Re­al­ity checks in Seville

You’re never far from his­tory in An­dalu­sia, but in­no­va­tive new walking tours take you even closer

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Destination Europe - MATTHEW HIRTES IN­DE­PEN­DENT TRAV­ELLER

LOOM­ING above my head are Las Se­tas de la En­car­na­cion. De­signed by fu­tur­ist Ger­man ar­chi­tect Jur­gen Mayer-Her­mann, th­ese gi­ant mush­rooms stand 26m tall. So far, so Sal­vador Dali.

Yet things are about to get even more sur­real. Five min­utes later, in Plaza San Fran­cisco, the year is sud­denly 1597 and I am be­ing ac­costed by a young man plead­ing on be­half of Miguel de Cer­vantes. Ap­par­ently, Spain’s cel­e­brated writer (1547-1616) is be­ing carted off to jail, ac­cused of em­bez­zling money in his po­si­tion as a tax col­lec­tor.

This is no or­di­nary walking tour. It’s an au­dio­vi­sual ad­ven­ture draw­ing on the lat­est video tech­nol­ogy. Those mush­rooms are a four-storey build­ing known as Metropol Para­sol, which opened to the pub­lic in 2011. It con­tains an arche­o­log­i­cal mu­seum, bars, eater­ies and a bal­cony with a breath­tak­ing view of the city cen­tre. It’s also where a com­pany called Past View has its head­quar­ters. And it is here that Past View staff co-or­di­na­tor Paco Mon­ago greeted me and handed me an iPhone, state-of-the-art video glasses and ear­phones.

The iPhone is a key com­po­nent of the Past View ex­pe­ri­ence. Along the walking route are var­i­ous Past View plaques. When you come across one, you are in­structed to turn on your iPhone and press the com­pass key. The GPS works out which land­mark you’re at. Then you lis­ten to an in­tro­duc­tion, watch a re-cre­ation of by­gone times and ex­pe­ri­ence ‘‘aug­mented re­al­ity’’.

This in­volves lin­ing up the iPhone with a par­tic­u­lar build­ing to re­veal how it once looked. (Mon­ago is con­ve­niently placed nearby to as­sist when what should be a rou­tine task gets too fid­dly for my un­skilled fin­gers.)

Af­ter re­turn­ing from 1597, I am in­tro­duced to Teresa Suarez, Past View’s ami­able com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager. She is keen to know if the glasses are com­fort­able, which they are. In fact, my only ir­ri­ta­tion re­lates to the trans­la­tion. Hav­ing lived in Spain for the past nine years, I can vouch for the au­then­tic pro­nun­ci­a­tion of any Span­ish words. But when the voiceover artist uses English ones, his ac­cent is no­tice­ably more Ir­ish than Ibe­rian.

Suarez says the tours have proved pop­u­lar with lo­cal school­child­ren. If I were a child, Past View would rep­re­sent the best his­tory les­son in the world. Suarez also re­veals that her com­pany soon will in­tro­duce the tours in places such as Barcelona, Gi­bral­tar and Luxor.

The next re-cre­ation on my tour takes place by the Al­cazar (royal palace) side of the cathe­dral, where I am taken to 1198, when the past in­deed was an­other coun­try.

I am now in al-An­dalus, the me­dieval state ruled by the Moroc­can Ber­ber-Mus­lim Al­mo­had dy­nasty. I am in the com­pany of ar­chi­tect Ali de Go­mara, who has just com­pleted the Gi­ralda, the bell tower that now takes pride of place in Seville Cathe­dral. It’s the time of the in­au­gu­ra­tion and de Go­mara is keen to share his project with the world. Ev­ery­thing about this video is dif­fer­ent from the first — the epoch, the ar­chi­tec­ture, the clothes. Well, not quite ev­ery­thing. There is still that Ir­ish brogue.

What makes Seville ideal for a walking tour of this kind is that its cen­tre is pedes­tri­anised. There’s very lit­tle traf­fic noise. And you can al­ways pump up the vol­ume to drown out any dis­trac­tions. With so many in­ter­est­ing build­ings to choose from, Past View plans to add more re-creations and take in other his­tor­i­cal pe­ri­ods.

My fi­nal blast into the past takes place on the banks of the Guadalquivir River. It’s a re­turn to Spain’s golden age and, ap­pro­pri­ately enough, the Torre del Oro (Gold Tower) pro­vides the back­drop to the drama. My vir­tual com­pan­ion this time is an ap­pren­tice of the great baroque artist Bar­tolome Este­ban Murillo. The year is 1658, just af­ter Murillo has re­turned from Madrid, where he fell un­der the in­flu­ence of Ve­lazquez, and I learn about Puerto de Sevilla, Spain’s only river port. When the video fin­ishes, I re­luc­tantly re­turn my time-trav­el­ling equip­ment to Mon­ago and head back to the fu­ture.

above A Past View tour of Seville re­veals lay­ers of the city’s his­tory be­low An ‘aug­mented re­al­ity’ ex­pe­ri­ence

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.