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Travel, Teach, Live in Europe and Middle East

Seville, the Vibrant Capital of Andalucia, Spain
By:Ruth Polak

Seville, or more correctly,Sevilla, is the heart and soul of Andalucia. Home to flamenco, bullfighting and many wonderful buildings it offers the visitor a wide variety of sites and sensations. On the one hand it is a modern bustling Spanish city with one foot very much in the 21st. century, but on the other hand it's long and varied history means that it's other foot is firmly placed in the past.

The best place to begin any trip to Seville is in the barrio Santa Cruz which is the old Jewish quarter. Here you are immediately enchanted by the amazing labyrinth of narrow winding passageways with tall ancient buildings towering above you, so closely that if you leaned out of a window you could shake hands with someone on the opposite side of the "ancha," or passageway.

The one great advantage of these narrow streets is that there is little traffic and the close proximity of the tall buildings keeps it cool even in the fiercest Sevillian summer heat, a great advantage when you are wandering around hopelessly lost looking for your hotel!! You will notice whole troupes of tourists, map in hand, trying to find their way out, Hampton Court maze has got nothing on barrio Santa Cruz! So be warned, go armed with a very good street plan.

The pride of Seville is the Cathedral, the largest gothic building in the world, and the third largest Church, with it's accompanying Giralda. This was originally built by the Moslems as a minaret to the Great Mosque. However on the fall of the Moslems the Mosque was converted into a Chrisitan Cathedral and the minaret adapted to become the bell tower whose top is adorned with a weather vane in the shape of a female form representing fate. From the top of the Giralda there are stunning views over the whole of the city.

The nearby Alczar also started life as a Moorish building, in this case a fortress but it was later taken over by the Christians and became home to King Pedro the Cruel of Castile and his mistress Maria de Padilla who in the 1360's lived in and ruled from the Alcazar. However he kept the Moorish influence by undertaking much renovation work, employing Moorish workmen from Granada and utilising fragments of earlier Moorish buildings in Seville, Cordoba and Valencia. It is a magical place to visit on a summer's night when it is floodlit.

By contrast the Casa de Pilatos is a beautiful renaissance building,although it goes without saying there is still with some Spanish Mudéjar influence, is a wonderful old house full of antique furniture, paintings, silverware, plates etc. It is open daily to the public except when members of the Royal Family and sundry aristocrats are in residence as they stay there when they come to Seville.

Seville is just a wonderful city to visit, not only are there so many wonderful tourist sites to see but here you can really experience the joyous Spanish love of life. Be sure to try as many tapas bars as possible, take in a flamenco, or more correctly sevilliana, show and try the excellent cuisine.

Ruth Polak

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