From Cordoba, we departed for Merida, a smaller city located a couple of hours northwest of Cordoba. It is mostly known for its abundance of Roman ruins, most notable of which being an old bridge and several miles of aqueducts. Unfortunately, the most notable thing while we were there was the terrible weather. Freezing rain was just about normal for the day and a half we spent in the city. But we did get to see a fair number of ruins and modern architecture so it wasn’t all bad.
We started off walking around parts of the old city, sort of stumbling upon the ruins of the Temple of Diana and later the Arch of Trajan. Both are part of the historical Roman Forum (1st century B.C.) that has recently been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We then made our way to the ruins of the major aqueduct in city. The size of the structures was absolutely incredible.
We only had time to see the aqueduct at night, so here’s a link to some better pictures – http://bit.ly/fEGboR.
We stopped by one of Calatrava’s bridges on the way back to the hotel:
The next morning, before heading out to Sevilla, we visited the 1st century B.C. Roman Bridge as well as the new National Museum of Roman Art by none other than Rafael Moneo.
The museum was a very cool project. The super tall brick arches and traversing walkways seemed to combine the old and new styles in an interesting and effective way. It was free the day we went, but it would definitely be worth the entry fee any other day as well.
We sloshed back to the bus in the pouring rain and eventually made it to Sevilla a few hours later. The ride was just long enough for our socks to dry. However, the weather was no different in Sevilla so they just got soaked again as soon as we stepped off the bus.
Sevilla was a city that I think I need to go back and visit at a different time of year. It was a really nice city a diverse set of neighborhoods and mixture of old and new things. But it’s not a lot of fun when you’re wandering around for 45 minutes in the cold and pouring rain looking for a place to eat, only to find out that lots of places are closed because of a long holiday being observed that week. So, regardless of a lot of things, Sevilla seemed like it would be a pretty cool place to spend some time when the weather was better. Unfortunately for us, we had to do all of our visits in the pouring rain, huddled under umbrellas. But it let up every once in a while, allowing us to move from place to place and even get a little sketching in.
The first evening we spent in the city, we did a brief walking tour with Sophia, catching a glimpse of some of the things we would be visiting the next day. We saw the main cathedral, the outside of the Alcazar, some of the old government buildings, and town squares. The weather cut our walk short, and we all scrambled to find food and warmth before calling it a night.
The next morning we went straight to the Alcazar of Sevilla (“Alcázares Reales de Sevilla). Like the palace and gardens of the Alcazar in Cordoba, only bigger and more extravagant. Fortunately, for once, the rain let up while we were exploring the gardens, so we spent several hours wandering about, with a little drawing in between:
Yoav and Van in the hedge maze:
After the alcazar, we then headed across the plaza to Saint Mary’s Cathedral (Catedral de Santa María de la Sede). Wikipedia tells me it is the largest Gothic cathedral and the third largest cathedral in the world. I wasn’t aware of this at the time, but I have to say, it was pretty massive. So massive that I couldn’t even get the whole thing into one photograph:
Inside is Christopher Columbus’ tomb:
From the inside you can access the bell tower, which is a converted minaret from the times of the Moorish rule, when a mosque occupied the site of the existing church. Called the Giralda, the tower is over 100m tall and is the most visible icon of the city. The only way to get up to the top is to walk the ramp lining the inside of the structure. No stairs, no elevators. It’s a pretty long climb, but well worth the effort. The view from the top is spectacular.
One of the most interesting parts of the church is the roof. It’s made up of a series of sloping concrete surfaces, mainly formed in that way for water drainage purposes:
View down into one of the adjacent plazas:
The orange grove on the side of the cathedral was a really cool space as well. It had an intricate network of channels designed into the brickwork on the ground, acting as irrigation channels for all of the orange trees:
We stopped by the Torre de Oro (Tower of Gold), the famous old military watchtower, on the way back to the hostel:
After dinner, everyone met up at a bar across town to watch some authentic Flamenco dancing. Since it was free, it probably wasn’t the best group of performers in the city, however, we all agreed that it was a pretty awesome thing to see. The singing, clapping, stomping, and spinning mesmerized the packed bar and were met with huge cheers at even the slightest pause. I didn’t bring my camera out that night, so I don’t have any pictures. If I get a hold of some from the others, I’ll post them at some point. But, I highly recommend seeing a show if you are ever find yourself in Sevilla. As it was our last night on the trip, we all hung around the bar long after the show was over, recounting good times and laughing a lot, trying to forget the fact that we would all be going separate ways in the next 2 days.
The following morning we caught our early morning flight back to Barcelona.