Cadiz, on the southwest tip of Spain, is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the Western world. Founded in the 12th Century B.C. by merchants from Tyre, it was controlled by the Carthaginians and Romans. Its lavish buildings stem from the Colonial period following Columbus (1492).
It was a major port receiving the wealth of the new world in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and its buildings reflect that wealth. Some modern wealth comes from an Airbus 380 assembly plant.
I would like to come back to get a better view of its original works by Goya, Murillo, El Greco and Zurbaran. But as we had been to the city before, we chose to take a “sheep tour” – they herd you on and off the bus like sheep – to Seville.
As we departed Cadiz past huge modern electric towers, we wondered at the smoky fires along the shore. There was a major conference of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American leaders taking place, and shipyard workers had lit the fires to protest recent economy measures.
Agriculture is clearly important in Andalusia. On our way to Seville, we drove though fields of wheat, sugar beets, rice and cotton. Andalusia also produces more olive oil than Italy, and we passed a road to Jerez, famous for its sherry.
Seville was settled about 1000 B.C. as a deep river port. Its original name meant “flat.” I guess my image of Spanish towns is one of fortified hills, so I was surprised to note how flat it was.
The 1929 Iberian/American Exposition was the impetus for modernizing the city. Broad boulevards were constructed, and 13000 decorative sour orange trees were planted throughout the city. Many buildings built to house exhibits are still in use, some as consulates, some as museums and others for business. Now one also sees recent improvements such as very modern bridges and sidewalk bicycle depots with bikes for rent by residents.
We walked through the Alcázar, the royal palace built by the Moors and expanded by later Spanish kings. The Moorish influence is clear in the courtyards, intricate scrolling on the arches and elaborate tiles covering many surfaces. Peacocks (and hens) strolled through the gardens.
Later, we strolled through the Jewish Quarter where we had a chance to shop. We chose to sit at a sidewalk café and watch workers struggle with a huge mirror. I never did see where they took it. Evidently their truck could only get as far as the café, and then they carried the mirror down a series of narrow winding streets until they disappeared from view.
The Moors built a huge brick Main Mosque and minaret from 1181 to 1198. After the Christian re-conquest, it was consecrated as a cathedral in 1248. A new cathedral was built on the site of the mosque from 1431 to 1517 with only the courtyard and minaret conserved. The minaret became the lower two-thirds of the present Giralda bell tower.
Modified over the years with baroque and subsequent styles, it is a very unusual cathedral. It does not have the usual cross plan but, following the footprint of the mosque, is rectangular. It covers 23,500 square meters. The bell tower is 98 meters high to the top of its weather vane.
Christopher Columbus and the travels of the remains now found in Seville. Their last trip was to Dallas, Texas for DNA confirmation. They do indeed have Columbus’ remains – but only 15 percent. There is speculation that some of the countries (such as the Dominican Republic and Cuba) retained portions when they were moved, but I wonder if some were spilled and ended up in the janitor’s dust bin.
Columbus’ Seville tomb, however, is fascinating. It is a coffin carried on the shoulders of four nobles representing four important Spanish kingdoms. The noble from Castile has a spear stuck through a pomegranate – the Spanish word for pomegranate is “grenada.”
We ate at the Hotel Macarena. Macarena was a gate in the old city walls long before it was a dance. Then we finished our tour at the Plaza de España, another remnant of the 1929 exhibition, now a government building.
The plaza was berated when built because it is mishmash of architectural features, but its elaborate modern tiles gained public appreciation, and now it is visited by tourists and locals alike. It even has a small canal, and young men rowing small boats went with their senoritas.
On a personal note, despite taking great care to frequently wash my hands, I picked up a cold on the ship. I tried to sit alone all day; my nose seemed to run constantly.