08.12.2012 - 09.12.2012 12 °C
So remember how I said I would post the remainder of the Sevilla trip 'tomorrow' three days ago? That was actually your first lesson in the Spanish 'mañana'. When someone says 'mañana' here or 'after lunch' or any ambiguous time qualifier, that can mean anywhere from when they said to an indefinite period of time afterward. So really, this followup post is right on time!
So I believe I left you with us crashing into bed on Friday night after a rousing Flamenco show. So it's now Saturday morning and the four of us have decided to take a morning train to check out Córdoba. This small(er) city is situated an hour and half by train north-east of Sevilla, along the same river. It grew into prosperity around the same time as Sevilla, and we were able to see much of the same type of architecture there. Córdoba too has a beautiful Alcazar, a former royal palace, and their Mosque-turned-cathedral called La Mezquita. We arrived at about 10 am, and knew beforehand that we were there on a religious holiday (Day of the Immaculate Conception). But we didn't consider the effect it would have on our desire to see La Mezquita. Unfortunately, we found out early that it was not scheduled to open until 5:30 pm, which was a problem since we had train tickets back at 6:15 and the train was a 20 minute walk. We decided to see the rest of Córdoba first and return at 4:30 and try to get tickets and get in the front of the line to get in.
Just around the corner from La Mezquita is the old Roman bridge that spans this river I was talking about, the Guadalquivira. Unfortunately I have already said everything I know about the bridge, so a photo will have to suffice.
I suppose it's worth a mention that the weather in Sevilla had been subpar since we arrived, with clouds and rain, so the brilliant sunshine we had in Córdoba was an extremely welcome change. Oh, and another observation: when anyone ever mentioned Spain, I had this idea of the stereotypical type of house that I would see everywhere. Of course I live in a city, so we have buildings instead of houses, but I found that everything in the south of Spain was this stereotypical plaster-looking style with half-circle roofing. I think that in the south, this style has been developed to maximize cool air in the summer time. Apparently it is not strange to hit 50 degrees celcius there in the summer, which is all of about 120 degrees fahrenheit. Anyway, another Spain mystery solved.
I can tell you a bit more about the Alcazar, which was where we ventured off to next. It was a former royal palace that was used during the times of the Inquisition, but it actually sits on the site of a castle dating back to the visigothic time period in Spain (700s AD). It is relatively small compared to the usual decadence with which these palaces are usually made in Spain, but it is nonetheless spectacular. One of the greatest parts of the Alcazars in Sevilla and Cordoba were their adjacent gardens, with statues and fountains and reflecting pools.
Córdoba's garden's were completed with a statue of our friend Chris Colubus presenting a scroll to the King and Queen. I will take a moment right now to direct you toward my Flickr feed where there are lots more photos, including one of Chris. http://www.flickr.com/photos/douglasclift/
After exploring every nook and cranny and tower that the Alcazar had to offer, we decided it was time for lunch. We have found that the best was to do this (in the absense of any specific recommendations) is to wander until something strikes us. In this case, we stumbled upon this little hole-in-the-wall place (I'm not lying, they didn't have chairs or tables, and really only a couple people could fit comfortably in front of the counter. However, behind the counter, and man and (presumably) his wife were tending a huge rotisserie cooker. On it they had a bunch of chicken and a whole piglet. When we arrived we learned that they also offer duck, but didn't have any cooked at the time. So the four of us bought a small loaf of bread at a nearby store and took our whole chicken (the kind gentleman at the counter had used his pruning shears to cut it into manageable pieces) into the nearby courtyard and sat down and had a wonderful feast. Anyone watching probably thought we hadn't eaten in weeks, but there are no friends when there's a great meal between us. Juicy and wonderful, it probably took five years off my life. Worth it.
After the feast, we wandered around the old part of Cordoba more, passing Calleja de las Flores
and many other quaint little streets and alleys, very much folding into my Spanish stereotypes. Finally we decided to head back to La Mezquita to try to get in the front of the line to see the cathedral. Of course we arrived an hour before it was scheduled to open, only to find that there was already a line of 150 or 200... Not knowing how long it would take to let everyone in and really not wanting to miss our train, we debated for a while on the best way to proceed. Finally we decided to buy our tickets and give it a go. At the very least, we decided, we could walk through and see something that perhaps we will never see again. As it turned out, our debates were for naught, since we were let in at 5:15 (count it! first instance of anything happening early here) and they let everyone in basically at once. And what a treat to get inside.
