I arrived in Sevilla by train, and the trains in Spain are luxury. Air-conditioned and comfy seats, I didn’t realise just how hot it was in the city I was heading to. My good friend Manolo in Sydney had organised with his friend Javi in Sevilla to have me stay at his house for a few nights. I’d been in touch with Javi and his flatmate Victor, and the plans were for Javi to pick me up from the train station, on his bike. I wasn’t sure how my backpack and me were going to fit on Javi’s bike, but I agreed and thought we’d sort it out when I arrived. Well I didn’t have to wait long to realise it was a motorbike I was getting a lift on, not a bicycle!
I’d never ridden a motorbike in a skirt and sandals, nor with a large backpack, but in Sevilla I did. Thankfully Javi had brought me a helmet to wear, and I trusted his driving, however I had some self talk going on about how I was going to be ok and get there safely with all my skin and bones intact, and I did. Nor was it the last time I was pillion passenger in a skirt and sandals, but each time I arrived safely, thanks to Javi. Often when you travel you put yourself outside your comfort zone, and this was one of those times for me. Unless you’ve ridden motorbikes, or been a nurse and seen accident survivors, you may not understand my hesitation. However, I breathed a sigh of relief and thanked my lucky stars after every trip allowed myself to enjoy the remaining adrenaline.
The day I got to Sevilla was the hottest day they’d had on record this summer. It was like walking into a brick wall as I exited the air-conditioned train station, and the wind while on the bike was like fire whipping at my arms and legs. We went directly to Javi’s house for siesta. It was impossible even consider leaving the house before 8pm because it was still so hot, and we eventually went out for dinner at 9.30pm. I met Victor and we had many different sorts of tapas for dinner. I learnt that tapas basically means ‘little meal’ and can essentially be a smaller version of anything they have on the menu. It wasn’t restricted to the tapas I’d seen in the hostels that you received free when you ordered a beer, that of a piece of a toasted french stick topped with various items. The tapas Javi and Victor ordered were delicious, and too numerous to count. Food here in Spain is so cheap, as is alcohol, and we pay far too much in Australia. Dinner finished at about 1am, and it remained warm all night, dropping to only about 28 degrees overnight.
In the morning Victor dropped me in the city on his way to work, and I spent the day exploring the sights of Sevilla. I wandered through Parque Maria Louisa, a very nice large green space which led me to Plaza de Espana. I was mesmerised by this place. Walking up to it I saw a waterfall sprouting in the centre, with a large semi-circular building behind it. The sun was glaring and made details from a distance difficult, however it also added to the allure. This place was magnificent, and I loved it immediately. There was a moat circling the inside of the semi-circular building, and wide open spaces for people to gather and children to play. The small bridges crossing the moat led to a regal looking building and a horse and cart trotted right past me, cementing the feeling of returning to an era of the past. As I got closer to the building, I saw there were numerous mosaics along the wall, and each one depicted a city in Spain. The sections dedicated to each city contained a map of the city location in Spain, a depiction of the traditional history of the city, and what I think was the city’s coat of arms – and all of this was made from mosaics. I was greatly impressed at the work and effort that had gone into this place and took photos of all the cities I’d been to and planned to visit.
From Plaza de Espana I wandered through the old city, meandering via the tiny streets of Santa Cruz and via the huge Cathedral. I visited the information centre and was kindly given a map by the lady who spoke English and she happily answered all my questions about Sevilla. It was a nice change from the information places in Italy, and confirmed my love of this country even more 🙂 I met Javi back at the house for lunch, which we had at the University cafeteria nearby. Uni students = cheap food and I was happy to be part of it.
Siesta that afternoon included tennis game after tennis game. Javi loved his tennis so he watch the games while I sorted out some photos. Dinner was late in the evening again, for it hadn’t cooled down much. I’d managed to get a picture of a sign showing the temperature at 38 degrees at lunch time, and Javi assured me I’d get one saying 40 degrees if I was out a little later the next day. We went to an area known as Triana, where I was told the citizens didn’t say they lived in Sevilla, they lived in Triana – and it reminded me of the division I’d heard of between Paris and the rest of France. We had a beer before meeting Victor at another place, after another skirt and sandals bike ride, and I’d found beer in Spain to be quite nice, not like we have at home – although I reminded myself I’d not tried beer at home for a long time and it was possible that my taste buds had changed and not the beer.
