Seville

Seville, in Spanish Sevilla is my last destination before I am going home to Sweden. I have another 3 days off in a row – from 2nd to 4th Dec 2017. By using the night buses on 1st Dec 2017 resp. 4th Dec 2017 I have full 3 days to spend in this town, which was already on my list in May 2015. Unfortunately that time I could only change bus here.

Friday, 1st December 2017

After entering a bus, which should have been an Alsa one, but was from a Portuguese company, the first part of the ride was not making me feeling happy. The bus drivers did not speak English either. Where the bus was going from, there was a little in-house waiting area. I thought, there was a bathroom, too. When I had left my luggage in the bus, I tried to go to the bathroom, I could not find one. Though I asked at the counter and have been told, that there are only downstairs. It was not time enough left, of course, to look for them. Furthermore there was a seat number printed on my ticket, though I tried to take that seat. The drivers where screaming “no, no”, when I tried to move the bag in my leg room. Still thinking it was the seat I had to take, I was waiting on the side of it for the clearance. Finally the cash assistant came and explained to me, that it was the second driver’s bag and had to be there, because he had to sleep while the first driver is doing his work, but the second driver used the two seats in front of this. The first two rows of the other row was occupied of the first drivers belongings. The assistant also told me, that it is free to choose seats on the route for Seville. I found a seat in the back and was happy, that I don’t throw up, when not seeing the road.

I made it for ca 90 minutes, before I really had to go to the bathroom. I had tried twice before to go there, so had another traveller, but the door was locked, even nobody had been going there. When it got critical for me, I told the driver, that I need a bathroom. The driver got angry and told me something I did not understand. It sounded like “chaise”. The other driver told me “five minutes”, but five minutes were gone and another five as well and the driver did not stop at the upcoming parking space either. Though I was going one more time to the front of the bus and a similar situation occurred. The first driver “chaise”, but the second driver was listening to me. I tried it in (bad) Spanish: “Abrir toalett en autobus”. I actually got the key. I am sure, you cannot imagine, what I saw, when I opened the bathroom. I have never seen similar before. The toilet was half full with pee, there was no paper, no water to wash my hands and it was dirt in the washing basin, but the pee was worst, of course. Though I tried to hold me high up upon the toilet and peed, but locked the door after me again. Ten minutes later the driver drove off the motorway for a rest, where also a coffee shop was. I stayed in the bus, took my cover, which I had taken with me from my bed, over my head and soon fell asleep. There had not been any announcement when we started about anything.

Saturday, 2nd December 2017

I slept until 3:30 in the morning and did not hear if there was another stop. It must have been one, because the toilet was open and people using it, so did I then and there was no pee anymore in it. Around 5 o’clock we arrived in Seville – at the first bus station. The bus driver only announced Sevilla, though all we foreigners left the bus and took our luggage. A nice girl asked me, if I knew, that there is another bus stop and I asked her, if it was closer to the city, which she and another woman – that one in my age, told me that it was. I put my luggage into the bus again and left at the next stop, which was the one I had booked for and awaited and I know from my travel in May 2015. It was really cold outside, the doors of the bus stop were all open and only the bathroom was a little warmer. By the way at that time of the day no many were using it and it was really clean and pleasant. I took some photos of the wall paintings, it was a very good time to get photos without people on it. Because of the cold I did walk to the city, which is close by. I walked the main street for a while in one direction and then back again, took another interesting looking street and came to the famous cathedral. All the time I was looking for a coffee shop. The only open restaurant on the main street was a kebab place, but there was no warmth in there, though I continued on my way.

When I was in the area of the cathedral it was some minutes past 7am. There were still no coffee shops open, but in two of them people were preparing to open. The one was a Starbucks, the other one a Spanish. The Starbucks has the opening hours on the door. It is from 7:30am, the other one has not, though I asked the employee, smoking in front of it: “¿Cuando abrir?” and she answered “ocho, eight”. Her “ocho” was clear, though the “eight” would not have been necessary 😉. Anyway, the Starbucks now had opened it’s doors and I was walking over there. Bought a coffee Americano grande (which is medium size), an egg sandwich and a chocolate muffin. I was so frozen, that I also bought that muffin to pamper myself. I took a seat in a sofa back in the corner as far away from the open door as possible and enjoyed the breakfast. Meanwhile I recognised, that there only were solo men, no solo women, but me and people, who was in company. I had warmed up when leaving the coffee shop and was on my way to the hostel. I knew, I could not check in yet, but would like to leave my luggage, because for the weather I had fortunately taken with me more clothes and I also had my cover, wearing it in a big IKEA plastic bag. It is not heavy, of course, just big.

