Seville: A Spanish cultural center full of surprises - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Arts & Life

Seville: A Spanish cultural center full of surprises

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Posted: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 3:00 pm | Updated: 6:43 am, Tue Aug 13, 2013.

It's exciting to travel lightly with just a passport, a toothbrush, and a couple changes of clothes - planning as you go and moving between places nimbly. This is exactly what I did going to Seville.

I planned to read my travel guidebook on the plane ride there so I knew about all the interesting things to see and do, but my in-flight conversation with an Italian was just too engrossing. I would have to wing it.

I decided to stay in a hostel (a first for me), which turned out to be a great choice. They are cheap and packed full of young, fun people. There were people from all over - Italy, Spain, Germany, France, Poland, Scotland, Mexico, Australia, and Honduras. It was a small microcosm of the western world. The hostel also had a number of planned events like a rooftop paella-making lesson and several city tours.

Andalucia (the southern region of Spain in which Seville is located) is a large cultural center for many things Spanish, including bullfights and flamenco. Unfortunately, now is not the season for bullfights, but I did go to a flamenco show. I had been to shows before in Barcelona, but these were nothing compared to the Seville show.

The dancers were decked out in their finest, ruffliest, and most colorful dresses and outfits, spinning fans, castanets, and capes. It was awesome. The thing that surprised me most about flamenco was the footwork. The dancers could move their feet firecracker fast. The group dances were choreographed, but many of the solo performances were made up on the fly.

A dancer would take the stage with a pensive, tortured expression, and start moving his feet. Others on stage would add a clapping rhythm to help egg the dancer on. The dancer would move his feet faster and faster, spurred by the more furious claps of his companions and the crescendoing guitar. He would keep increasing his speed until some sort of physical limit was reached, upon which he would jump in the air, click his heels a few last times, and end with a flourish to a lightning fast guitar strum.

I was expecting the flamenco show to be excellent, and it was. But one thing I didn't expect was the 7,000 pipe organ at Seville's cathedral, which is the largest gothic building in the world. I stayed at the church for two masses to hear it. Let me tell you - there's nothing quite like an enormous organ playing Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" at full blast inside that large of a building.

In fact, the cathedral in Seville is full of a number of surprises. Another one is the tomb of Christopher Columbus, who apparently is one of the most confusing and confused characters in history. He died not knowing that the "New World" he found was actually not Asia. And to this day, no one is sure where he is from. Some say Italy, others Spain. The Catalonians claim him, citing a letter he supposedly wrote in Catalan when he was 9. Wherever he came from, scientists are pretty sure where he is lying dead. Columbus' grave has been confirmed by DNA evidence.

It was with reluctance that I took my small duffel bag, left my hostel, and made my way through Seville's tangled streets to the bus that would take me to the airport. I was very tired, rather stinky, and battling oncoming illness on my night flight back to Barcelona. Was it a packed weekend? Yes. Was it worth it? Of course.

Scott Norgaard is a junior at Rice University in Houston, Texas, pursing a degree in mathematical economic analysis. He is an alumni of Desert Vista High School in Ahwatukee. This column is part of a series chronicling his adventures studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain.

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