The City of Wonders

10/12/2013 19:36

The air condenses slowly around the iced cup while a Sanlucar de Barrameda Manzanilla subtle dash is poured in. Manzanilla is a kind of softer and lighter fino wine perfect for a southern aperitif. Nimble fingers holding a new slice as the knife masterfully glides over the leg of ham finely cuts it, converting white fat into a paradise almost transparent that melts in the mouth. One after another they are serving on a sheet of cellulose paper until together reach the table to accompany, with great fondness, cold manzanillas.

There are plenty of places where to celebrate the arrival of a new tasty tapa or a bigger half ration. Between San Francisco and San Pedro, through the Alfalfa and San Salvador squares, the latter where a stopover is practically mandatory to have a chilled cold beer in the tiny bars that outdoors set up its tables to increase its clientele in summer under the big awnings trying to mitigate the midday sun weight. But around Mateos Gago and Alemanes streets, close to the cathedral, where gypsy women try to sell bits of thyme and read fortunes in the hands of some unwary, which at best can claim to them foretold about the imminent loss of a ten or twenty euros note. Although there's always the chance of framing the thyme considering it a city's onerous souvenir.

By the other side, next to the Alcazar walls and through a long porch is reached Jewry Street, the entrance to Santa Cruz neighbourhood, a maze of charming streets in the heart of the city. Blank whitewashed walls, wrought iron gratings and violet bougainvillea covered arcades arranged to create a loophole shadow accompany the walk along streets with evocative names such as Agua, Pimienta, del Consuelo or Vida, (Water, Pepper, Comforting or Life), all named on Seville ceramics at every corner. Orange trees full fill its small and cosy squares. One of them is the old Hospital de los Venerables Sacerdotes, which was originally, in 1675, for old priests. Inside, the room is superb, with a beautiful chapel near the central atrium covered with frescoes and paintings made by various authors. Beyond, to the end of the neighbourhood and in the homonymous square, stands the House of Pilate, a sixteenth century palace which ought its name to the belief that was a replica of the house of Judea’s Roman governor in Jerusalem. The Moorish courtyards have a recognizable air in its arches and columns, although the styles overlap with Renaissance and Baroque styles. In the main courtyard corners are four statues representing a muse, Ceres and two standing statues of Pallas Athena.

After the discovery of the New World, Seville became the main port of the peninsula. The trade with the colonies changed the city into an economic centre of the Spanish Empire; population has grown and spread its streets. To regulate business and navigation was founded in 1503 the House of Trade of the Indies. Today the building houses the Archivo General de Indias. More than nine kilometres of shelves hold 43,000 documents, about eighty million pages, eight thousand maps and drawings and original texts of Columbus, Cortez, Magellan and Pizarro.

The most famous commercial street, Sierpes street, meaning snakes, run through the centre of the city from the famous La Campana sweets shop, in Martin Villa street, to the Plaza de San Francisco, where the City Hall is located. With the parallel streets Velazquez, Tetuan and Cuna, form a pedestrian network that is home to one of the main commercial areas of the city. Here Mohedano shop can be found. Is the most recognizable headgear as the classic El Cronómetro, a watches shop, also religious imagery or offers in typical Andalusian clothing. Here was the Royal Prison, where stayed against his will the writer Cervantes, Shakespeare contemporary. The main commercial street always had good bookshops and printers who signed its products under the brand In Vía Serpentina.

Near the Macarena neighbourhood four columns, two at each end, mark the Alameda de Hercules boundaries. The space was once an unhealthy marsh known as Laguna de los Patos,  Ducks Pool, until in 1574 it was drained, trees planted and two columns of an ancient Roman temple brought here. On each capital are statues either, one of the Greek hero Hercules and another representing Julius Caesar. Two new columns decorated with stone lions were subsequently erected at the opposite end. More statues were installed closer to the ground, dedicated to Pastora Pavón known as the girl of Combs and to the singer Manolo Caracol.

Encarnacion square was named after a former convent of the Order of St. Augustine and is now best known for the new mushrooms that rise up to the air. It's the new architectural complex known as the Metropol-Parasol. The works have uncovered a rich subsoil remains of the ancient Roman city. Up a viewpoint offers good views of the city at almost one hundred feet high.

On the banks of the Guadalquivir River rises the lofty Maestranza, the bullfight arena with its colossal russet doors framed in yellow ochre stripes so typically Sevillian. The shadows of the bars are projected at the end of the afternoon on the white walls of the corridor, on the outside, circles the ring. From the latter comes precisely the raw material from which they are made, not dreams, but the tasty bull oxtail. Outside are profiled backlit statues of famous bullfighters who once set foot on the sand.

In 1929 the city hosted the Latin American Exhibition around the Parque de Maria Luisa. For it was created the great semi-circular Spain pavilion and seventeen more countries participating. Sixty-three years later the 1992 Universal Exhibition was held in the space of Isla de la Cartuja, where the halls have been more or less relegated to oblivion as the ones dedicated to the  Discovery and the Future.

The river, one day crossed with barges, as evidenced by the name of Barqueta Bridge, is crossed today by walk or drive through its many bridges. From futuristic Alamillo designed by Santiago Calatrava and, until now free of any claim, to up the oldest, Elizabeth II, built by French engineer Eiffel. The latter leads to the district of Triana, which is entered by Altozano square, making door next to the lighter, as is known the chapel del Carmen next to the bridge. Next was formerly the castle of St. George, the seat of the Inquisition between 1541 and 1785, now market and museum. In the square is a statue of matador Juan Belmonte, the astonishment of Triana, gazing to the bank in front, towards the bullring.

Triana smells to fried fish, steak tips, marinated dogfish, anchovies and tuna belly. And, why not? manzanilla and to the longing to all those flavours together. 

© J.L.Nicolas


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