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Day 7 : Seville.. and Nico

 We head off to Seville, taxi then bus. The misus picked a particular bus line since the drivers there were less rude than another line, according to reviews. Nevertheless, the bus driver we had was a phalanx of surliness, bristling with grumpiness and generally Not Having it. I shudder to think of what the other line was like. 

It was generally a smooth route from Grenada to Seville, although, and I think I felt this last time, there is quite a bit of graffiti. Youth unemployment here, like in much of Europe is quite high, so I"m sure the disenfranchisement certainly contributes to the tagging. Most is the run of the mill tags, some done quite well, and some are a much higher level.

We make it to our hostel, which is more of a very inexpensive hotel. There is room just enough for two beds and a few suitcases, you can hear the outside almost completely undiminished, AND whoever is doing whatever they are doing in hallway; the air smells of must and cigarette smoke, and the A/C isn't really cooling the air as much as it's strongly suggesting that maybe it could be cooler if you left it on for a few more days.

We were saving a fortune. 

The paint on the ceiling in the shower had a worryingly peeled back appearance, but I'm sure that will never come back to worry us at all in the future. Off to lunch!

As is my preference, we find an inexpensive place that has as close to local as we can get. Google maps never does us wrong. We find a place that apparently quite likes bull fighting, or maybe the owner has a hobby decapitating bulls and mounting their heads. I learn, or.. unlearn, that Spain has not, actually, outlawed bullfighting, it's only been outlawed in certain Spanish provinces and certain former Spanish colonies, now sovereign countries. This was good to know before I struck up some small talk with a local expounding how wonderful it was that Spain got rid of the barbaric sport of bull fighting. Difficult to really believe coming from the land of hockey and residential real estate speculation that I do. 

(also, yes, less than unlikely that'd I'd strike up some small talk with a stranger in Canada, let alone Spain)

The food is lovely, and very centered around potatoes and meat. Both done in wonderful varieties but I can't help but think that maybe vegan/vegetarian tourists would have a tough time in certain parts of Spain. Or at least in places where they'd like to eat like a local.

Next it's off to a local walking tour. I've become a bit of a walking tour guide conoisseur in my older years. In this trip we've had the Extremely Expressive But Tenses And Emphasis are for Amateurs Tour Guide, the Maybe Around Time To Retire Just Reciting the Tour Like a Mantra Guide, and now, this guide. Nico. 

Probably one of the greatest guides of all time. Or the greatest guides my family has ever had the privilege of having. First off, he looks like what I'd imagine a Spanish person backpacking across North America would look like. Or, with the hair cut, possibly a conquistador. Second off, and most important, despite looking like someone would would steal your girlfriend when you hire him to take you scuba diving, he is an unrepentant nerd. Deep deep into history and all the odd twists and turns, the bits that make history alive.

Indeed, apparently he was a history major, perhaps did some post graduate work. 

Every thing he tells us, he can easily be derailed with he simplest question, diving deep into some obscura that is actually very interesting and that no body in their right mind would read up on, let alone expound at length to a group of foot weary tourists. But he becomes possessed, telling us all the details that the nerdier of us gobble up  we're like magpie at a glitter party. Prepare yourselves reader, I will attempt to hit all his talking points. Or most, most. If I hit it all I'll have to add an appendices and maybe a few properly cited footnotes.

Seville, like Granada, has a history inextricable entwined with the Reconquista. He, like many other tour guides, emphasized this was a phrase later applied to the 700 year conquest of Spain by the Christians from the Muslims. He, unlike most tour guides, noted there might be some bias, in even calling it a Reconquista, as if Spain was always meant to be Christian. 

Here is a fairly recent construction, early 20th century, that was built to really show off the Arabic influences in architecture, of interesting note is how vibrant the colours are. Red and yellow for Spain, green for Andalusia. Interestingly, in Alhambra, green is also used to represent the faith of Islam. (early 20th century is also when the OLDEST buildings in Vancouver are built.)

