Spain and Stuff

Various adventurings and anecdotes from my time on the Iberian Peninsula.

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The Metropol Parasol is the largest wooden structure in the world.
It is located in La Encarnación square, in the old quarter of Seville, Spain. 

I honestly never knew that. Makes it that much cooler I guess :)
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Paseo de Cristobal Colon@Sevilla, Spain

A very familiar street. So many memories.
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Tile Pattern, Seville

Has anyone ever mentioned to you all that Sevillian tile is amazingly beautiful? I believe this pattern was in the entryway to the Alcazar. It was definitely one of my favorite things about the city, which I now miss like crazy.
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Inside Real Alcazar in Seville, Spain.

Gorgeous photo of the inside of the Alcazar

On Winter, Kind of.

So I hear it’s winter in New York State. 

I suppose it is here too, but for some reason palm trees and winter do not compute in my mind. I really am a New Yorker. Yes, it is definitely colder, but the coldest it gets is to maybe the low-50s Fahrenheit. For the locals, that’s cold - my host mother walks around the house in a heavy fleece bathrobe and always cringes when she sees me without a sweatshirt. One night when she came home, she stopped by my door to say hello, noticed that I was wearing a t-shirt and exclaimed that I was going to die of cold before throwing her hands up in frustration and walking away. 

I’ve explained to her how cold it gets at home, and that this weather is basically the equivalent of spring for me, but she still is convinced I’m going to freeze to death on my way to the university. At least she cares I suppose. 

In other news, Seville is decked out for christmas. Over where I live, there is pretty much nothing (I guess nobody really wants to decorate the office buildings), but once you get to the university, or even continue on to the area by the Cathedral there are SO MANY LIGHTS. It’s gorgeous, but I couldn’t help but noticing that they rarely use colored lights.  Every building, orange tree, and even the huge christmas tree outside of the City Hall are all covered in blue lights. Unless it is a preformed shape design (which is what a lot of it is, they hang about every 15 feet above all of the streets by the Cathedral and on every street light by the University), it’s blue. There is probably a reason for that, but I have no idea what it might be. If I figure it out, I’ll update. 

For now, I am going to get a little work done before I get to sleep, because tomorrow is a Spanish holiday, and I have no idea what to expect. Also, below is a photo of the lights over by the Cathedral. Enjoy the view.


On Amazing Architecture

Southern Spain is full of it. Every city I have been to during my time here is known for some building that was built by the Moors when they were in power. Later on, it was inevitably taken over by the Christian Kings of course…but at least they didn’t destroy it.   Sure, they did build a cathedral right in the center of the Mosque in Córdoba, but overall they didn’t really touch any of the architecture; they just moved in.

A great example lies right in the center of Seville; after Ferdinand and Isabella succeed in conquering all of the Moors in Spain more or less (there was at least one surrender I know of, but that’s another story), they moved into the castle built by the former ruler of Seville, making it the capital of the “new Spain”.  But enough with the history lesson, the point I was getting to was that the castle was designed Moorish architects, and it is amazing. Almost every way is covered in tile in some geometric pattern, there are arches everywhere, the colors are rich … and did I mention that I walk by this almost every day? Slightly adjacent to the Alcazar is the Cathedral, which is now the third largest Cathedral in the world (I think the first two are in Italy), but was also, you can probably guess it, a Mosque. This time they did redo the building, to the point that after being inside of the building several times, I never would have guessed until one of my professors mentioned it. There is another Cathedral in a city not far from Seville where the history is much more obvious however. La Mezquita in Córdoba is by far my favorite thing I have seen while here, including the Alhambra in Granada (though the Alhambra is nothing to scoff at; every inch of the main Alcazar is covered in hand-made carvings, not to mention the tile). The arches seem to go on forever, and they all surround the Cathedral that was built in the center.

Basically, I love the style, the colors, and basically everything about the architecture here, and this post is sure to be followed by an exorbitant amount of photos.


On Directional Sense (Or Lack There of)

The other night when my friends and I went out, we went to a place we had never been to before. On our way home, we were being led by another person who claimed to know the way back. One of the others was dubious, until we entered a neighborhood that I had been in before and I said that I knew where we were and could get home from there. At that point, my dubious friend relaxed, and stated that if I knew where we were, she wasn’t worried, because I had never gotten us lost before. After I laughed at that and we continued to walk, I reflected back on my first full day in Sevilla and the reason why I don’t ever get lost anymore. Really it is quite an amusing story, so I thought I may as well share it. 

On our first full day in Spain, we headed to the University for Orientation like stuff, Our host mothers walked with us that morning, showing us the way. Unfortunately, I was still suffering from shock from trying to understand the Andalusian accent, so I put much more attention into trying to understand what she was saying than where we were going - problem number one. Eventually we reached the University, did the orientation stuff for that day, and then proceeding to tour some of the main attractions of the city until lunch time, when we were released to return home for lunch. Thus began the odyssey. 

