Monday, October 6, 2003

Spain - Toledo

Toledo is known for its least to me until I actually stepped into the city of Toledo.
We once again passed the Sierra Morena, Olive trees and found ourselves in the Castle region. Literally, there were castles everywhere...
View of Toledo
We got a nice view of all of Toledo, surrounded in 3 sides by river and one by mountain, from the top of the mountain.
View of Toledo
Toledo is city without frills. It had once been the center of Spain so to speak, but now a small city. It once boasted of having all 3 religious groups living in harmony.
View of Toledo
Cathedral in Toledo is also very important... seems that every cathedral in every city is important.

We saw very beautiful surviving fresco and headed to see the ever famous fresco of El Greco. I had no idea I would become to like him...but I do now.
We saw some examples of beautiful Toledo gold inlaid swords in the shops...also the Damacene jewelry. I tried very hard to resist the temptation to purchase one.
Toledo probably had the narrowest streets of all the cities we visited in Spain.
It also had the most beautiful bridges across the rivers.
Narrow streets

Sunday, October 5, 2003

Spain - Granada

Granada...until few months ago, I barely knew of its existence.
The focal point of Granada, in my opinion is of course Alhambra...although it really is steeped in history. This is where so many cultures existed and co-existed. One can almost feel the bygone spirits through one's skin.
Near Banuelo
Once old Arabic bathhouse...
We passed by this structure almost twice because the entrance is so unassuming and the structure is so small. Once we found, we entered drinking in the fragrance of the faraway incense and the still moist bathing rooms inside...
Unfortunately, the Cathedral was closed, but we still got the view of its beautiful outside.

The door leading to Cathedral. It was rather strange. Here was the door, in the middle of the block, seemingly an entrance to a small street in front, but an entrance of Cathedral as well.     

I am not obsessed with doors, but I had to show the view of Cathedral through these doors and the small street where I bought postcards...

It is hard to believe that this structure is part of Alhambra, but I suppose the kings can be somewhat tasteless and put this totally out of place palace in the middle of beauty of Moorish Castle.
Palacio de Carlos V
Alhambra sits on top of one of the mountains of Granada. From there, it is possible to the most stunning view of Granada.

View from Alhambra
This is the first site that greets visitors entering the Moorish part of Alhambra. I thought time travel is entirely possible when one walks into Alhambra.  
Alhambra, entrance
This is perhaps what the inhabitants of Alhambra saw without setting a foot outside the building. How different is this view from the ages past?

View from Alhambra
If I was introduced to Moorish architecture in Sevilla, I was buried in it in Alhambra. Despite the endless tourists, noises...I heard the building calling out to me. 
Behind the intricate shades, would there have been women of harem? I wanted to step inside the building.

The pond reflected what I knew to be women's quarters. Imagine being one of the few (or many depending on points of view. It seemed few surrounded by toursits, but...) inhabitants here cooling the summer heat by looking at the reflection. 
I heard that this intricate plaster design in bluish hue is inspired by waterfall. I could definitely imagine it. The whole building of cascading waterfalls.

View from the other side. One can't blame me if I would like to live in a place such as this. I almost believe I have lived in a place such as this. Perhaps I was one of many women of the palace in Moorish kingdom.
No matter where I looked, I felt like I was dreaming. I was told that this fountain structure is rare since it is of animal design. Moorish builders did not use animal symbols, but this had been donated by Jewish community.

I was rather unhappy that I did not read much on Alhambra prior to arriving there. We had a wonderful tour guide, who could amazingly enough, speak over 3 languages fluently... 
Alhambra includes the palace of Granada´s Moorish kings, which was principally under the Nasrite rulers Yusuf I (1333-54) and Mohammed V (1354-91). The latter was built by Mohammed V in 1238 in a shimmering red stone, which led to the description 'Calat Alhambra' (Red Castle).

Granada laid in relatively quiet ruin...not the palace itself, but the city...for hundreds of years until it was re-discovered. No one thought to vandalize or destroy it due to its beauty. 
We passed through the mazes of plants and quiet passageways and encountered this beautiful scene.

Alhambra Gardens
How had someone managed to create garden such as this in time long ago?
I don't believe it is even possible in this age of technology.
Alhambra Gardens
The picture speaks for itself.
Can you imagine yourself in it? 
The garden was leading to another. 
It was absolutely quiet!         

Alhambra Gardens
Alhambra Gardens
It might be hard to see, but this is view of Alhambra at night, all lit up, seen from the hill of Albaycin quarter.

Gypsies...We visited the Albayzin quarter to experience the oldest Moorish quarters with its narrow streets and then off to see Gypsy dancing.
It was impossible to believe they do not need any training to dance with such fluidity and passion. 
If guys can dance...!
Yes...they can in Gypsy world.


