. If you have not experienced mudejar architecture firsthand (Spanish Moors who were Muslim), it’s kind of hard to describe, it’s very overwhelming. The Moors were the masters of the “horse shoe” arc and the “polilobulado” arcs and filling in every single space with geometric designs. In Islam, Mohammed/Allah is never supposed to be represented as a physical being in art. I’m not too sure what the reasoning behind that is since I’m used to seeing a plethora of Jesuses on crosses in churches. Anyways in order to replace images of human beings and animals, Muslims became very creative with using geometric shapes and if you ever go visit the Alhambra, you will be blown away by the designs they come up with.
However, while our tour guide was super knowledgeable about all things Muslim art and architecture related, she literally talked our ear off and threw way too much information at us to digest. We didn’t get time to wander around the mezquita after she finished bringing us around to the points of interest which I thought was disappointing.
I’m not going to talk too much about the mezquita itself because I’ve already blogged about it but I will say it’s really interesting/weird because the building is no longer considered a mosque. Yet it definitely looks like one by the way its built. It is now considered a church and has an altar and there are Catholic masses held there. It’s formal name nowadays is Catedral de Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion (Cathedral of the Lady of the Assumption) but nobody actually calls it that. It’s just so weird to think about because for the longest time the building was a place for Muslims to worship. Obviously over the centuries the church that became a mosque that turned into a cathedral has had a lot of work done to it. If you want to read about its history here’s the Wiki link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Mosque_of_C%C3%B3rdoba
After the mezquita, we were whisked away to the disappointing Jewish synagogue which isn’t used for services anymore. It’s a very small room and there isn’t anything really to look at apart from the Mudejar architecture on the walls. It’s one of the few remaining synagogues left over from the time before the Jews were kicked out of Spain in 1492 (lots of stuff happened that year besides Columbus accidentally discovering a bunch of islands in the Caribbean).
There is more stuff to visit in the wonderful city of Cordoba but unfortunately I’ve only ever visited the mezquita and the synagogue. To learn more about this beautiful Spanish gem, you can go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C%C3%B3rdoba,_Spain
After Cordoba, we arrived in Sevilla where we would spend the next few days exploring. I have been to Sevilla before but always short visits so I have never gotten to really explore the city. It is definitely a beautiful city and there is a lot to see. It also represents all of the Spanish stereotypes really well–bullfighting, flamenco, gypsies, siesta, tapas. I don’t mean that in a bad way but when people say Spain, that is generally what comes to people’s minds.
On Saturday, we made our way over to the Reales Alcazares in Sevilla. I have already been here too but I didn’t mind revisiting this place. It’s got plenty of mudejar architecture for me to admire and is sort of like a mini Alhambra. Pedro the Cruel lived there and I don’t remember why he was cruel, but anyways that’s beside the point. More geometric arches and breezy walkways, a beautiful golden cupola, gorgeous gardens with a labyrinth and “royal turkeys” (the literal translation for peacocks in Spanish) wandering around… what’s not to like?
After a “coffee break” (Spaniards are fond of those), we marched off to the cathedral. Now I like visiting cathedrals now and again, they are part of my religion even if I don’t go to church all that much anymore. However I have been to the Sevilla cathedral twice now and let’s just say it’s not top on my list of things to visit in the city. I understand some people had never been there before but let’s just say we got the blow by blow history version of it with our tour guide again. I pretty much stopped listening to her and I think everyone in the group did too. Not out of boredom but just out of trying to retain our sanity. We were in there for about 3 hours. The cathedral is big (3rd largest in the world or something like that) and there is a lot to cover but oh my god, we don’t need to talk about every single thing!!!! Two things to note about it: It is suspected part of Christoher Columbus’s remains are buried there and the Giralda, the bell tower, does not have any steps to go up it, theyre actually ramps. Thank God we did not have to climb the Giralda though is all I have to say. Anyways, it is a very spectacular building and an important part of Sevilla’s history so yes, if you’ve never been there, you need to go. The thing dominates the Sevilla skyline so it’s kind of hard to miss. We also got to visit la Capilla Real (royal chapel) which is apparently some kind of big deal since it is closed to the public. As far as I can tell though, the only difference between it and the rest of the chapels in the cathedral was that some Spanish king was buried in it. And it’s apparently where weddings also take place. To learn more about the cathedral: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seville_Cathedral.
