Once again, I’m lagging on these updates. So here is a recap of my weekend in Sevilla February 3-5. To get to Sevilla, we had to once again go to Madrid and take a bus from there down to the Andalusian city. Since the ride there was about 6 hours on bus, we decided to take a night bus to save some money from staying at a hostel. Since the bus wasn’t until midnight, I went to the Prado art museum for a few hours before meeting up with everyone else we were going with (there were 11 of us in total heading to Sevilla). The Prado museum is Spain’s famous and world renown art museum — it’s the Spanish Louvre or Uffizi. There I saw works of art dating from the 11th century to the 19th century. Not only do they have a huge collection of Spanish artists, but they also have a vast exhibition on Italian, French, and Flemish artists, too. Some of the famous artists here are El Greco, Velázquez, Raphael, and Goya. One could spend days in this museum. Luckily, the Prado is free for students — always a nice incentive! After the museum our group met up to have dinner and drinks until midnight.
This is where the story begins…
In Madrid, we thought we were already pretty close to the bus station so waited until around 11pm to start walking there; however, we were wrong. None of us really had a true idea where the station was and our maps didn’t mark it. Basically, you had 11 Americans running around at midnight looking for a bus station that seemed to get further and further away each time we asked someone for directions. We finally split the cost of a taxi and made it to the bus about five minutes before departure — we got lucky.
The bus overnight was cheap for a reason. The seats never seemed to be comfortable; the temperature always seemed a bit too cold; and the Moroccan man sitting near us never seemed to get off his phone — who’s he talking to at 3am?? It was definitely an experience. It was really cool to observe all the different nationalities on the bus. You had the Americans, Spaniards, Moroccans, Germans, and so on and so forth. Anywhere you go in Europe you won’t be the only one of your nationality!
We arrived in Sevilla just after 6:30am to a dead bus station. It was dark, we had no map, and the information desk was closed — sweet. Luckily, we managed to find our hostel which wasn’t too far from the station and the receptionist was so nice that he let us go straight to our room. So we all crashed for another 2 hours in our 10 person room. Breakfast was included at this hostel (always a score) and the receptionist once again allowed us to eat that morning — in reality, we were only supposed to have once meal included which would’ve been Sunday morning. I cannot express how awesome this hostel was! The rooms were modern, clean, warm (once we figured out how to turn the heat on), and had an ensuite bathroom! Besides having the included breakfast, the hostel had free walking tours, bar/cafe, and rooftop terrace with a small pool which had an amazing happy hour. We were all very pleased with what we got for the price.
After breakfast, we all set out to explore Sevilla for the day. The city itself is much more modern looking than Toledo, and the city was clean overall. You can definitely tell that it has turned into a big tourist spot, though. The city feels like it belongs on the coast with all of the palm trees, and it’s sailing history, but instead it has a giant river that splits the city in two. Our first stop was seeing the famous Sevilla bull fighting ring…supposed to one of the best places to see bullfighting (toreo in Spanish). I would like to experience one bull fight while I’m still in Spain, but the season doesn’t start until late March. From there we ventured to the Cathedral of Sevilla, Catedral de Santa María de la Sede. This is one of the world’s finest display of gothic architecture and is considered to be the world’s largest gothic cathedral. The building is a great mixture of Christian and Muslim influences over the years. The cathedral is built over a 14th century mosque, but the current structure was completed in the early 16th century. The two highlights of the cathedral was the tomb of Christopher Columbus and the Giralda. The tomb of Christopher Columbus is controversial because there are 3 places in the world that claim to have his remains. However, forensic evidence has shown that his true remains are in Sevilla — try telling that to the Dominican Republic and Genoa, Italy. He is buried in Sevilla due to Spain’s impressive history of sailing and exploring the new world as well as Sevilla was the departure point for Columbus — sorry Italy, should’ve paid for his voyage. The other great thing about the cathedral was the Giralda (bell tower). The tower is the tallest structure in Sevilla which provided amazing views of the city. The actual structure is a great example of Muslim architecture with its unique arches and use of mosaics.
After the Cathedral, Ali and I ventured to El Real Alcazar and its royal gardens. This royal palace, built by the Muslims, was the palace for Queen Isabella when the Catholic Monarchs defeated the Muslims in Sevilla. The palace was absolutely stunning. Stunning mosaics, fountains, gardens, and Muslim architecture swirled around you as you walked between rooms, courtyards, ponds, and balconies. This palace was used as the treasury and boardroom of the Spanish empire overseas. Here is where all the great sailors met prior to venturing to the New World. Sailors such as Hernan Cortés, Francisco Pizarro, and Ponce de Leon would’ve have came to the royal Alcazar to receive a blessing from the Queen and pray in front of the statue of Mary still located in the original room. The palace was easily one of the coolest things I have ever seen in my life, but it only got better from there. Surrounding the palace complex are acres of royal gardens. The gardens were so big that it was easy to get lost in them. The best part about them was the hedge maze, just like in the movies — it was a big one too!
After getting my mind blown from the history of the Alcazar, Ali and I ventured South to the Plaza de España. The plaza is a great example of Spanish Renaissance architecture. Originally built in 1929 for the Ibero-American exposition, the Plaza de España represents all of the autonomous regions of Spain by displaying mosaics on its back walls. It’s the largest plaza I have ever seen and words cannot describe how awesome it is. We were pretty tired so we did what the locals were doing and slept on the warm mosaic benches for an hour to rest up. Interesting side note, Plaza de España was actually used in the filming of Star Wars Episode I as a backdrop for the Queen’s speech.
Sunday morning, we made our way to the Golden Tower. The Golden Tower is a pre-Renaissance tower located near the river. The purpose of the tower was to defend the Muslim city of Sevilla at the time of completion. After seeing the unique tower, Ali and I went to my favorite part of the whole trip, the Museo de los Indios (Museum of the Indies). Here is where the Spanish archive is kept pertaining to the Spanish empire in the New World. The building contains manuscripts, letters, royal correspondences, treaties, maps, and much more all about the Spanish empire. Even the Treaty of Tordesillas is housed in this building. Although you cannot see these documents without special permission, it was still awesome for me (as a Latin American Historian) to see. Furthermore, the museum used to be the original stock market of the world. Back in the 15, 16, and 17th centuries, the building where the archives are housed now was the site where sailors, explorers, and merchants went to recruit crews, sell exotic items, and to invest in voyages to the New World. Sevilla was the place to be in the early modern period.
After seeing the museum we all met up again to ride the bus back to Madrid, and then to Toledo. In total, the journey took about 8 hours to get back home, but it was worth it.
-Sevilla was freezing the weekend we went (February 3-5th). Europe has been experiencing a crazy cold front and even snow in areas that rarely receive snow. Needless to say, a dessert like climate, mixed with a lot wind and cooler temperatures, created a colder weekend. The pictures do not fit the temperature.
-I would love to return someday to experience their bullfighting and flamenco since Sevilla is known for all these things and more. It’s considered to be a very Spanish city.