Wednesday, April 22, 2009

¡Olé España! Part 2 (Sevilla and Granada)

Back on the road again, we were happy that our bus ride from Cadiz to Sevilla was only one hour! Compared to our other bus rides that was a huge blessing! We shuttled off to our hotel to set our things down and then headed back into town. By now we have mastered public transportation and get everywhere on the bus or metro!

The reason I have wanted to come to Sevilla for so long is that is it is the most well-known place for their Semana Santa processions. You might have heard of them before, because the people in the processions dress up in the same outfits that the KKK wears - robes and pointy hats. While I knew it would be a bit eerie to see this, it is such a huge and historical part of the Spanish culture and I knew it was something I couldn't miss.

Once in town we wandered for a little bit - saw the huge Cathedral but didn't want to wait in the hour-long line to get in, so just gazed at the church and the huge tower. It was built in the place of an old mosque after the reconquista and is one of the largest of Spanish medival and gothic cathedrals and supposedly has tons and tons of gold decorating the inside. We kept walking and stumbled into Plaza España, where most of the city's government buildings are housed. It was originally built for the Spanish-American Exhibition in 1929 and is fantastically decorated with red brick and bright tiles. To pay tribute to Spain, there are little alcoves for each autonomous community (basically like our states)! I of course took a picture in the alcove of the autonomous community that I live in - Guipuzcoa! A fun fact for Star Wars fans - this Plaza was used in Star Wars 2: Attack of the Clones and was the set of Naboo in the movie...random but interesting I guess. With all the bridges, tiles and the moat, it was a gorgeous place to wander around.

After our minimal sightseeing and a traditional Spanish lunch, we decided it was time to see what we came for - the proessions! We headed through the winding streets, checking the map constantly as to where we were going. We had no idea where the processions started or ended but wanted to see something on the other side of the city and figured we would run into a procession or two on the way. We were sure right!

The processions of the south started in the 1500s with religious brotherhoods who wanted to take the symbols of the Catholic church to the streets. Back then, the brotherhoods symbolized your class, race and job and by marching from your parish to the main city cathedral, you could basically show where you stood in society and help attain salvation. The parades always consist of the same things: wood floats showing the Passion, a float showing the Virgin, robed and hooded men carrying crosses, a brass band and a huge cross.

The first procession we saw started out of a little baby church. A huge crowd had gathered around and we knew something big was happening. First, the hooded men came out bearing the huge wooden cross that signals the start of the procession. He was flanked by two lantern holders, although they are only lit when it is dark out. Next were large groups of barefoot people, dressed in the capes and hats as well, carrying tall candles, that again, are only lit at night. Following them are the altar boys who don't wear the caps but instead elaborate cloaks and carry laterns and incense (which we got pretty sick of pretty quick!). The last part of the group was a massive float with Jesus that depicts his death. The floats are carried by a bunch of brotherhood members who walk under the float. If you look closely when they walk by, you are able to see thier white shoes peeking out from the side curtains. The float was fantastic, so detailed and really did evoke an emotion in you. They say people who never go to church, weep at the holy week of Seville. There was no weeping from me, but it was pretty amazing to see something so antique and gorgeous paraded down the street. Because it is carried by people, the float sways back and forth and you almost think it is going to fall, but they manage to keep it up and make thier way down the road. I have posted a few photos of the floats (pasos) because to explain them in detail is impossible and you will have a better idea when you just look at them - appreciating the intracacies for yourself. After the Passion float comes a brass band and then the whole order starts again, minus the great cross, and the next float is that of the Virgin Mary mourning the loss of her son. The Mary floats were always my favorites, as they were adorned with lace, flowers, candles and a spectacular Mary!

Although we knew we were going to see the KKK outfits, I don't think we were really too prepared. It was kind of scary and gave us a sick feeling at the bottom of our stomachs, but when you look at the history of the outfits, it makes you even more sick! The outfits of the cape and cloak used to be used so that people of the church could demonstrate thier penance without showing thier faces, therefore, it was a deeply Catholic costume. Sadly, we now have a very bad connotation of these outfits, but here they are worn with pride. They sell items like robed men suckers to robed men postcards. While it was a bit weird for us, we appreciated it for what it was.

In total in 2008 there were 59 of these processions in Seville alone. While we were there for the day we saw 3 - two up close and one from a bar we randomly found that happened to be on a procession route. At the bar we got to witness the final act of the procession...the street cleaners, which we thought was funny! After scouting the city for the entire day, us tired girls headed back to our hotel to get ready for the next day...Granada!

We woke up early, caught another bus, this one was 3 hours which wasn't to bad to Granada. The only reason we were headed to this Spanish city was to see the famed Alhambra. Granada used to be a wealthy Muslim city in the 700s but the Spanish eventually turned in Christian. While there are still little traces of Muslim buildings, most of the city has changed drastically. The Alhambra was originally a military base in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada (yea, we have one in Spain too!!). With a massive amount of buildings, bell towers to signal danger and watchtowers, palaces and more! While it was a military base, it is supposed to be one of the most beautiful places in Spain - really showing off Islamic architecture. The Alhambra is famed in all of Spain, and turned out to be extremely popular the day we were there. Once we finally got into the foothills we found out all the tickets had been sold out for the day! Since The Alhambra was the only reason we came to Granada, we were a bit disappointed and upset, as there isn't really much more to see in the city. Since we couldn't get in, we took a massive amount of photos from the outside although you can't see much ha. I even pretended to scale a wall - 'if they won't let me in, i will get in myself haha'. We ended up taking a scenic walk down the foothills and ended at a outside restaurant that had a pretty nice view of the Alhambra. There, we spent the next 4 hours, sipping wine, listening to Spanish guitar and gazing at the Alhambra ha. It is said that 'If you die without seeing the Alhambra, you have not lived.' We figure Jesus will give us some extra-credit for atleast trying!

Ready to leave Granada, we jumped on another bus (two in one day, pretty rough!) for 5 hours to head to Madrid! More to come next!


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