It’s a way of life. That’s what our tour guide told us when we were recently in Sevilla. She was talking about Flamenco, the well known “dance” (and I put that in quotes because it is indeed more than just that) that Andalucía in southern Spain is known for.
We got in on thursday afternoon and took a bus from the airport to what we thought was our hostel. Then we found out we actually got off on the other side of the city and had to take a taxi to the hostel. Oh well, we actually got to see some sights that way. We arrived at the Sevilla Inn Backpackers’ Palace, a surprisingly nice hostel for the cost of around 11 euros a night. We went on a tapas tour, which was great, and a pub crawl, which was okay, later that night. The next day, Tressa and I took a free walking tour around the city. We saw the Metropol Parasol, or the Waffle according to Tressa and I, which is the largest wooden structure in the world:
Later on, we saw La Giralda, the very well known tower that is attached to the Cathedral (which is the world’s biggest Gothic cathedral). The tower actually used to be a minaret when there was a mosque where the cathedral currently is. If you look closely, you can see that the part below the bells and the part above them look different. That’s because the bells and the top of the tower were added during the Re-conquest when southern Spain was retaken by the Spanish Christians. We climbed to the top, though not by taking the stairs…because there are none. The Giralda has ramps on the inside because when it was a mosque, the man saying the prayers would have to climb to the top five times a day in the sweltering heat of Andalucía, and with ramps, he could ride a horse or donkey to the top instead:
We also saw the inside of the cathedral, which was enormous:
We took a horse and carriage ride:
We saw the Parque de María Luisa, a beautiful park with tons of different kinds of trees from the Americas:
And then we came to La Plaza de España:
Because I had trouble really capturing what the building looked like, here’s a birds-eye view of it from Wikipedia:
Built in 1928, the Plaza de España is an enormous structure supposedly in the shape of a fan. It was built as part of the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929, in which buildings in the style of each Latin American country were constructed to apologize on behalf of Spain for its past actions. We saw the bullring of Sevilla, and almost bought tickets to see a show, walked by El Río Gualdquivir, the river that borders Sevilla to the west, and saw El Real Alcázar, a palace dating back to the 700s with Islamic, Mudéjar and Gothic styles and huge garden surrounded by an outer wall.
What was the highlight of the trip though, or at least for me, was the flamenco show we saw on our last night there. Recommended to us by a friend, La Casa de la Memoria is an intimate venue with limited seating. The tablao, or wooden platform that the dancers dance on, was situated in the middle of a terrace with vines hanging behind it and chairs on the three other sides. We took our seats around 10:15 and waited anxiously. The show started fifteen minutes later with the lights dimming, leaving just one spotlight focused on the performers. The guitarist started to play, the singer joined in and the male dancer started clapping and stomping his feet to the rhythm of the music. This went on for a little while, the songs changing every so often. Then, the female dancer took the stage, and she was great. She wore a dress with a long train that she whipped around while she twisted and turned. The guitarist then had time for a solo after the woman left, and at this point, I though the show was winding down and was a little disappointed that there wasn’t more. However, the male dancer then came back out to the terrace and gave us the most amazing performance. He was absolutely outstanding. He jumped and turned and danced and stomped and put on quite the show. Here are some photos that I snagged afterwards:
What’s really interesting is that Flamenco indeed is more than just a dance. In the performance alone, Flamenco has multiple parts: the dance, the voice, the guitar, the beat from the clapping and the stomping. It’s not just a style of dance. But for the people living in rural areas, for the Gypsies that live in the caves, for those with deep, Andalucian roots, Flamenco is even more. The music has an Islamic influence and the dance comes from where the Gypsies originate: northern India. It connects them with their ancestors. It’s emotion. It’s tradition. It’s life. And I absolutely love it.