Sunday, April 18, 2010

Last Week

Last week was an absolute whirlwind coming off London and Normandy (post coming soon), and leading up to Feria, or fair, which is our second spring break and apparently the festival of festivals. I decided that with so much going on I needed to keep focusing on learning and seeing more of Sevilla, so Tuesday afternoon I went to Casa de Pilatos, or the house of Pilate, which is in the center of town.

Sevillanos love legends, and Casa de Pilatos is full of them. The stories surrounding this palace spiraled so far out of control that some people now claim this to be one of Pilate's houses, or at least an exact copy, his palace in Jerusalem. Nonetheless, the real story is this. The first Marquis de Tarifa, who also became Duke of Alcala was an extremely religious figure in Sevilla during the 1500's and made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, where he discovered that in paces, the distance between Pilate's house to the Calvary hill was the exact same as a distance between his house, now known as la Casa de Pilatos, and a temple of Sevilla. He placed high emphasis on this to the point where descendants named rooms to show the correspondence, such as "The Passion". The locals ended up circulating stories and more stories about the palace, and here we are.

Here's the main courtyard:

The palace was constructed in the mudejar style, with its Muslim roots fitted to suit Christian tastes, so the palace exhibits more exquisite tiling all over the walls.

Pictures were prohibited in most of the palace, but because the family that lived here, the Enriquez de Ribera, was incredibly wealthy and lived in the golden age of Sevilla, where it had a virtual monopoly on all trade with the New World, they were able to collect art, ceramics, cutlery, tapestries, and furniture from China, Japan, Great Britain, and India, and it was all impressive.

However, in part of the palace where photos were permitted, I stumbled upon a large painting that was a bit worrisome. You tell me what's wrong with this picture.

Maybe you need a closer view:

I don't remember the names, but this painting depicted a powerful man of Sevilla with his wife, who was known as "La mujer con barba", or the bearded lady. I'm not making this up. Why the wealthy man chose to marry a bearded woman is one question, why he decided to pay to etch this strange family in history, quite another.

After the interior, I went out (which is still in, technically) to the gardens.

After the palace, I had a little lunch with my spanish friend, Paula and we talked mostly about what to expect with Feria, but mostly other typical things. I'm kind of accustomed to spanish people now and realize they're just like me, so I don't have as many things to comment on, it's just normal.

Thursday morning I had a field trip in my anthropology class, so I took the long way to the museum and passed through a park, where the sunshine was in full force:

And then I made my way to Plaza de America to hang out before entering the Museum of Customs and Arts, which sits adjacent to the plaza.

The museum was nothing to phone home about, but considering I was on a field trip and not just seeing it as a tourist, it was definately worthwhile. I have no idea how spanish women had the patience to sew these lacy mourning shawls.

And as it was a museum of popular customs, there were giant wine barrels in the basement, apparently a couple hundred years old, and once a year there is a ceremonial day where some of the wine is served to patrons of the museum in commemoration of one of the most popular customs here: drinking. I would like to point out however that drinking here has none of the negative connotation that it does in America, unless you're talking about a "botellon", which is the practice of a lot of young people who get together by the river and drink a lot. I'd say binge drinking is way less prevalent here, where it's much more popular to just grab a glass of wine or beer with meals or during a break in the day.

Seeking yet more culture, Mark, our friend Lauren, and I walked to the oldest bar in Sevilla Thursday afternoon. This bar was established in 1670, and continues today. Take a moment to let that date sink in. This bar is over 100 years older than our country. Inside, there are bottles on the shelves that are so old, the companies themselves have tried to buy them back. It's noteworthy that the bar is also famous for its spinach, and when we were trying to find it, whenever we would say, "El Rinconcillo, the bar with famous spinach", literally everyone knew what we were talking about. I should also note that the spinach was the best spinach I've ever had, which says a lot and nothing at the same time.

In other news, strange things have been happening at my homestay. Before London, I bought a cheap box (think small dictionary sized) box of wine because I thought I was meeting up with friends that night. The meeting never happened, but when I came home from London, the box of wine was still there on my shelf, however it was a different one. And about every other day since, the box of wine has changed. I want to ask my senora about it, but I'm going to see how long it lasts. Also occurring last week, I went to the bathroom, and one of the small turtles from the basin on the floor had been swapped with a large turtle from the bidet, and all four turtles were moving around as if they were all very uncomfortable with the new situation. Later that night I went into the bathroom, and all turtles were back to their rightful homes.

As far as school is concerned, I'm still going even though it may not seem like it. I'm actually really enjoying most of my classes. My writing class pretty much does discussion and a little grammar everyday, but our teacher is the man and keeps it fresh. In Anthropology we're learning about the economy of Andalucia, which can pretty much consists of wine and olives, and in history, we're learning about the Spanish monarchy under Charles V, and although the material is interesting and completely new to me, our teacher uses the blackboard very sparingly, and no sort of technology, so it's a constant struggle to pay attention to the 2 hour spanish lecture in the strictest sense of the word.

That's all I have to say about that.

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