I had already been in front of that door once, though I found it easily again. I can tell you, that this hostel, its name is Samay, surprised me to the positive. From the outside it is nothing special, but it is the inside that counts, you know as well. This hostel has not only excellent kind and nice staff, but is clean and spacious. I really can recommend this hostel and it was, if I remember right, the cheapest one on booking.com (28,80 € for two nights excl. breakfast, but a sweet breakfast can be bought for 2,50 €).

Here the whole story of my first personal contact with the hostel. I had to ring the bell to come into the hostel. Everyone has to, even when checked in. There is 24/7 hours service and security. The owner, Paolo, was welcoming me. He manages the hostel together with his family. His English is excellent and the hostel is very well organised. I told him my name, that I had booked a bed by booking.com and asked, if I could leave my luggage until check in. I was allowed and he asked me for my name, which is not unusual because I am not a Mary or Ann etc. Than he told me, if he could get my passport, he could already check me in, even I could not enter the room before 2pm. As a result of the check in I have got a kind of business card, with my name, room no etc on the back, on the front there was a picture as well as the details of the hostel. In addition to that I have got a key card for the room. Paolo told me, that I have to show that “business card” everytime I am coming in, when he is not behind the desk, though the receptionist in charge know, that I am one of the guests. In good mood I left the hostel again with a free map and an explanation of the surroundings by Paolo, after an additional warm up in the lounge for around half an hour.

I was going to the Plaza de España, continuing to the Parque de Maria Luísa and spent a lot of time at both of them, even enjoying a flamenco street dancer. I was even to the Golden Tower. The attractions are signed very well in Sevilla. Soon I was back in the Old Town. There was a woman in my age, singing for some cash. I gave her 1 € and made her happy. I hope, I will never come in such a situation, not only because of, that I neither can sing nor play an instrument. While walking around and taking photos a band did appear with drums and trumpets. I followed them for a short while, but on the sideway even looking at the menus of the restaurants. Going back to the restaurants there were more bands coming, all dressed differently. The nicest outfit for my opinion was the one with the purple bands around the middle of their bodies and the girls had similar in their hair. Unfortunately my tablet run out of battery just before the first band arrived.

The bands played all different pieces of music, but with long drum parts. Most of them I saw from the Tapas restaurant I warmed up in and had a meal. I am still looking for the kind of tapas I had in an authentic Spanish restaurant in Hamburg, Germany as well together with my godmother and her husband in a Basque restaurant in Marbella, Spain. I think I have to go to that Northern Spanish area to get some more. First I asked at the restaurant for the offer of five tapas for 9,90 EUR. The waitress told me, that some of them are made of fish or seafood, though I asked if I could get five without seafood, but I had to take a la carte. Before I ordered, I asked the waitress how big the tapas are, remembering the huge one I have had in Granada. The waitress told me, that three will be enough for me, though I chose spinach with chick peas, pork in wine sauce and lamb. I liked the spinach with the chick peas very much, also one of the meat dishes were good, but the other one (I think it was the pork) was mostly fat. I also already felt full at that stage. I had a beer with it, hoping the alcohol will give me some warmth, but the beer was too cold. Actually I paid by card, asking the waiter to make it 17 € instead of 15.30 €, but he denied to get the tip by card. Though I left 1 € in cash. He was happy anyway. It seemed, they are not used to it.

Finally outside again the sun was warming and I could take off my hat, scarf and clothes. I found my way back to the hostel, where I took a nap meanwhile I charged my tablet. Afterwards I was down to the kitchen for my evening meal and using the wi-fi to write my blog.

Sunday, 3rd December 2017

It is my second day here. After a shower I bought a breakfast ticket and filled my stomach. The coffee was good. Before dressing for outside I fortunately checked the temperature. It was only +7°C around 10am here in Seville, though I dressed like the day before with double sweaters. By the way I checked the temperature for Stockholm, too. There it was +5°C. Not much colder than here. I went back to the cathedral using winding lanes. Nearly behind every corner was another surprise. Sometimes there were tiles, on one street corner of a street called Calle de la Cruzes (street of the crosses), there were two wooden crosses in the wooden wall of a house.