After eating some bocadillos in a plaza, we all met up again to go visit Hospital de la Caridad which isn’t a hospital anymore. It’s got a chapel in it and honestly that’s all I remember, not very note worthy. Moving on. We saw the Torre de Oro along the Guadalquivir, a watch tower used by the Moors that had a chain strung along the river attached to it to keep boats out of the port. Apparently the Guadalquivir river that flows through Sevilla is not actually a river. It’s a kind of dam and the current changes direction depending on the wind. The actual river goes around Sevilla or something, I’m not too sure. We stood in front of the bullfight ring as our tour guide went on and on about bullfighting as no one listened.
You think by this point I had had enough of tours but when our NYU leaders told us we had a chance to see the thrones carried around for Semana Santa, I decided to check it out. What is Semana Santa? Go here to learn more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_Week_in_Spain Sevilla’s Semana Santa is one of the most elaborate and most famous processions in Spain, along with Malaga which is where I studied abroad 2 years ago. I have never witnessed Semana Santa because I have never been in Spain in the spring but hopefully next year I can go down to a city that celebrates it and see for myself (maybe not Sevilla, I think the sheer amount of people would drive me nuts). I’m sure many of you will think of the Ku Klux Klan when you see the outfits the brotherhood people wear as they walk in front of the thrones/floats. Just so you know that outfit has been used in association with Semana Santa long before the Ku Klux Klan decided to adopt it so it has nothing to do with race.
Anyways I went to the Semana Santa museum and got to see the Virgen statue carried around during Semana Santa and the actual thrones. Damn, do those things look heavy! (On the thrones are typically a statue of the Virgin Mary, Jesus on a cross and other Catholic religious imagery) I can’t imagine having to be one of the people underneath it and having to carry the thing through a large crowd of people around the city. The Semana Santa traditions date back to around the thirteenth or fourteenth century which is around when the Catholic monarchs Isabel and Fernando took control of the country.
Before dinner that night, two friends and I decided to venture down to Plaza de Espana to see it lit up at night. I’ve been here before but last time I was there in 2008, the whole thing was under renovation so I wanted to see it without all the scaffolding. Well, gotta say Plaza de Espana is just so huge and it took my breath away. The Plaza was built in 1928 for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929. The Plaza is shaped as a large half oval and is a combo of art deco and fake mudejar architecture. And here is some Wiki stuff: The Plaza de España complex is a huge half-circle with buildings continually running around the edge accessible over the moat by numerous beautiful bridges. In the centre is a large fountain. By the walls of the Plaza are many tiled alcoves, each representing a different province of Spain.
I wanted to take a picture by the Madrid alcove and Malaga alcove but it was getting late and we were really hungry. But I got some great snapshots of the majestic plaza lit up at night. If I figure out how to add pictures to WordPress to make my posts more interesting, I will share with you guys its beauty.
After dinner, my friends and I set out to find the “free flamenco place” we had been told about. We vaguely knew what street it was on and that the place had a red door. Ok… well we found it alright! And yup sure enough, a guy was playing his guitar, another was singing, and a woman was dancing on the stage in her long form fitting flamenco dress with her dark brown curls cascading down her hair. I almost felt like I had stepped into the book Carmen or something! We enjoyed the flamenco we got to see and then the show ended so we decided to leave after awhile. Unbeknown to us, another show had started up in the adjoining room and we kind of got stuck in the mass of people trying to leave/wanting to stay to listen. Apparently it’s bad etiquette in Spain to leave during a flamenco show while the performers are performing. We got plenty of dirty looks from disgruntled Spanish women.
On Sunday we visited a convent before leaving but I’m not going to even bother describing that. I have never been curious about what goes on in a convent or what it is nuns do all day besides pray (seems like they do that a lot according to the nun we met who described her daily routine). And then we left Sevilla on a 6 hour bus ride back to Madrid. Damn.
I’ve got to say the drive from Sevilla to Madrid is GORGEOUS. The drive takes you through many different landscapes: rocky mountains, arid fields, olive fields, desert looking valleys… Spain has such a diverse (and very dry) landscape and I can never get enough of it. However I didn’t take any pictures since I was mostly catching up on sleep.
And there you go, my weekend jaunt to Andalucia. I’ve missed it a lot, but like I said, I wasn’t able to enjoy the trip as much as I wanted to because my mind was elsewhere, thinking about exams and such. Fear not Andalucia, I still love you. I’d just rather visit when I’m not so stressed out.
Next up: a visit to the ciudad dorada (golden city) Salamanca!