When the Romans first founded what became Seville, it was abut a mile inland. Last night our captain sailed up the Guadalquivir River for five hours, a treacherous trip from what he told us. Nothing like a few centuries of silt and a tsunami or two to lengthen a river sixty miles. In 700AD the Muslims moved in and stayed for 500 years. We've learned in school that the Spanish Inquisition was an effort, ultimately successful, to kick them out again. In actuality the inquisition was started by the Catholic Church to kick out the Protestants who were bringing their version of Christianity to Africa from Northern Europe. Getting rid of them was so successful, the Catholic Church decided to reclaim Spain totally for itself.
Once again we are loving our small ship, because it is docked right down town within walking distance of everything a tourist wants to see. In 1929 right before the financial world went belly-up, a Spanish American World's Fair was held here and from what remains to be seen today, the budget for this venture had no limits. The Plaza de España complex is a huge half-circle with buildings continually running around the edge accessible over the moat by numerous bridges representing the four ancient kingdoms of Spain. Around the walls are alcoves representing all the major cities of Spain. Each one has a place to sit and a few shelves for books. The books are long gone, but each alcove tells the story of the town with colored tiles that represent maps and city scenes. The colorful tile work, which is the predominant decorative style, reflects the decorative art that the Muslims used. You can see their influence all over the city. Nearby the buildings made by each of the countries in the Americas as part of the World's Fair are still in use and reflect the style of each nation.
After visiting this amazing plaza, we moved on to the Moorish (Arab) Castle called the Real Alcázar. It was originally built for a Christian king on the site of a Muslim residential fortress. Once the Muslim rulers took over again, they lived on the ground floor in the summer and upstairs in the winter. They used little furniture and reclined on pillows. The palace had running water with numerous fountains and baths. The ambience made me think of something out of Ali Baba. Some rooms were residential; there were many bedrooms for all the concubines and some were for business, receiving visitors and government affairs. A giant ballroom had huge light fixtures that looked like metal braziers. The palace is surrounded by gardens with waterfalls and ponds. Words are inadequate to describe the place.
Muslims are not allowed to lend money for interest and in medieval times, Jews took over this responsibility and the old part of town where they lived is a warren of streets so narrow that two people cannot pass one another. Somehow the locals manage to live here today leading modern lives and having restaurants and stores. It's hard to imagine the van arriving with your household goods when you first move in here. Privacy is not an option.
After the official tour we were on our own. We decided to return to the ship and take advantage of the e-bikes they have for us to use. We rode on a bike path along the river and through a huge park. This is Columbus Day weekend, a holiday only beloved by school children at home, but a big deal here as the Spanish celebrate the day they officially discovered the other half of the world. Many of them were out and about today, enjoying this beautiful city along with us.
The weather has been so pleasant the crew decided to haul the dinner buffet upstairs out on deck and we dined al fresco as the sun set. Doesn't get much better than that! In the evening a group of flamenco dancers came onboard to show us this classic form of Spanish dance. Some dances used castanets; all the dances had vigorous foot stamping. None of it is choreographed; each dancer danced what he felt when he felt it, as long and enthusiastically as he wanted. The guitar player and singer followed along and occasionally took the lead, influencing the path the dancer chose to take. We were all so glad that no one asked us to dance as often happens at tourist performances. We saw the real deal.