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For a while I followed a crowd, because it looked like they were on their way to the cathedral. Finally in the cathedral the crowd was gone. I could visit the main cathedral for free, instead I gave a beggar on the stairs with a sign that he has cerebral pares as well as a tumor in his spine a 5-€-note. I was thinking about, that it might not be true, but anyway I made him happy. While on my way out of the cathedral, hoping not to fall over the high door frame I had to force, there was a company with a person ringing the doorbell from the outside. I won’t be in their way and was waiting, that a church servant would come and let them in. A security man came and opened up the entire door, which was also my choice to leave easily.

I was walking around the church looking for the door for cultural visits, but it was closed. A little further was one more open door to enter the service. Inside one could only enter the service by forcing the security. I did not care and did not ask, if I was allowed in. In front of the door was another beggar. A quite young one, maybe in his 30s. He had a sign, that he only want have money for food. He got 50 cent of me, because I only had a 10-€-note and the 50 cent, he became happy anyway. If my Spanish would be better I would have invited him for a meal. Don’t think I give away money all the time, I don’t make it often, but sometimes I think I am a lucky one, who has pension and a job. I know I have to care about my money to live my dream, but I hope my heart will not become a stone.

Close to the cathedral there is an Alcazar. I write an, because there is also one in Toledo and maybe also other places in Spain. There was a long queue for people, who had not bought a ticket in advance, though I thought I will see it the next day, if it is open and buy the ticket by the Internet. I continued to the famous bullring instead, but visited a tourist information, asking for a shopping centre. I would like to buy a pair of warm underpants, because I only have one pair with me, expecting warmer weather in Seville. In the tourist information centre I have been told, that no shopping centre and no supermarket is open on Sundays. I was asking for a flamenco show. She recommended the Tablao El Arenal and asked me, if I will book with or without tapas dinner. When I had read the menu, I asked her, if it is possible to get other tapas instead for the two of fish and seafood. Though the assistant called and got a yes. She also wrote on my receipt, that I have an allergy against it, but in Spanish.

Finally at the bullring I bought a ticket for people 65+. It was for 5 €, the ordinary was for 8 €. We had to wait for 15 minutes for the next guided tour, one had just left. We also have got an audio guide, available in Spanish, English, Italian, French and German. I chose the English one as usual. There were three rooms before we came to the bullring itself. The first one had related paintings, also some by Goja. The next rooms were a museum with clothes and more. Before leaving the house for the bullring, we also could see the altar, where every bullfighter, later matador, was kneeling before he was facing the bull. By the way, the bulls all grow up at the countryside in Spain, walking free on greens. In the age of four, they are taken to the bullfights. If one of them will not die during the fight, he is brought back to the countryside. He never has to fight again. There are many more interesting facts. I was visiting the bullring because it is a part of the Spanish culture and not for I like bullfighting. I do not!

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Inside the Bullring

Because of the cold, I tried to make my way back to the hostel, but I had not eaten anything since breakfast and it was already around 3pm. I was looking for churros, but did not find the place anymore, I had seen on my way to the cathedral. At the end I entered a cafeteria and chose a cake. The name was Wilhoja(?) de Baño. It was double the size I thought it was, because it was in two layers. It was made of whipped egg whites, still soft with a kind of Vienna dough on the top, bottom and in between – but very hard. It was really a new cultural experience. I had a cup of coffee with it. The cake was for 2 €, the (small, as it is usual here) coffee for 1.50 €. I did walk too far on my way back to the hostel, though my legs were tired, when I well was there. I did lay down a couple of hours, before going to the flamenco show. Meanwhile I took the rest, I was disturbed twice, but it did not bother me. It was a guy, working at the hostel. He always knocked the door and apologised. The first time he checked if the window is closed. He was checking all rooms, because they want to start the AC with warmth. The second time he brought a bath mat. Furthermore I had a chat with an Australian girl, travelling Spain.

I was up again at 6:30pm. I had to be at the restaurant almost 7:20pm and won’t be late. I made it in good time, told the waiter by the view words I can in Spanish: “Soy una persona allergica” (I am an allergic person) and left my ticket. I was seated next to the scene. Unfortunately it was not allowed to take pictures and not possible either, because I tried once. The light settings made it impossible. I can tell you, that it was as origin as it can be in a show for tourists and the tapas was working, too (no seafood, but an extra potato tapas and an other one was bigger than usual). It was the whole family engaged in this business again. Parents, sons, daughters respectively sons in law and daughters in law. There was a free drink, too. I chose a red wine and got a big glass halfway filled with wine. I could not drink it all and also had to ask for water, which I have got for free, too. To remember that evening I took a couple of pictures from the outside of the restaurant, where the show has been and walked all the way back to the hostel. This time I did not walk too long and my legs and feet were not so tired, when I finally reached the hostel. I had a good sleep that night.

