It is said that Seville is probably the most authentic Spanish city and if you want to experience the real Spain then you should stay in Seville for a while. We did not have enough time to stay in Seville so we covered it as a day trip on our last day in Andalusia. We do not look back on our day in Seville with too much fondness as that day was the hottest of our entire trip. In fact that oppressive, stifling, draining heat is the memory we have come to associate with Seville. Later we got to know that maximum temperature touched 36° C that day which was 10° above normal. We would certainly have enjoyed Seville a lot more had we visited it on some other day as the city has a lot to offer including some truly magnificent structures.
A two hour train journey from Malaga got us to Seville by late morning. We were pretty impressed by the Sevilla Santa Justa station which certainly would not have looked out of place as an airport. From the station a bus got us halfway to our first destination while we walked the other half. The impossibly loaded orange trees lining up the sidewalks of the streets had become a feature of Andalusia by now and Seville was no exception.
ALCÁZAR – DORNE OF GOT
Till a few years ago if someone was making a travel bucket list then it would have consisted of the names of the wonders of the world along with other famous places but now, that bucket list would be incomplete if it did not contain a Game of Thrones destination. We marked off our first GOT destination with Alcázar – the royal palace originally built by the Moorish rulers with significant additions and changes done by subsequent kings.
Once we reached Alcázar we bought our tickets along with an audioguide and entered the palace through the Lion’s Gate which got its name from the tile-work above it that depicts a lion. The gate led us to the Lion’s courtyard which was a long courtyard with well maintained hedges, a few trees and an old wall with three arched entrances at the end opposite to Lion’s Gate. There were small halls and courtyards on both sides of theLion’s courtyardwhich we visited and then walked past the thee-arched wall to reach Patio de la Montería – the main courtyard of the palace.There were three different structures on three sides of this courtyard; to the left was the Gothic Palace, to the right was the House of Trade while straight ahead was the Palace of Peter I.
Guided by our audioguide we first went to our right. The House of Trade was built in 1503 by Spanish rulers to control trade with Spain’s American colonies. It was a symbol of Spanish seafaring prowess. Today, only some portions of the House of Trade remain with the two most important being the Room of Admirals and the Hall of Audiences. We were filled with awe when we got to know that some of the history’s greatest explorers like Christopher Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci and Ferdinand Magellan had assembled in these very rooms prior to or post their journeys. The Room of Admirals contained some large paintings of important personalities associated with Seville while the Hall of Audiences, which also served as a chapel for sailors, contained the famous painting – Virgin of the Navigators. In this painting, which is one of the first to depict the discovery of Americas, Emperor Carlos V, Columbus and Vespucci are among those seeking blessings from Mary. The chapel also contained a model of Columbus’ ship and tapestries depicting shields of various admirals.
We retraced our footsteps back to the main courtyard with our next destination being the Palace of Peter I. This palace was quite unique in the sense that it was built by Moorish workers in Moorish style for a Christian ruler. In fact this type of architecture, which mixed Moorish style with other styles, came to be known as Mudéjar Architecture. Nowhere was this amalgamation of styles more apparent than in the main facade of the palace which was a stunning piece of work. We entered the palace and visited different rooms and corridors like Courtyard of the Maidens, Courtyard of the Dolls, Royal Quarters, Prince’s Room and Hall of Ambassadors. The plaster-work and tile-work in these rooms and courtyards was out of this world. It was so intricate, delicate and colourful that it seemed impossible to have been made by human hands.
The highlight of the palace was the Hall of Ambassadors which served as the throne room. Every inch of this room was covered with ornate patterns and designs which along with its gilded patterned domed ceiling produced a magical effect. Overall this palace was undoubtedly the finest architectural feature of Alcázar.
From the Palace of Peter I we moved on to the Gothic Palace. This palace had three main rooms – Tapestry Room, Feast Room and the Chapel. These rooms were larger and more spacious than those in Palace of Peter I but lacked the intricacy and intimacy of the Mudéjar architecture. Despite this, the rooms did contain some detailed and colourful tile-work and beautiful tapestries.
We exited the Gothic Palace and emerged into the vast gardens of the Alcázar which these days are better known as the ‘Water Gardens of Dorne’. The first sight that greeted us as we entered the gardens was the Pond of Mercury – a small pool with a tiny statue of mercury in the centre. After that we started our exploration of the gardens. The gardens covered a large area and were extremely beautiful with different sections laid out in diverse styles. It was too hot for us to explore the entire garden area but we still covered a significant portion.
A unique feature of the gardens was Galeria de Grutesco – a long narrow gallery overlooking the gardens from one end. This gallery afforded spectacular views of the gardens while simultaneously providing shade from the harsh sun. While walking along the gallery we could actually imagine royals strolling in the gallery and inspecting their gardens. With that thought we said adios to the Alcázar and moved on to our next destination.