Our Spain Sojourn – Mezquita

After leaving Seville, we did a quick stop-over in Cordoba. 

The narrow cobblestoned streets were charming, but the highlight of the town was thr Mezquita, the mosque-cathedral of Cordoba. 

First glimpse of the Mezquita.

The Mezquita is a half-mosque, half-church fascinating oddity. The arches in the interior create an optical illusion of a neverending series of arches. 

   
 
Even though I knew that this is a mosque-cathedral, I was still taken by surprise at how western and church-like the cathedral in the middle of the structure when I came upon it. 

 

Heading towards the cathedral portion of the structure – you can still see the arches at the sides.

  

The intricate western dome.

  

The altar.


To me, the Mezquita sums up what southern Spain is all about, a wonderful blend of Ottoman/Moorish culture and Catholic Spain which shouldn’t work but somehow it does, magically.

 

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Our Spain Sojourn – Alcazar of Seville

One of the highlights of the trip was the Alcazar of Seville. On our first full day in Seville, we set off bright and early, in the direction of the Alcazar.

As we strolled through the streets of Seville, I found myself charmed by the architecture. This building in particular caught my eye – shame that it looked unoccupied though.

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We also passed the Seville Cathedral, and as morning mass was going on, I was lured into the Cathedral by the pipe organ music, and the fact that I get to enter the cathedral free of charge, and didn’t have to queue!

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The interior of the cathedral was beautiful in the grand European cathedral kind of way (Not very effusive I know, but I am rather jaded from visiting too many cathedrals in my lifetime). I particularly enjoyed viewing the pretty stained glass windows, and hovering near the organ to marvel at it.

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After our short detour into the Seville Cathedral, we headed over to the Alcazar.

The entrance to the Alcazar was unimposing, and I was somewhat underwhelmed by it, and was worried that it was going to be a complete letdown.

  
 As it turned out, my worry was totally unfounded, as you can see from this series of photos coming up, as we were greeted by the sight of lush gardens.

   
     

The buildings within the Alcazar were even more impressive,  with beautiful arches, colourful tiles and intricate carvings. I was totally blown away!
  

           

I have to confess that I  am not a fan of overly ornate things, but these were simply gorgeous.


   
 

If there is just one place you have time to visit in Seville, it will have to be the Alcazar! 

Our Spain Sojourn – Seville Bullfighting Festival

While researching for our trip, B found out that the day we arrive in Seville happens to be the last day of the Seville Bullfighting Festival. As neither of us had ever experienced a bullfight, we decided to to seize the opportunity, and grabbed tickets to the festival even though we were warned that it may be gory.

As we approached the bullfighting arena, I was most tickled to realize that the building looked very much like an owl!

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After finding the right door to enter from, we stepped through the little doors to find a huge arena before us. I felt like I had stepped into a scene from the Gladiator!

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Shortly after taking our seats, music sounded, and a procession of horses rode into the arena.

The ‘outrider’ horses – don’t think they did anything else for the rest of the event.

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The armored ‘bullfighting’ horses – carrying the men who assist the matadors.

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After the parade of horses, a hush fell over the crowd, and everyone’s attention was fixed on the matador poised in the middle of the arena, awaiting the charging bull.

And here comes the bull!

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Man vs beast.

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From the photos above, one would think that bullfighting’s really dangerous, and the matadors incredibly brave. However, the reality of it is quite different. No doubt there is an element of danger (given that enraged animals are unpredictable, blah blah blah), but check out how outnumbered the poor bull is!

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In addition to the star matador for that particular bout, at any given time, there would be 5-6 matadors positioned all over the arena, and 2 horses with riders wielding long spears. There would also be a small army of matadors just outside the arena, ready to rush in at the first sign of trouble.

After the initial show-off session of ‘greeting’ the bull in the centre of the arena, the main matador would let the riders on the horses do their thing to weaken the bull by stabbing it a few times with the long spears. It is only after the bull is sufficiently weakened that the matador would face the bull again one-on-one, to showcase the classic bullfighting moves that one would expect.

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Eventually, the bull will be out out of its misery by a stab to its head. If the matador is skilled, it will be a one-stab kill, but more often than not, it takes more than 1 stab to bring the bull down.

After the bull has been felled, it's carcass will be hooked behind a team of donkeys, and be dragged around the arena before finally exiting the arena, leaving behind a trail of blood in its wake.

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The sequence of events for each bout during the event was more or less the same, and after the first couple of bouts, I felt increasingly uncomfortable and disgusted. Before I went for the event, I was prepared for it to be gory, and expected that I may be sickened by the sight of blood. What i didn’t expect was that I would feel really sorry for the bulls. It had absolutely no chance, outnumbered by numerous matadors and horses, poked and stabbed by various spears, swords and knives. The sport (if you can call it that) is cruel and wasteful, and I can understand, and am thankful that bullfights are less commonplace these days. Would I ever attend another bullfighting event? No way – been there, done that, and regret supporting the industry (even if it’s only by way of the price of 2 tickets)!

Note: I had deliberately limited the number of photos of the actual bullfighting to a minimum for this post, and had in selecting the photos for this post, deliberately omitted the very bloody shots, so as not to shock/sicken readers. But it is extremely bloody and gory, so I would not recommend the event to anyone who dislike the sight and smell of blood.

Our Spain Sojourn – A Quick Pitstop in Toledo

Enroute to Andalusia on our Spain trip recently, we made a quick 1-day pitstop in Toledo on friends’ recommendations, to break up the long drive from Madrid to Seville. As this is really just a little pitstop, we had absolutely no plans for this part of the trip, and took it really easy (hence this really short post).

We stayed at the Hilton Buena Vista, which is located just outside the city. This proved to be a good decision, as not only was the hotel new and spacious, with a great view, we also managed to avoid the horrendous driving/parking situation in the city.

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After checking in, we headed into town on the hotel shuttle, and wandered around the city on foot for a bit. The architecture of the city fascinated me, with a mix of the typical buildings you would expect in Europe, and more medieval, moorish structures scattered here and there.

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As we were rather tired from the long flight, and because we were simply lazy tourists, we then hopped onto the tourist train that brought us around the ancient city of Toledo, which gave us a great view of the ancient gates, fortifications and aqueducts.

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As we had done no planning at all, we didn’t realize that the train does not bring us to the Toledo Cathedral until the ride was over. So we decided to go on foot to the cathedral as a last stop before heading back to the hotel to rest up for the next leg of our holiday the following day.

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Overall, Toledo was charming and pretty, but I wasn’t overly impressed with it. Maybe it was jet lag, maybe it was because it was not really a highlight of the trip, but I found myself looking forward to the next few legs of our journey by the end of the day, and was eager to move on to Seville bright and early the next day instead of heading into Toledo city again.