10 Spanish Days, 12 Photographs (part 2)

January 27, 2010

I wrote the first part of my 3-part Spain update yesterday, but since I am going to be very busy and have many things to write about in the next few weeks, and since it’s been so long, I am doing the 3 parts in 3 days. I left you all with eels on toast in Madrid, so this entry will start with something a little bit less wriggly!

Caroline and I in front of the Royal Palace in Madrid

The enormous building behind us in the photograph is of course a palace. I have to admit, that while I am proud of America’s history of democracy in every way, the art historian in me sometimes wishes we had things like this at home! The enormous palace was just beautiful. I’ll explain more about this later, but the Spanish make even the French look conservative when it comes to gold and jewels. The rooms were lavish on a scale that I found incredible; I doubt that I will ever again find myself in a room with porcelain walls! However while the Spanish have beautiful treasures, they are very stingy with them! The interior of the palace and the priceless paintings of the Prado museum are all verboten when it comes to photographs. Which is a shame, because you can take pictures inside of Versailles and the Louvre…but c’est la vie. It is interesting to visit palaces because the rooms and decor changed over time (as with any house) but rooms are restored to different periods, so it’s like seeing the same house with rooms left how they were under certain owners. But this is a palace, so the renovations are just a little more extravagant! Madrid was beautiful, and we counted it as the most “cultural” part of the trip, since we spent most of our time in historical or “cultured” places. It was wonderful, but when we left for Seville we were ready to make new friends and relax a little!

The British Invasion

Our arrival at our adorable hostel in Seville was met with sunshine and weather that was coat optional. It was gorgeous! Seville is much smaller than Madrid and Barcelona, but I found it to be historically the most interesting. The buildings are old and beautiful, and the city feels much less modern, but it was so much fun!!! We met a group of British boys and soon had the new friends we’d been looking for! I was especially happy because our new friend Ben looked exactly like an updated member of the early Beatles! I saw he and Caroline talking outside (in their cool leather jackets) and tried to take a picture, but they caught me and tried to pose! I insisted that they “look natural” and got a strangely in-between picture that I still adore. Particularly because they are almost mirroring each other! We all danced and laughed the night away, and agreed to meet at breakfast the next morning. Caroline and I went to bed happy that we’d once again managed to meet amazing people by chance. It improves your faith in humanity, and and makes you feel really lucky. I’m hoping to visit them in London next semester!

12 down, 88 to go!

Caroline asked her friend Danielle, a Sweet Briar student who spent last semester in Seville, what we should do during our time there. One of her “don’t miss it” suggestions was “100 Montiditos”, a restuarant and take-out place famous for their 100 types of tiny sandwiches! They were absolutely amazing! We brought our British friends to the park where we shared a box (with superb homemade potato chips) and decided that we couldn’t pick a favorite! Chorizo and brie, chicken and ali-oli, tomato and cheese…did I mention that they are served warm on delicious white or whole grain bread? Caroline and I liked them so much that we did the exact same thing the next day-even though it was only the two of us!

El Dorado-now I know why they tried so hard to find it

My camera couldn’t fit it all in the shot, but this is the majority of what I believe is the world’s largest altar (the back piece that is). Seville is proud to have the largest gothic church (by volume) in the world, and their cathedral also happens to be the official burial place of Christopher Columbus (beware impostors!-though even Seville only has his partial remains).  In case you can’t tell, the altar piece is covered in gold and intricate depictions of Christ’s life. I couldn’t get closer because of a gate, but even so I was in awe of the incredible wealth on display. The altar was only part of it-the treasure room containing chalices, reliquaries (the Spanish royalty were notorious for collecting relics, I saw a gold cross containing a supposed thorn from Jesus’ own crucifixion) and the most beautiful golden crown dripping diamonds and precious stones meant to adorn the head of a statue of the Virgin on certain holy days. These objects are now only admired for their extravagant beauty, since using objects that ornate is no longer the norm, but actually seeing these things and the names and stories behind who created and donated them really showed just how compelling faith and the power of the Church could be when combined. A power that both massacred the country’s Jews and Muslims and created objects showing extraordinary love, all at the same time.

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