26 November, 2014

Sevilla

The final part in my four-part series of travel posts. Click the following city names for the posts about those cities: Amsterdam, Paris, Barcelona.

I was perhaps most excited to visit the last city on our tour, Sevilla, Spain, because visiting would be sort of like coming home. I lived in Sevilla for 10 months from 2010 to 2011 while I was studying abroad there. Despite the homesickness and difficulties with a perceived-but-ultimately-non-existent language barrier that I experienced during my time there, I really liked the city itself. And my body responded well to the familiar settings: from the beginning of our trip I had been plagued with headaches and back pain, but as soon as we arrived in Sevilla those complaints stopped completely. It was almost eery.

Sevilla was exactly like I remembered it. I found my sense of direction and orientation within the city returning much more quickly than I expected, and it was exciting to finally be traveling somewhere where I could say "I know where we are" at nearly every turn. The only difficulty we ran into was on our first evening when we were attempting to navigate ourselves from the train station to our hostel. We had to walk through a part of the city that I didn't know, and we found ourselves huddled around my iPhone in the rain trying to get our bearings. Luckily a woman driving by took pity on us and asked us if we needed help, and when we told her where we were going she said she knew exactly where it was and offered us a ride. We are ridiculously grateful to her and her (I'm assuming) husband for rescuing us from the rain and getting us to our hostel safe and sound (and more quickly than it would have taken to walk). 

But even if we had walked it wouldn't have taken us that long. Something I had forgotten about Sevilla is how small it is. We didn't have to take public transportation within the city once because everything in the city center is so close together. And Sevilla is flat so everything is very walkable (and bikeable). What Sevilla is not is easily drivable. Most of the streets in the center of the city are barely wide enough for one car and can be very twisty and confusing. 

Even though I had already spent almost a year in Sevilla and had had plenty of time to take pictures, I ended up taking more pictures than I had originally intended during our five-day visit. We ended up seeing things I hadn't seen even in the time that I lived there, but mostly it was just a repeat for me, one that I did not mind at all because Sevilla is so beautiful. Much like the other cities we visited, we mostly spent our time wandering around and taking in the sights, with the added addition of tapas. We had decided early on that Sevilla would be our relaxing city, since Lindsay and I had both already been there, and that food rather than sightseeing would be a top priority. But we did get some sightseeing in regardless: we went inside the old palace and the gardens, because one of the staff members at our hostel told us about free entry for an hour in the afternoon, and we visited the Plaza de España.

View along the river
Torre de Oro (tower of gold)

Street our hostel was on
View of the cathedral from the top of the Torre de Oro
Side view of the cathedral
Inside the palace

Plaza de España
Tiny street in the old city
Plaza behind the Ayuntamiento (city hall)
View of the gardens
Tapas

We made the most of our opportunity to enjoy this Spanish specialty and it did not disappoint! We started out our tapas experience on our second day in Sevilla with the "fast-food" version: little sandwiches called montaditos at a restaurant called, fittingly, "100 Montaditos." And the tapas got much better from there. Next we went to a restaurant I had gone to several years ago that has, as far as I'm concerned, the best tapas in Sevilla. It's called Taberna Coloniales and if you ever go to Sevilla you MUST go there! Also let me know before you go and I can suggest things that I know are good, but I imagine that their entire menu is delicious. Before our time is Sevilla was over we visited two more tapas restaurants and relived all the Spanish classics that we remembered, including tortilla de patatas con salmorejo, paella, espinacas con garbanzos, patatas a la brava, croquetas, solomillo al roquefort, and more, plus some fried cuttlefish for a bit of adventure. I decided to avoid the various fish and seafood concoctions that I had struggled through while living with my host families. No need to put myself through that again. (Just for reference, southern Spain does in fact have good seafood and fish, I'm just not a fan of that area of food in general.) 

Language

Since I've done a section on languages for each of the other cities, I figure I'll do one here too for good measure. Out of all the cities we visited, Sevilla is probably the most monolingual (although Paris wasn't far behind). Spanish is spoken here and not much else, although children learn some English or French in school. Other than the woman who gave us a ride our first evening (we started out speaking English until she realized we speak Spanish) and a guy we met and talked to a few days later, I hardly noticed anyone other than the occasional tourist speaking English. 

Accordingly to a Spanish friend of Lindsay's who we met up with on our second day in Sevilla, this monolingual tendency can make traveling to other places in Europe difficult for many Spanish people. The standard and accepted international language throughout Europe is clearly English, and if someone speaks neither the language of the country they are visiting nor English, this can cause complications. I'm sure it can also cause difficulties for international tourists visiting Spain (except for tourists from South America), but since I do speak Spanish I do not know how far these difficulties may extend. I've sometimes had the opposite problem: people see me and assume I don't speak Spanish, so they attempt to talk to me with what little English they know. This can be more frustrating and time-consuming than just speaking Spanish in the first place.

Travel-Weariness

Despite the laid-back approach we took in Sevilla, by the time our trip came to an end I was exhausted. We had spent most of each day for the preceding two and a half weeks either walking around a city or traveling from one city to another, and we made the mistake of staying out late on our last night before heading back to Germany. Before I even started the trip back to Germany, all I wanted to do was sleep. But alas, sleep (or at least good sleep) was not in the cards for me: to save money, I had booked a flight back to Germany with an overnight layover in Barcelona. As a result, a trip that should have taken around six or seven hours ended up taking almost an entire day (around 21 hours). Once I was finally home in Karlsruhe it was amazing to catch up on sleep and finally fall into a normal day-to-day routine again.

But don't let the possible exhaustion scare you away from doing something like this. I had so much fun on this trip discovering new places and revisiting familiar ones, and I definitely want to continue discovering new destinations in the future. Now that I've gotten a fair amount of western Europe covered, I'd like to focus my next trip on eastern Europe. Perhaps Prague and Budapest next? Stay tuned for my next travel adventure!

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Previous stops on this trip:
Amsterdam
Paris
Barcelona

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