The streets are teeming with pedestrians, this area of Seville is clearly foot traffic only. We are close to the Processions, a religious celebration when Jesus of Nazareth returns to Jerusalem, and ends in Palm Sunday. The procession being very popular in Seville, being more of a celebration than the dour, serious religious event it can be (for certain, there are certain participants who do take it with a certain amount of rectitude, but I think many participate it in it as more of a cultural, than a religious event). 

Some of the penitents wear uniforms that look suspiciously like the KKK uniforms, albeit all in black. The background of this (yes, more shiny tidbits of info from Nico): folks who had done wrong were dressed in this, and humiliated (think dunce caps). Doing wrong could be many things, some were lead to more severe punishment, some were thought to have repented enough and started their life anew. But wrong could be (as Spain's history is rife with Islamophobia and antisemitism) just being the wrong religion. The KKK wear as a call back to the antisemitism. Nativism and xenophobia stretching across countries and time and cultures, everyone. 

We next find the Seville Cathedral. The same story as elsewhere, used to be a great mosque. Conquered, converted, etc, now the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. Traders used to, well, trade outside. But when it rained, they would take their business inside the walls. This didn't sit to well with the church, what with the whole Jesus Cleansing Money Changers From the Temple story. Commerce and religion, at least at this point in history, in this place in the world, did not mix. As this was the 1500's most folks did not read. So the church decided to just make this beautiful carving of the well known New Testament story,and hoped the traders and money changers and what have you would
get the hint and not bring their business so close to the church.

This was my favourite fact. A oft-forgotten door to a forgotten room. It lead to a room owned by the son of Christopher Columbus, a giant nerd with the wealth of his famous father at his disposal. This is the perfect Nico story: a historical fact about a long forgotten aspect of Seville, leaning towards something academic, and told with all the detail that could be mustered. 

So this was the illegitimate son of Columbus, Hernando Colon. He bought all things made from the printing press, thousands and thousands, 20,000, all told. Indexed cross referenced by KEY WORD (this is in the 1500's), and by author, and subject. It was an impressive achievement and a precursor to search engines hundreds of years later. But, as all amazing accomplishments that are passed down, this one, after Colon died, was squandered and forgotten. It finally made it into the hands of the church, and over hundreds of years became a sort of personal library to the clergy there. Who, as people do, borrowed some, let other people borrow them, yadda yadda and now there is only 5 000. But, what a story, what vision. And a story I think only Nico would tell. Fantastic.

This is a church bell tower that was formerly a Muslim minaret. Apparently, it's over belled, if all bells went off at once the tower would likely fall. There are other interesting facts about this tower, but the real interesting fact is that Nico downloaded the entire 30 page PDF on it's maintenance and operation just for fun, yeah. RAD.

I supressed the urge to ask if the source code for the software that now controls the bells is available to read. Do I still wonder about it? Yes. Might I be googling about that right now? Maaybe.

This post is getting on the longer side, dipping down side alleys of information much like a great Nico tour, but I'll end with these pictures, that of the Plaza de Espana, an incredible construction made or a the world exposition that was scheduled just as the Great Depression crushed everything. The expo was an utter failure, understandably but this jaw dropping plaza remains. It looks like a place that was built for some sort of royal sport, like.... carriage jousting or unicorn herding. 

Ok, I will NOT talk about this, but it involves a monarch called Peter the Cruel and involves hammers and boiling oil and abbesses and oh boy yeah just fall down that Wikipedia hole.

The front door of the cathedral, we got faked out of several doors, all magnificent, thinking they were the front door, but no, this is how you front door. Yowsa.

Speaking of amazing constructions that ceiling problem at the hostel ended up being a full on leak. We got an UPGRADE. To.. the exact same type of room two floors up. It didn't quite smell like a break room for bookies in the 1950's Brooklyn, the A/C didn't need a hefty dose of imagination to have any effect, but we could still hear every conversation, sneeze and loud whisper from the street below. I have no idea who or what this hostel was constructed for, but surely not sleeping.

I bet you Nico has a great story about it.


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