Sevilla

Seville! City of tiny platesful of food!

The food has indeed been yummy. Garlic prawns, morcilla (the local version of black pudding), scrambled eggs with garlic shoots and ham, etc etc. I haven’t been getting my 5 servings of fruit and vegetable a day, mind you. Even if you count bread and breadsticklets as seperate vegetables. The trouble is, you order a half portion of ham or prawns or something and they bring loads of bread with it, and that’s pretty much a reasonable meal. Being Easter, it’s also the city of men in pointy hats. With, on the one hand, men in loafers, neat blue jeans, smart shirts, cashmere jumpers tied around their shoulders and designer sunglasses, and on the other, long parades of people in penitential hoods marching through the streets, it feels a bit like turning up to a party and realising no one told you the dresscode was ’80s or KKK’.

I can’t quite get around the sheer number of people taking part in the parades. Each one seems to have hundreds of participants, in pointy hoods carrying candles, in floppy hoods carrying crosses, a few carrying incense or the main figures of Christ or the Virgin, and a largish band to play dirges and thump drums. Since each church in Seville has a parade, and there are a lot of churches in Seville, it must represent a significant proportion of the city population every year. I’m sure the degree of real religious feeling varies – it seems like it’s as much an expression of local tradition now as a display of penitence – but a lot of it must be heartfelt. It gives me the creeps rather. An upbringing in a country where people who deny the literal truth of the resurrection get chosen as bishops is no preparation for mass displays of fervour.

On Maundy Thursday, lots of women appeared wearing mantillas. And dark glasses.

Trivia of the day: one of the statues of the Virgin is called the Macarena, after the area of Seville where the church is, many Seville women get named Macarena after the Virgin; the cheesy pop classic is named after one of these women.

If you’re ever in Seville, I’d definitely recommend the Real Alcazar, the Islamic/Renaissance palace started by the Almohads, and continued both in the Moorish and classical styles by the Spanish kings after the reconquest. It has large and rather lovely gardens which are almost as good as the palace itself. It’s a kind of second-rate version of Alhambra, but Alhambra sets such a high standard that second-rate is pretty good. I’ve always loved the idea of a house built around a central courtyard, but of course in Britain you wouldn’t be building a shady oasis, you’d be building a dingy hole that, at best, spent much of the year acting as a windbreak.

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