Day 11: A Victory in Sevilla

“SEVILLA SEVILLA SEVILLA!” chanted the crowds tonight as Sevilla FC defeated Portugal Benfica in a penalty kick shootout to take home the Europa League Cup. The city was alive as life-long fans, university students, and tourists enjoyed the revelry in La Puerta de Jerez downtown. Despite not knowing a single word of the mantras, it was an experience just to see how a city can transform from one about historical site-seeing during the day to a celebration for all ages at night.

My sister studied in Sevilla for about half a year, and loved every second of it. So during some free time this morning I visited one of her former hangouts: Plaza de España, Plaza del America, and La Universidad de Sevilla. The students here looked to have very different activities than ourselves when at Northeastern; all of them were enjoying the shaded courtyards, and having drinks at the local cafes in the middle of the day. Clearly, they were enjoying the sunny weather…and taking a peek into the library showed it almost empty! It must have just been too nice out to study.

That afternoon we all walked over to the Santa Maria Cathedral, the third largest in Europe and the most iconic building in downtown Sevilla. Our guide Jaime, born and raised in Seville, took his time to litter our tour of the Cathedral with anecdotes, reenactments, and bits of interesting knowledge. He told us of the importance of relics, items associated with Christian saints, and how we will encounter many along our pilgrimage to Santiago—which Jaime has done eight times! The distinctly gothic architecture makes use of symmetry and light to make one feel small and insignificant, underneath its tall pillars and arches.

Next, we walked to the Jewish quarter, where communities of Jews used to live before being expelled in the year of 1492. One of the main sects of Judaism, “Sephardic” is Hebrew for “Spanish,” which is a testament to how closely Jewish culture and ethnicity is tied to this country. Jaime spoke of the historical importance in this group considering their wealth, both economically and academically. Jaime spoke of expulsion of the Jews as a great tragedy—but Jews are now being welcomed back, and some still hold their roots dear. Jaime told us of a story of one family, living in Russia for many generations, who still have the key to the home they left in Toledo, Spain, hundreds of years ago.

One of the most thought-provoking places we saw today was Real Alcazar, the Royal Palace commissioned by Pedro the Cruel. Built after the Christian “reconquest” of Sevilla from the Moors, it was built in the Islamic architectural style. This can be seen in the many keyhole arches, stucco inscriptions, and overall “open-air” style. The obvious question is: why would a Christian king build his palace in the aesthetic of another religion? Many theories attempt at an answer, but the truth is that the meshing of the two styles has produced a structure we are still trying to understand.

One last-thing. Jaime talked about how difficult it is for a nomadic tribe to develop a culture of science, philosophy, and arts while on the move. True, when one is focused on travel and basics of survival it may be more difficult, but we are a testament to the contrary. Despite our packed itinerary and tired bodies, we definitely find the time to learn and explore Andalusia.

Ori Feldman – Biology