Seville – Is all year round
John Newton finds plenty in the joyous city
Andalucia - birthplace of Picasso - is one of the most beautiful corners of Europe and it is – as yet – still largely undiscovered by the majority. Home of the flamenco and cradle of the gypsy life, it’s a place full of colour, romance, music and dancing, of plucked guitar strings and the snapping of fingers and clicking castanets, but most of all it’s a place of passion, culture and history.
And all this abounds in the orange-tree lined streets of Seville – the Andalucian capital - where an old tobacco processing factory – now a university – inspired the story of Carmen.
Surrounded by more monuments per capita than any other city in Spain, the locals of Seville live every moment as if it were their last. Along the cobbled streets of the old city, the busy tapas bars are full of merriment with some offering a free tasting plate, like assorted goat cheese covered in high quality olive oil – or a bowl of olives - when you buy a beer. And in one particular bar in Plaza Del Salvador a beer costs just one euro.
As Spain’s fourth largest city, Seville has plenty to offer all year round and is one of the largest historical centres in Europe. The 25 bells that ring loud and clear from the Giralda, at 97 metres, once the largest tower in the world, can be heard more than a kilometre away. It presides over the cathedral, the third largest in the world, after St Peter’s in the Vatican and St Paul’s in London.
The world’s largest Gothic cathedral, it was built over the foundations of a mosque following the conquest of Seville in 1248 by Fernando 111 the Saint. Highlights include the Gothic- Renaissance altarpiece of 49 religious wood-carved panels covered in golf leaf which took 80 years to complete; the tomb of Christopher Columbus; and the mighty 30 metre high organ.
Close by is El Alcazar, or Royal Palace, is a World Heritage site, with its historic background and the spectacular beauty of its buildings and gardens making it one of the most striking and seductive of Spanish monuments.
For all its important monuments and fascinating history, Seville is universally a joyous city, with Semana Santa (Easter Week) the biggest event on Seville’s busy calendar. The historic city centre is brought to a standstill when more than one million people rub shoulder to shoulder to watch the passing parade.
The eight-day event - from Palm Sunday to East Sunday – commemorates Christ’s last week on earth and features 70,000 people representing more than 50 brotherhoods in processions of penitence through the streets, from their local church to the Cathedral of Seville and back.
The sights come thick and fast in Seville, which dates back more than 2000 years, showing evidence of its Roman days and Moorish (Arab) conquest in its extremely well-preserved centre.
My three days there were not enough.