Books about Granada and Alhambra:
At Least One Balcony: Learning to Live in Granada 
Andalusia (Art and Architecture) Alhambra

Saturday, October 4, 2003

Spain - Sevilla

Sevilla...What comes to one's mind?
Passion of Flamenco...At least that was in my mind. Of course, other than that, I did not know what to expect.
I was quite pleasantly surprised... 
We arrived in Sevilla at night and was introduced to the flamenco on our first night.
I've studied little bit of Flamenco and had seen a number of performances, but what I saw in Sevilla was entirely different...both good and bad.
For few hours, we let ourselves go to the passionate gestures, fast stomping feet and the swirl of fans and sounds of castanets.
The one of the few downsides to the whole show was that more than half the people in the theater smoked...! is possible that one might need gas mask when going to Spain.

Who says it never rains in Sevilla?
But that is a rumor...except on our first day, we saw rain. What is the chance of that? Thankfully, it slowed to a minor drizzle at best when we started from our hotel and arrived at this beautiful plaza built in early 1900s for Ibero-American world fare. 
Plaza de Espana
Through the minor rain, we walked past the vendors selling postcards and castanets toward this seemingly ancient structure.

Plaza de Espana
Despite its short history, Plaza de Espana was a worthy photo spot.
It is a wonder that we did not get lost through all the distractions of photo taking...especially a group photo in front of water fountain where it was so dark that only my fluorescent orange umbrella was visible...
Plaza de Espana
Barrio de Santa Cruz is where the Jewish advisors to king lived...
The windy small streets, street musicians...somehow we found a coffee shop that that is too large for this little quarter. One would expect everything to be small.
More Cafe solos and we were ready for the next surprise...

Barrio de Santa Cruz
Right after the blind walk through maze of streets in Santa Cruz, this is the site we see. Suddenly there is a large plaza and the back of Cathedral.
The quietness of the Barrio gives over to the noisy plaza. Our guide was plagued by a local newspaper interviewer amongst all... 
This Cathedral also has Muslim origin. It is easy to be seen from the round dome in the midst of pointy towers on top of Cathedral.

Cathedral Bell Tower
My usual crazy angle of this pretty Cathedral. It is perhaps easy to imagine how large this Cathedral looms.
Cathedral Angle
Tall columns...streaming sunlight.
The day had completely turned around from the drizzling rain to the sunny normal day in Sevilla. The weather had warmed considerably since we entered Sevilla...actually since we crossed the mountain.

Inside Cathedral
Personally speaking, I would really not want my decaying body to be encased in a coffin standing on top of statues inside a very popular tourist spot Cathedral.
I suppose Christopher Columbus really had no voice in the matter, but happened. Of course, Spanish government and others are still somewhat fighting over whether the real one is inside or not. They are even doing a DNA testing...which I think is somewhat ridiculous. Poor man, must one suffer even after death to satisfy pride of others? 
Tomb of Cristopher Columbus
This Moorish door is actually one of the entrance to the courtyard into the Cathedral. The architecture in Sevilla is heavily influenced by Muslim architecture...

Cathedral View through the doors
The term Almohad refers to the architecture influenced by Moorish artists. Once both Christians and Muslims lived together here...
Many towers of Cathedral
Used as the palace. This was built in Moorish fashion as well. Just looking at the front building, it is hard to believe that no Moorish royalty lived here.

This Alcazar was my introduction to the beautiful Moorish architecture. Until then, I had no idea...My imagination did not even run this far.
Inside Alcazar
It is amazing how this gold and bluish hue survived over time...

Inside Alcazar
Of course, it would not be a truly Moorish architecture without such little courtyard. If I were to be given a chance, I would like to have one such courtyard in my own private house.  
Private courtyard inside Alcazar
No matter which angle one looks, one appreciates...
I wonder what inspired such beauty?

I took many photos to capture the moment I stood in the midst of these columns, but can one really capture a moment in time? What I felt there, I keep within...
After weaving through the insides of building, we came out to view the garden. Surprisingly, it was quiet and serene despite numerous tourists. The garden seemed to have a listened, but never echoed.

Garden behind Alcazar
This is where a real bull fighting occurs during certain months of the year. As I walked in, I faced what I did not expect...silence. No matter how loud one talked, it was swallowed by the atmosphere of this arena. 
Bull fighting...
After the customary shopping and dinner and also cafe solo, we picked up for ice cream and found the Cathedral again.
Cathedral at night
We talked sitting at now quiet plaza, eating ice cream, writing many postcards. I found the post office next to the ice cream shop. It was unbelievably strange that post office had holes on the sides of buildings used for mail.  

Cathedral at night
Books and DVDs about Sevilla and Flamenco:
Seville & Andalusia (Eyewitness Travel Guides) The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain Music and Gender: Perspectives from the Mediterranean (Chicago Studies in Ethnomusicology) Mel Bay Flamenco...All You Wanted to Know Eclipse Series 6 - Carlos Saura's Flamenco Trilogy (Blood Wedding / Carmen / El Amor Brujo) (Criterion Collection)