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  • Saturday, March 7, 2015

    Alcázar of Seville

    Before leaving Spain, I wanted to see something touristy in the town of Seville.
    It was high on my list of places to visit in Spain, so even though I still had about 300 miles to the Lisbon Airport, I didn't want to just breeze through. 

    I decided to see the Alcázar of Seville, a royal palace which was originally a Moorish fort.

    Seville was chosen as a major harbor in Spain by the Queen because of its security from pirate attacks. In addition to this making it the main commercial city in 16th century Europe, Seville was also the Port and "Door to America."

    Just inside the entrance is The Monteria (Hunting) Courtyard, the main Courtyard of the Royal Alcázar of Seville. The name comes from being where hunters met before hunting with King Peter I.

    This is the Admiral's Hall next to the courtyard, where Amerigo Vespucci, Magellan, and El Cano planned the first sailing journey around the world, and Juan de la Cosa made the first world map in History. 

    This is the Courtyard of the Maidens and the main patio of the palace that connects all the major rooms. It's named after a myth that the Moors demanded a hundred virgins annually from their Christian kingdoms. 

    This myth was used as motivation for the Christian kingdoms to re-conquer southern Spain. Every time I learn a little bit about history, I discover how little politics have changed in the last couple thousand years.

    One of the reasons... alright the primary reason I came here, is that this is where they filmed the fictional city of Dorne in the upcoming season of Game of Thrones.
    I like being able to say, "I've been there," when I see a familiar place on TV or in photographs. I get to say that a lot lately.

    This is the Courtyard of the Dolls, named after the doll-like heads carved into the pillars. Admittedly I have a natural distaste for obscene wealth, so I'm not one to seek out the palaces and mansions of the world, but I enjoyed strolling through staring at all of these intricate little details. I wasn't thinking of how humans created such wealth disparity, I was just thinking of how humans created such a beautiful thing.

    After walking through large wooden doors built in 1366, I looked up to see the nearly 600 year old Dome Ceiling of  the Salon de Embajadores (Ambassador's Hall), made of interlaced wood and gilded in gold. 

    Arriving right as the doors opened meant I could roam without crowds and take pictures without anyone in front of my camera, but that didn't last long. The palace filled with people, so I made my way outside to the walled gardens.

    I've never seen anything like it. Fountains hissed and turtledoves cooed, making the modern sounds beyond the walls so easy to ignore. 


    The narrow angle of photos can't do it justice. 

    Next to the gardens and under the palace, rainwater is collected in Los Baños de Doña María de Padilla, the "Baths of Lady María de Padilla." This was surely a great place to avoid the summer heat of Southern Spain in the 13th century, if not a major source of infection. What can I say, I'm not a public bath kind of guy. Especially before the germ theory of disease was establish and the invention of chlorine.

    The air outside smelled of sour orange trees. Occasionally, when the aroma was sufficiently strong, it made me stop to just sniff the air. 

    I knew I would forever associate that smell with this place and how I felt. Some of my science geekery is going to slip out here, but smells are closely associated with memory because the olfactory area in our brain is connected to the Limbic system, the memory and emotional area of the brain. When you smell something new, your brain forms a link with it to other memories, people, places, things, or moments. 

    It's why the smell of pine places me back onto the trails of Yosemite National Park and always makes me happy regardless of what I felt prior to smelling it. And it's why I get needlessly anxious when I smell certain libraries or schools that remind me of my first day at Southeast Elementary school, which I had to switch to in the middle of my second or third grade.  It is also why the combined smells of hot cocoa and buttered toast fires up a strong memory of a day when school let out early due to a blizzard. I walked to school in those days, so when I got home my mom was buttering warm toast and had simmering hot cocoa on the stove waiting for me. To this day, those smells when combined give me a curious feeling of comfort.

    I look forward to the future smell of sour orange trees placing me right back here.


    This walkway is the Galeria de Grutescos and a great way to admire the gardens in the rain.

    Although, I loved the gardens so much I actually didn't mind walking in the rain. It kept others inside and made me feel like I had it all to myself.

    Nothing as insignificant as rain can shake the mood I found myself in. It's much too strong of a feeling for that. On a previous post, when I talked about a certain state of mind that I obtain when I go backpacking, this is the feeling I referred to. I got it back in the Gardens of of the Royal Alcázar of Seville. 

    Since I usually associate this feeling of happiness and freedom with backpacking in the mountains, I'm somewhat surprised I felt it in a manicured garden surrounded by 25 foot walls.


    I suppose there's no need to analyze why.



    I've always wanted to walk through a hedge maze. I got my chance.

    The hedges were about shoulder height. I took turns that didn't lead to the center just so I could be there longer.

    I can almost smell the orange trees by just looking at this photo.




    Behind me in this photo a small crowd of people started to gather. I saw everything I could and got more than I could have hoped for when I entered these walls, so it was time to leave. Next stop Lisbon, Portugal.