Trip Start May 19, 2007
Trip End May 26, 2007

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Sevilla - Home of the Bullfight and Flamenco

Arrival in Sevilla (Seville) from Madrid came after a two and a half hour high speed train ride through the Spanish plains.  Spain's interior, including Madrid, rests at a high altitude and on our train ride we passed many mountains, valleys and flat plains.
After checking in to the Hotel Amadeus (yes - very Spanish isn't it!) we immediately headed out exploring.  I was very eager to get to our first destination, the bullring.


The Real Maestranza Bullring is one of the oldest bull fighting arenas in Spain.  We did not see an actual bullfight (most bullfights are only held on Sundays - adding new meaning to the phrase 'Bloody Sunday') so a tour was the next best thing.  The tour gave us the history of bullfighting in Sevilla and its place in Spanish culture followed by a trip to the arena.

Bullfighting is controversial in Spain as public opinion is split on keeping or disbanding it.  In spite of this, bullfighting is still very popular with sell-out crowds across Spain.  Our guide provided her personal view by noting that she used to attend but has not seen a fight since 1992, when during a fight, a matador was killed by a bull. 
Only three bullfighters in Sevilla's long bullfighting history have ever been killed.  In case you were wondering, the bull never survives the fight - as the bull is always killed by the matador.
Shortly after our guide pointed out the location of the bullring gate where the dead bull is dragged out, a loud scream echoed from my right.  Based on the decibel level of the scream, I expected to see a gored Matador wrapped around the horns of a charging bull.  Instead I turned in time to see a retired Danish tourist take a backwards plunge over the bleacher seats.  The gentleman was able to compose himself and shake off the dust, however it meant that no one would be carted from the bullring and that the Seville mortality count would remain at three.
On a related note, the guide told another story about one of the three bullfighters ever killed in Sevilla.  After the matador's death, a grief stricken friend went on a quest to find the mother of the bull that inflicted the lethal blow.  After finding this cow in a farmers field, he killed the animal so that no more of her offspring would take any fellow matadors.  The cow's head was then mounted and is currently on display in the bullfighting museum.
My lasting memory of the bullring was one of colour - from the yellow sandy arena floor and the blue sky - and tranquility in the empty arena.  It was hard to imagine that only two days prior, the yellow sand was tainted red and surrounded by roars of Ole.  
European and Moorish Architecture

Walking around Sevilla allowed us to marvel at the mix of Moorish and European architecture.  Sevilla has the largest gothic church in Europe but it is the Islamic architecture in its many plazas that were best.  Moorish architecture and design is typified by symbols because the depiction of images of people and animals are forbidden in Islam.  As a result, very detailed and intricate colourful, geometric patterns are prevalent on the walls, ceilings and floors of Sevilla's buildings. 
Turkish Baths
After a hard day of beating the Seville streets, we decided on some downtime at a Turkish bath near the hotel.  Turkish baths are designed so that you progress from a large pool of lukewarm water to a hot bath and finally into an ice cold bath.  Somehow this is supposed to make you feel better and invigorate the soul.  Well I made it from the lukewarm to hot bath.  The cold bath was a different matter as it felt like hypothermic shock as I dipped my ankle in the water.  This was enough for me to head back to the warmer water.  Well that did not defer Yvonne as she dove into the cold bath, not once, not twice but three time.  Brrrr!   I still get shivers thinking about it.
We spent a typical - or at least what we believed to be - Spanish evening in Sevilla. First, we headed to a nearby tapas bar. The tapas ordering experience was quite interesting as the Spanish only menu and the non 'ingles' speaking waiter presented an ordering challenge.  To get around this we employed a simple approach.  Yvonne took the menu and pointed to the first five tapas at the top of the menu.  What came was a fine selection of rather strong and well cured hams and cheese.   After eating some of our tapas with copious amounts of vino, we headed out to a flamenco show at 'Los Gallos' theatre.
Flamenco, is really an art style of song and dance that originated in Spain and the region south of Sevilla.   This version of Flamenco seemed to centre around the soulful, yet painful sounding, song being chanted by one or two singers with support from a fast fingered acoustic guitar player.   The star of the show were the senoritas decked out in colourful dresses moving around the stage in slow, precise movements that involved loud 'stomping' and the 'clackety clack' from their castanets.
Overall, Sevilla proved to be a culturally enriching and rewarding experience.  I would like to spend another couple days here but we have to move on to our next destination and the small town of Arcos de la Frontera.
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