My first stop in Spain was Seville. I was super excited to go during the week leading up to Easter because Semana Santa (Holy Week) is a very big deal in Spain (a picture of one of the parades actually made the front page of the Wall Street Journal). The week was a much bigger deal than I was expecting. Miniature displays of the Nazarenos (members of religious brotherhoods) were all over the windows of clothing stores and bakeries. What is so intriguing about these displays (and the parades they walk in) is what they are wearing… To a lot of people in the west, it would be compared to the costumes of the Ku Klux Klan. Racism is obviously not what this religious ceremony is promoting, but rather the conical hats are symbolic of the penitent approach to heaven. Either way it was very weird at first to see them walking around. The parades are quite long both in length and duration; it took about an hour and a half for them to pass my stationary location and some have routes that have them walking for 12 hours. There are generally two very ornate floats that are the most exciting portion to watch. The first float is Jesus dying and the second is a despondent Mary who is crying over the torture and death of her son. Some people in the audience get quite emotional over this and start crying. The true symbolism behind the parades is lost on the children because for them it has become an event of begging for candy from the people walking.
The cold and rainy weather that has been following me for over a month has once again come to Spain with me. While the south of Spain is supposed to be in the 80s and sunny in April; it was raining and about 55 degrees while I was there. Because of the rain, the parades were delayed and many were completely canceled. Of course because “Es España” (this is Spain), there were no announcements or information being provided (even in Spanish) regarding the cancellations to the gigantic crowds gathered outside of the churches for the beginning of the parades, just a herd of people walking away not knowing what was actually happening. The mass chaos created in the streets all over Seville also provided a glimpse into the real Spain as well. Instead of having well defined walkways so that people can get to where they need to go (to their hostels because it is 2 am and they are tired, for example), it took over two hours for what should have been a five minute walk…
I went to a Flamenco show and decided that I would probably be pretty good at it for two main reasons. First, is that despite the constant reminders to always smile that I got in my elementary school dance lessons, in the flamenco you’re allowed to have a pained grimace on your face, which apparently I have naturally even if I’m not in a bad mood… Also there is no touching even if you dance with a partner which goes well with my personal bubble space I find to be necessary.
My next stop in Spain was Cordoba. The only real draw there was the Mezquita. This is an absolutely beautiful cathedral that used to be a mosque. It was originally built as a mosque by the Moors. After the Spanish Reconquista it was converted into a Roman Catholic Church. Because the building is considered one of the beautiful buildings in Islamic architecture, Muslims are trying to convert it back to Islam. So far they have been unsuccessful.
Granada is home to Alhambra, one of the finalists of the New 7 Wonders. Unfortunately my habit of not planning anything in advance that got developed in India, Egypt, and Morocco caught up to me. Being the week of Semana Santa, I should have known better than to expect to book tickets the day before I wanted to go. When I finally got around to checking, tickets to Alhambra were booked solid for the next three weeks. Fortunately with some internet research I figured out that if I bought the “Granada city pass”, it included the coveted ticket. This of course didn’t come without a cost. It was double the price, but also included admission to the cathedrals, some monasteries, and the science center. So basically I ended up being suckered into going to a bunch of stuff I would have ordinarily not paid for. But since I was stuck paying the extra $15, I begrudgingly went to the attractions. At least it reinforced my stance that I’m tired of paying to go into churches (which all look the same to be now because I have seen so many in my travel life by now). The science center was sort of interesting, the funniest part was the “workplace safety” exhibit. It reminded me of the episode of The Office where Michael is trying to make office work seem as dangerous as work in the warehouse.