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For more information about the Tablao El Arenal follow the link.

Monday, 4th December 2017

I started with taking some more Euros out of a nearby ATM, because I had run out of cash. I try now to have as little Euros as possible, because I can neither use them in Sweden nor in Mexico. I bought a breakfast again at the hostel, packed and checked out, but left my luggage there. When asking for how long I may leave my luggage, I was told that it is OK until midnight. While talking about the time for my bus (at 11:30pm) Paolo told me, that I am welcome to use the lounge in the evening and even the kitchen. I have never been before in such a generous hostel!

It was my last day, of course, of this short trip and I decided to visit the Alcazar, once built by Moorish people, but by its beauty chosen of the congering Spanish king Ferdinand III as his palace. Still the king of Spain has receptions in there, even he prefer to stay at the famous Hotel Alfonso XIII. I thought on a Monday and especially in the morning there will not be such a long queue. Anyway close to the Alcazar I run into a Free Walking Tour. There are different Free Tours, this one had violet jackets and umbrellas. Our guide was Liai, a very nice female guide. Though I got the history behind all the buildings I already had seen. I know, I should have done this first. For the Free Tours are not really for free, I had decided not to do, but changed my mind the last day.

It was very interested in hearing about the areas I already have been. There was also an explanation for me, that the crosses on the wall were only two. It is in the Jewish quarter. There is also a Catalan quarter, where once the soldiers from the North of Spain, who helped to conger the city of Seville, got their homesteads. The Jewish, by the way, did help the king with the money. Before the king Ferdinand III congered Seville, many different Peoples were sharing the town: Moslems, Jews, Christians etc. More about the history of Seville you can read on Wikipedia.

We started at the square “Plaza del Triunfo” with the Alcazar, the cathedral Santa Maria and the General Archive of the Indies, where maps by Christopher Columbus are stored. On this place one also can find two beautiful statues of the Virgin Mary, which were built to celebrate Seville’s survival of the 1755 earthquake, by which nobody died. By the way, the cathedral has been a mosque, but was by Ferdinand III used as a church. Nowadays only the Giralda tower is left, but that depends on the earthquakes. The tower is not facing Mekka, which depends on the underground of the tower. It was built on roman ruins. For such a high tower as it is, there would otherwise not be any possibility to keep intact over time by the sandy ground.

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Giralda Tower

We continued to the Town Hall and the Plaza Nueva (New place). The building of the Town Hall is a very interesting one. On the former front (now it’s back) there are two different styles, because the money was running out and the very orotund style could not be continued with. The new front became very simple, built in a time, where Seville did not have much money at all. Here it may be time to tell you, that the broad avenues were done in the early 19th century, when the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929 was planned. The town of Seville was surrounded by walls, but it had grown out of them. The walls made the town hard to access by vehicles and it was taken down for building avenues. On one of them a tram is running now, because there were too many vehicles driving throughout the town. The tramway is for 1.4 km only. I did not use it. It is good, of course, for elderly or if one has a lot to carry.

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Town Hall – Original Front

Before coming from the backside to the Golden Tower, we were standing on and afterwards under the old bridge to Triana. This area is outside old Seville on a bank in the river. While in Seville rich people had their housing, in Triana the poor made it to its own. Today it is a cult area, where the real flamenco is celebrated on the streets. A little while later we had a possibility to use a bathroom at the TGB (Burger restaurant). Close to here is a Metro station. Seville only has one Metro line and it took 40 years to build it, because of all the roman ruins underground. The archaeologists became happy, of course.

We continued to the plaza were we met, but continued after have heard about the Hotel Alfonso XIII (1500 EUR/night for a room) and that one should almost visit the café to the rectorate of the University of Seville building, which once upon a time has been the Royal Tobacco Factory (a 18th-century industrial building), even this with an amazing history. Before it was built, there were a lot of small factories since it had been common to chew tobacco. The king of Spain did see the opportunity to make a lot of money with it and the commerce was growing. When there were not enough with workers, women from Triana was hired. They were the first female factory workers in Europe, the guide told us. The university building is a public building, though we crossed it and continued to another square at the Maria Luisa Park. This park was belonging to the administration of Telmo, but dedicated to the people of Seville as a green lung. The area is very big (100 acres) and was partly used for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929. For the exhibition lots of pavilions were built, some are still used as consulates. The contemporary casino was used for registration and houses now different kinds of exhibitions from time to time.

