Say “si” to sunshine om Sevilla

Nate Cairney
Kaiserslautern American

***image1***After trudging upward for 10 minutes through the cool stone corridors of Sevilla’s Cathedral bell tower, it occurred to me that perhaps humanity had actually regressed in the hundreds of years since the structure went up. The medieval Muslims who constructed this tower had, after all, installed ramps wide enough for a muezzin to ride his horse up to begin the distinctive call to prayer. Now, as a slightly winded modern tourist trying to dodge teenage tour group elbows, the idea of a horse seemed like distinct progress.

But emerging into the bright Spanish morning moments later, thoughts of the past were replaced by an appreciation for the present. Sevilla, in all its sun-soaked, blue-tiled, orange tree glory, stretched out like a shimmering metropolitan oasis below. To the right was Real Alcazar, a series of palaces that reflect Sevilla’s rich history.  In the old city immediately surrounding the cathedral, there were cobblestone streets, shadowy corridors and wide plazas. Beyond, there were the unmistakable signs of a 21st-century western city – cranes, towers, apartments and congested streets. 

The muezzin’s horse crossed my mind again. There was no time to waste, and I needed to start exploring.

The first order of business was sustenance, and the city does not disappoint on that count.  Sevilla is well-known for tapas bars, which serve bite-sized portions of local delicacies known as “tapas.”  My wife and I had heard that the local way to eat tapas was to move from bar to bar and sample different wares.

So we did, settling first at a wooden table outside the Bar Doña Elvira in a winding stone alley. Soups, seafood and tiny marinated chicken wings arrived on the table, and I washed the tasty food down with a glass of chilled Spanish wine known as manzanilla. We then moved 50 meters up the road to the cavernous Casa Roman, where hamhocks hung from the ceiling while spry black-tied waiters bounced across tile floors below.  They carted out plates of giant olives, aged cheese and delicious cured meat, and we wobbled out an hour later nearly full.

That night, we resumed the tapas theme, dining outside at a small place in clear view of the illuminated Cathedral tower and the rising moon directly across from it.  University students and well-dressed Spaniards ambled past, providing a continental air to a sublime evening.

The next day, we wandered through narrow cobblestone avenues en route to the walled palace complex known as Real Alcazar.  Home to centuries of Spanish opulence, Real Alcazar is a modern revelation.  Moorish baths, massive tiled rooms, koi ponds, exquisite Oriental relics and breathtaking artwork fill the interior.  Beyond the palaces lie forested gardens, which are populated by painters, statuary, hedge mazes, orange trees, uniformed school children and the strangely soothing cooing of a thousand unseen pigeons.

Resting later in the Sevilla Cathedral, reputed to be the final resting place of Christopher Columbus, I reflected on a remark my wife had made moments earlier. “This city  immediately agrees with me,” she had said while surveying Sevilla behind sunglasses.  On a wooden pew beneath an unbelievable four-story gold-plated altarpiece, tucked inside the third largest Christian building in the world, I had to agree.