On the way back from the university, I got a bit lost. How, I have no idea - it’s a straight route. Yet somehow I ended up somewhere where nothing looked familiar. So I stopped at the corner and pulled out my map, searching for the street that I was on. Being unable to find it, I moved on to another street I could see ahead, and with no small amount of relief, I noticed that, according to my interpretation of the map, I was actually on the correct path. Excellent. So I continued on my way. 

Several blocks later, I was absolutely certain that I was not where I supposed to be (If you will, refer to the aforementioned “interpretation of the map”). I pulled out the map a second time and once again scanned it for familiar street names. Only then did I find the street I had been looking for earlier, in large print for a main road, which ran parallel to the road I was supposed to be on. Fantastic, I thought, I just have to veer to the left and the next main road I come out onto should be the one I need. 

Yeah. That didn’t work out so well. After following the logic for a reasonable distance and yielding no results, I decided it was time to resort to asking directions. So when I encountered a man smoking outside of a restaurant, I attempted to ask him how to get to where I needed to be with a lot of pointing to the map. When that didn’t seem to work, I asked (or I should say attempted - let’s remember that this was my second day in Spain) him where we were on the map. Really I thought I said that right, but apparently not because in response he gave me a puzzled look and pointed very close to where I had just been gesturing that I needed to go. Of course, being desperate by this point, I assumed that he was indicating that I was about two blocks away from my destination. Wrong again.

After another several blocks worth of walking with no improvement in my situation, I was beginning to feel really desperate. So when I ran across a construction crew breaking for lunch in front of their site I figured Why not? So I approached them and asked if they could possibly show me where we were on my map. In response most of them laughed and several muttered "Ella es Americana", but one of them, and if I ever see him again I have no idea how I would ever be able to thank him, studied the map for a moment and pointed to a section of the city that was about as far from home as I could have possibly gotten before crossing the river. 

In response, I tried not to look too panicked and told him that I need to get to ‘here’ (Again, more pointing. Crude, but it got the job done pretty well.) He looked at it and then asked me if I was looking for the Viapol building. Thankfully, my host mother had pointed out the large red building with the neon sign above it which read “edificio Viapol”, and told me (at least I think she told me) that if I were ever to get lost I should ask for directions to that building.

                                Edificio Viapol - my best bet for a landmark on my way home

Funny how you don’t remember these things until after the fact sometimes. I told him yes, badly containing my excitement that I may actually end up home sometime within the next hour, and he proceeded to give me directions to building about two blocks from the apartment building that I lived in. Thus, after a few more landmarks I had happened to notice on my way out that morning and walking by my apartment building twice because I didn’t recognize it, I finally made it home. And it only took me 2 hours. For reference, on a typical day now, it takes me about 25 minutes to walk to and from the University. 

My friend announcing that I had a good sense of directions made me think of this, because excluding this incident, it is true. But it is true because of this incident. Not only did I see a decent amount of the city during my wanderings, but once I finally got home I was so determined to not go through that again that I studied my map to familiarized myself with the general layout of the city. In reality, that didn’t really do too much tough, because the majority of the roads here are made up of twisted one lane roads that create that labyrinths between buildings. It also made me pay much more attention to the landmarks around me, which helps immensely. I suppose I have a wrong turn, a polite construction worker, and the Viapol building to thank for that.


On Befuddling Architecture and the Like

The University of Seville will never cease to amaze me. At least not for a few more weeks. Until then, I will continue to marvel whenever I actually manage to find the staircase I am looking for the first time. 

When we first started classes at the university last week, I was amazed by how often and how thoroughly I got lost. I never found the classroom I needed right away. For the first few days, that included room 112 which three of my classes - in a row - were held. I joked that they didn’t want the foreigners to wander off and get lost in the depths of the university. I think I may have actually been right about that. 

You see, this building - because all classes are held on this one particular campus, which only hold ones building - somehow manages to be more confusing then my first days at Wells, where you have a choice between seven different buildings where you class may be being held. Here in Spain, there is only one building, and I have been more lost here nearly everyday than I have ever been at Wells.

(Well, actually no I suppose, I got lost much worse the first time I tried to use the first floor of the library, but that is a completely different matter - the Wells library is the exception to everything)

So the other day when I was in class and we were discussing the history of the university, specifically our campus, and the professor pulled up this picture, it made a lot more sense;

Aerial view of the University

Basically, you are always walking in circles because you are walking around all of the courtyards. And the fact that nearly everything is somewhat symmetrical doesn’t help much, because you could be on the complete opposite side of the building and not realize it for quite some time because things look alike. 

Another thing that confuses me, although this has to more with the law of physics, is how can you have a classroom up two flights of steps on the second floor of a two-story building? I have yet to figure that one out, but it is somehow possible. 

Fun fact for all of you who didn’t already know: this building is the old tobacco factory in which Carmen took place. Which is cool and all, but it brings in quite a few tourists who more often than not do not seem to realize that it is an actual functioning university. They just kind of wander around with their cameras and take pictures and block doorways. It is a really good thing they don’t really put to much emphasis on being on time for class. Fifteen minutes late is perfectly acceptable. In most cases, the professor doesn’t even show up until then. 

So that is what I have to say for now, and I will update again with more photos and posts after I finish up other things I need to do.