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Plaza del Triunfo at Night – with the Statue of the Female God of the Sea

Our tour ended at the Plaza de España, where the famous pavilion of Spain is situated. It was designed by Aníbal González, who did not live anymore, when it was finished. Yes, the pavilion is this famous, half round building I already have seen the first day! It is built in a special style, called the “Spanish Regionalism, mixing Renaissance Revival in Spanish architecture and Art Deco within Neo-Mudéjar styles” (Wikipedia). An unusual part of it is, that it is facing the river, while the city of Seville has its back to the river and a wall against it. The architect chose that option, though the pavilion should tell all the people to be welcome.

Before we thanked our guide with a small amount each, she asked me, if the tour had been too much for me and I told her, that I am used to walk, though it was no problem at all for me to follow the whole tour. I think, you can imagine, that I was very hungry at this stage and walking back to the inner city for a restaurant. It was still cold and I was interested in to sit inside. Soon I found one and ordered a lasagna with aubergines. Unfortunately the portion was not big and I saw only one slice of aubergines. The dish was served with a decoration, which got me a drop of soya sauce on my sweater. Luckily I was dressed in two sweaters upon each other (for the cold) and changed the layers before leaving this restaurant. I would have liked to have a dessert, too, but I could not remember the English word at this time (! – blush) and thought he will not understand me, if I suddenly use a Spanish word, because we were using English all the time. Therefore I did not take anything more. Finally the waiter asked me, if I wished the “cuenta” and I nodded.

Now it was the turn of the Real Alcazar. I had tried online to buy a ticket for 0 EUR, as it was announced for Monday afternoons. When I tried I had to pay 1 EUR at the check-out. I am not happy to pay such small amounts by credit card, though I did not order such a ticket. At the reception I saw, that I could buy an official ticket for 2 EUR only, but had to state, that I am on a pension scheme. While it is not usual to get a kind of ID-card for retired people in Sweden, I get it once a year from Germany. It is only valid with a passport or real ID-card and I was wondering, if they will accept it, both for this and because it is only in German. They did not ask for my passport and they accepted it. The full price tickets are for 8 EUR, if I remember right.

The visit would have been worth the 8 EUR as well! Unfortunately the upper floor – which is used by the Royal family from time to time, was not open, but there was so much to see. Some parts were original from the Moorish people, same parts in Mujedar style and there were also other styles represented. There were different gardens, different courts, different buildings. It was enormous beautiful. It would really have been a shame, if I would not have visited it and I understand the crowds at the weekends, trying to see the building.

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Real Alcazar – Details

After a while I found the shopping centre and finally also the supermarket in the basement. There were only one pair of stairs down there, but three or four to come from the first floor to the higher ones. I bought some cheese, bread and tissues. I felt I am getting a cold. First I though I will also see the Metropol Parasol, some new architecture. I walked in the wrong direction as usual, but most for, because I did not really remember the place and was more interested in to see Triana. I thought I will give the area one hour. Finally there I actually was a little tired in my feet and only walked one street, close to the river and a part of the riverside. I did not see any Flamenco artists at all. Disappointed I walked back to the hostel, getting some warmth and have a chat. Do you know, that Flamenco in the beginning was a kind of singing, like the Fado in Portugal. It was to sing about sorrows: Lovers, which left, the poverty etc. Later people added the kind of dancing, we now know as Flamenco.

Before leaving the hostel I wrote the postcard for my former colleagues on Malta. I bought another one from Seville (for a cousin), but it will not be written for a while. I already walked to the bus station around 10pm, because I was afraid, that I would miss the bus by the different time zones. There was no problem with it and I was sitting in the waiting area, with my cover around me. There were a bus leaving almost around every quarter of an hour, but to different destinations. The “Alsa-bus”, even this time operated by the same Portuguese company I was arriving with, was a little late, coming from Malaga. The bus was not full at all and also on the next few stops it was not getting full. I had two seats again and felt great with my cover. I also prepared for not using the bathroom. Though I do not know, how it looked like this time. There was a rest done in an area with bathrooms, which I used like the others. I was sleeping most of the time and actually sweated part of the trip.

For my remaining days in Portugal, please follow the link to Lisbon: Tuesday, 5th December 2017.