Seville a tough mis­tress to leave

South Burnett Times - - ESCAPE - JOHN HENNINGHAM More at vis­i­ta­sevilla.es and es­cape.com.au

SEVILLE is sexy and vi­brant, hot and al­lur­ing. A city steeped in blood and gold, with a past both glo­ri­ous and ghostly.

For cen­turies, Mus­lims and Chris­tians slaugh­tered each other un­til the Moors were driven out by Span­ish kings, their palaces and mosques ap­pro­pri­ated or de­stroyed.

Blood­shed re­curred in cy­cles. The In­qui­si­tion brought death by fire to count­less Jews and heretics. War was waged with the Por­tuguese, the French un­der Napoleon and most hor­ri­bly, them­selves, when Spaniard fought Spaniard in the civil war of the 1930s – over­seas arms were bought with his­toric gold re­serves. Franco’s army won a de­ci­sive early vic­tory in Seville, a death war­rant for thou­sands of repub­li­can sym­pa­this­ers.

And the blood of bulls and some­times tore­adors is still spilt at the huge 18th-cen­tury bull­ring. Af­ter Colum­bus dis­cov­ered the Amer­i­cas in 1492, Seville be­came the hub of voy­ages of trade and ex­ploita­tion. Al­though 80km from sea, it is on Spain’s main river, the Guadalquivir, now spanned by el­e­gant bridges. The river’s 12sided Tower of Gold once an­chored a chain to the other side to con­trol the pas­sage of ships bear­ing Inca and Aztec gold.

Just in from the river is Plaza de Es­pana, as splen­did as when built for the 1929 World Ex­po­si­tion. Fea­tured in Lawrence of

Ara­bia and Star Wars, it has dozens of al­coves tiled to rep­re­sent the coun­try’s re­gions – pop­u­lar photo back­drops for tourists.

Horse-drawn car­riages clat­ter on cob­ble­stones by the ad­ja­cent Maria Luisa Park’s sump­tu­ous gar­dens.

Seville’s stun­ning cathe­dral cov­ers more than a hectare. With gilt chapels and al­tars in all di­rec­tions, stat­ues and paint­ings (Goya, Murillo), nooks and up­per gal­leries, the Gothic ed­i­fice’s pride is a ma­jes­tic al­tar­piece de­pict­ing dozens of 3D bi­ble scenes – it took Flem­ish crafts­man Pierre Dan­cart 44 years to carve.

Tourists in Europe get used to the or­nate tombs and sar­cophagi of kings and bish­ops, but Colum­bus is in a league of his own – an air­borne cof­fin, held aloft by stat­ues of four crowned war­rior kings.

Within a court­yard is an or- chard – Seville or­anges of course – that has pro­duced juicy crops for cen­turies. There was once a mosque here, earth­quake-dam­aged and torn down in the 15th cen­tury. For­tu­nately its minaret was pre­served – now a gi­gan­tic bell­tower, the Gi­ralda can be climbed via a cir­cling in­ter­nal ramp to fab­u­lous city views.

Nearby is the mag­nif­i­cent Real Al­cazar or royal palace, which started as a Mus­lim fort more than 1000 years ago and un­der­went sev­eral cen­turies of renos. Its orig­i­nal sul­tan oc­cu­pants were sent pack­ing when Castil­ian king Fer­nando III con­quered Seville in the 13th cen­tury.

Va­ri­ety is cen­tral to Seville’s ap­peal, with grand and beau­ti­fully de­signed open spa­ces ad­join­ing cramped me­dieval quar­ters. But just within many homes, vis­i­ble be­hind wrought-iron gates, are beau­ti­ful tiled porches dis­play­ing cool-in­duc­ing pot plants. Bougainvil­lea and sea­sonal flow­ers are trained up out­side walls.

Not far away is a gi­gan­tic white bul­bous struc­ture, the Metropol Para­sol – a sun­shade erected some­what con­tro­ver­sially a few years ago over an old mar­ket square and said to be the big­gest wooden build­ing in the world. Its pop­u­lar name is Las Se­tas – mush­rooms.

Lovers of fla­menco can en­joy the spec­ta­cle of gor­geously at­tired dancers at tablaos large and small, ham­mer­ing the floor­boards to en­er­getic gui­tar-driven mu­sic and soul-stir­ring song that makes Seville very hard to leave.

Pho­tos: iS­tock

CITY OF CON­TRASTS: Fla­menco dancers give it their best (main); one of the best views of the city is from the top of the Space Metropol Para­sol (bot­tom left); when it comes to grand houses of wor­ship, Seville does not dis­ap­point (bot­tom right).

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