Monday, December 5, 2011

Culture Corner: Andalusia, Spain

Around Easter this year,  I took a seven day trip to Andalucia, Spain, traveling through the cities of Malaga, Grenada, and Seville.  Spain being an informative part of Western culture, the trip was more sublime than exotic.  The cafes, plazas, and cobblestone streets, though a familiar idea, nonetheless offer a colonial charm that the US simply cannot offer.  The Spaniards were extremely hospitable and relaxed and possessed none of the bravado I expected.  We were treated with soft smiles and polite ’thank yous’ wherever we went.  Quite coincidentally, we chose to travel during Semana Santa (Saint’s Week), which for the Spanish is like Christmas.  Everything shuts down for the week except hotels, restaurants, bars, cafes, etc., and the people travel to visit their families and friends.  It is also primetime for the Catholic church.  Everyday numerous processions meander the streets of every city and village.  Moving from one church to another (according to a schedule so you can plan your day), a parade of costumed people associated with the church (clergy, altar boys, etc.), a marching band, and troupes carrying large wooden figures depicting various scenes from the crucifixion of Christ march through the crowds enjoying their holiday.  It’s mostly a social not a religious time, as after one procession passes, the people go back to eating and drinking at the plethora of street side eateries and bars.  Semana Santa led to myself having an exciting and interesting week.  It’s not every time you travel that you get to experience a county’s most important holiday – and a week’s worth at that!  But without further ado, here are some of our photos:
As you imagine, Spain is a sunny place – certainly different than Easter time at my home in Maine.  This is the plaza in front of Malaga’s cathedral.
I wanted to go to a bullfight, but unfortunately due to the holiday none were scheduled.  I had to settle for a photo of an advertisement stuck above the main entrance to Malaga’s bullfighting ring.
For those who don’t know, this is Alhambra in Grenada, a combination fort, castle, pleasure ground and palace built by various dynasties over the years, the Moors to the Spanish, thus the mix in architectural styles.
 Covering a hillside, the Alhambra is a huge place.  Above is only a part of the pleasure gardens.
 Here are some of the people participating in the processions.  I did not know this prior to visiting Spain, but apparently the KKK took the idea of the their costumes from Catholic processions such as this.  
After Grenada we visited Seville, which is home to the Plaza de Espana, pictured above.  The plaza itself too big for our camera, what you see does only partial justice.
 Seville is also home to La Giralda (above).  Originally a Moorish tower, it is now attached to one of the world’s largest cathedrals.
This is an interior view of Seville’s cathedral.  Even if the photo showed ceiling to floor, I still don’t think you could get a feeling of how huge this building is.  The side chapels were like cathedrals!
And the processions did not stop for darkness.  As the week drew closer to Good Friday, more and more appeared, as well as ran longer into the night.  This photo was taken at 1:00 in the morning.  Leading the way are the ubiquitous peaked cap processioners and associated clergy, followed by a wooden platform featuring Mother Mary, lit by candles and being carried by a very tired group of men.  In the maze of Seville’s cobblestone streets it was very often the case that we would get caught amidst processions such as this trying to move from one place to another.  As they move slow and people crowd thick around them, several times we were boxed in by processioners.  Without escape, the only thing to do was hop into the nearest bar for tapas and a glass of wine and wait...  Yes, Spain is as relaxed as you think it is.

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