Dinner included more tapas, I let the boys order as I didn’t know the names of what I’d had and I liked everything they ordered anyway. I enjoyed this style of eating – it suits my usual style of having a little bit of numerous things and calling it a meal. I could get used to this lifestyle without a doubt, and the more time I spent in Spain the more I wanted to learn Spanish and even considered the possibility of living in Spain. I’d just have to remember to sleep during siesta so I didn’t get too run down.
It was in Sevilla that I noticed a reoccurring feeling I’d had in Barcelona. The fact that most people I met in Spain spoke a minimum of two languages, Spanish (and sometimes also Catalan), and English, and often another language, made me feel a little odd. I’m still searching for the correct word to describe exactly what it is, however I felt bad for not being required to speak another language to get by in my own country. Although English is universal, the fact I didn’t speak any other language made me feel inferior in a way. It’s almost as if my ‘superiority’ of being born into a native English speaking country caused my ‘inferiority’ when in a country whose inhabitants must learn their own language plus English to prosper in their own country. I was determined to learn Spanish now and was disappointed that I’d not done so before this holiday.
The following day I did a tour of the Bull Fighting arena and museum and learnt how they kill the bulls during these ‘fights’. Having no prior knowledge of this ‘game’, I’m now not sure I ever want to attend a ‘fight’. The Matador’s who ‘fight’ the bull are in the ring first, using a pink cape they tease the bull, assess his nature, and basically provide a performance. After ten minutes the Matador leaves the ring, and in comes one guy who has five minutes to shove a long spear into the bull’s neck and disable him, then the next guy has another five minutes to stick two daggers into the bull six times, then the Matador returns and has five minutes to slice the bull’s throat, and this time he uses the red cape we all know of. I think this is the sequence, correct me if I’ve gotten it wrong, but you get the idea.
Over the course of one night, there are six ‘fights’ and therefore six bulls are killed every Sunday night from April until October in Sevilla. I was told they eat the meat, and I hope so because otherwise that’s a lot of animals wasted for nothing. I heard a lot more people in Spain are starting to turn away from this old tradition, and it is becoming less and less popular. I found the whole idea cruel and a little sickening. The more interesting side for me was the training of the Matador’s, and hearing about some of the best ones. They are usually trained from the age of 14, and by 18 it is known if they are going to be ‘good’ or not. Their career lasts for about 20 years, if they don’t get killed by the bull first. The best Matador’s in Sevilla and Madrid can earn up to €150,000 per night – about $AU200,000, for 30 minutes work a night. One Matador had his first fight at the age of nine years old, and would draw in huge audiences every time he ‘performed’, until he was killed by a bull at the age of 24. When a bull kills a Matador, the bull is then killed, as is the mother bull – as retribution for producing a killer bull I guess. Doesn’t seem fair really.. Another ‘star’ Matador was in the ring for 40 years, before he committed suicide when he was in his 60s. Made me wonder if killing all those bulls over the years played on his mind too much..
I saw a few more sights, then headed back to Javi and Victor’s place. I got the bus as it was 3pm and way too hot to exert myself any more. I photographed a sign declaring the temperature was 41 degrees before I got on the bus, and as I got nearer to my destination the signs indicated the temperature was increasing, to 43 and then 44. I was happy with my photo of 44 degrees, and headed inside to wait out the afternoon heat. I’d bought an overnight bus ticket to Salamanca for €47, as the train ticket to Madrid was going to cost €80 and I wasn’t prepared to pay that much for a train. Javi very kindly offered to drive me to the bus station on the motorbike again, in between sets of tennis, and once more I was wearing a skirt and sandals, and carrying my backpack. He did very well to balance the bike with me and the backpack behind him, although I figured my bag just made me about equal to the weight of another guy on the back! I boarded the bus at 8pm for an expected arrival in Salamanca at 2.45am the next morning..