La Mezquita was, as I mentioned earlier, originally a Mosque, but was transformed into a Cathedral in 1236. The stark contrast between the Muslim architecture and the Christain influence is incredible. Apparently Muslims have been lobbying viciously for a long time to be able to pray inside as well, but have been denied repeatedly by both local authorities and the Vacitan City. I can't say that I blame them, as the inside is truly a work of art as well as a temple, and it just doesn't feel like the traditional Christain churches I have seen in northern Spain.
Finally running out of time, we all hustled back to the train and actually were early! Whoda thunk it. Once back in Sevilla, more exquisite tapas and a dose of churros y chocolate put the perfect cap on an incredible day.
Sunday morning we lost Rebecca, as she got on an early flight back to Ourense. The boys were left with one more day to explore the city, and we did by taking a stab at Sevilla's own Alcazar. There is an interesting story with this building, as it has a formidable wall on one, and only one side. Apparently a long time ago when the Vizigoths burning and pillaging, the inhabitants of the city at that time did not have a sufficient army or sufficient time, so they hurriedly put up a serious-looking wall on one side to scare away potential trouble-makers. And it worked! Now don't go citing me in any history papers with that story as it could be myth, but ya gotta trust your tour guide, right?
Again, the highlight of the Alcazar in Sevilla for me were the gardens. Sure, in the building, the rooms and ceilings were impossibly gilded with exquisite designs, but the serenity and beauty of the gardens captured me more. Impressive architecture with fountains, winding paths, and beautiful flowers made for a nice break in our incessant running around.
After the Alcazar, more tapas (obviously) and we had to say goodbye to Ross, who had to catch the evening bus back to Madrid. After seeing him off, Alex and I returned to the hostel without a plan. I remembered earlier that FC Barcelona was playing a team from Sevilla that night, and suggested that Alex and I go find a bar to watch the game. Then, he asked where the game was being played, and we realized that we could probably go and catch the soccer game! After some investigation, we decided to give it a try, especially since Messi (a Barcelona player, and arguably the best ever) had a chance that night to break the all-time record for number of goals scored in a calendar year. He was one goal short at the start of the game... So anyway, we took a city bus to the game and inquired as to the availability of tickets. Unfortunately the least expensive ones were sold out, but I managed to convince Alex that this is a once-in-a-lifetime type of deal, so we took a chance. Of course, Messi is good on his word, and hardly goes a goal without scoring, so we only had to wait 30 minutes to see him score the two goals to put him over the edge. Here is his celebration after goal number 2
Both the two of us jumped out of our chairs, only to sit back down meekly as we didn't see much enthusiasm from the fans who were watching their team lose. This was an interesting dynamic. I think that in the US even at an away club, people would take a moment to appreciate the moment that they had just witnessed. Not at the Real Betis stadium. Fans were pissed Messi had scored to put them down 2-0, record be darned.
Still, this was one of those moments for me, as a soccer player, that will never be forgotten. We were two of 47,000 to see possibly the best player ever put two more HUGE notches in his belt. Wowwwie.
So there you have it! After the adrenaline high of the game wore off, I realized 1. Just how tired I was, and 2. That I needed to be up at 6 to catch a plane directly back to work. Sleep was not hard to find that night, ending an incredible weekend.
Thanks for reading! I am heading to Porto, Portugal with my roommate for Christmas (should be an adventure, I believe his parents and grandparents speak neither English nor Spanish), on Wednesday. However, Tuesday night, keep an eye out for an installment about the Christmas preparations and traditions I have seen here in Barcelona. Many more interesting times!
As always, I hope you and yours are well, especially in light of the senseless violence that seems to recur all to frequently in our great country. Know that if you are reading this, I am thankful to have your support. I hope you have a great holiday season!