An early start today, Wednesday 12, on a 9.20am train to Seville via Madrid. A very long day, not getting to Seville until 7.30pm.  Although we were actually in a train for 5 hours to Madrid, then 2 1/2 to Seville, it was pleasant and relaxing. The second train was much newer, at times going as fast as 260 kph – the fastest we have travelled so far. We now begin our exploration of the south. We know we are going to find it quite different.

You may be a bit mystified by today’s feature image, but it is evidence of the place at which Christopher Columbus’s and our paths have finally crossed.

We got to our room in Seville a bit after 8pm, a 15 minute walk from the station. A very basic room, probably more basic than we counted on, but it will work. We rang our friends Jill and Dave Parry with whom we are spending our time here and arranged to meet them at the Cathedral. Well – that was fun. Seville is packed to the gills with people who have come for Semana Santa – Holy Week. Seville is the centre in Spain for Holy Week although every city has a lot happening. Processions happen from Palm Sunday till Easter Sunday, with Good Friday the biggest day. No doubt Easter Sunday is big too. We will wait and see. It was very difficult getting to the cathedral as processions were happening and roads were blocked.  And the crowds were unbelievable. With the help of Google maps we finally found them – but it took us till close on 10pm. Lovely reunion over a ‘tapas’ dinner.

Thursday 13

We arranged to meet at 10.30am again at the cathedral which we all wanted to explore. There was a long queue but it moved quite fast and spent till 2 there. It is pretty fantastic. The largest Gothic cathedral in Europe they say. It certainly is huge and incredibly ornate. We had audio guides and would have been lost without them.

IMG_0896Jill and Dave have rented a very swish apartment close by. You can see here the kind of paintings they have on their walls.  It was about all that was left in Seville when they made a late decision to join us. So we went there for lunch – picked up some nice things on the way. They have a roof top terrace so it was extremely pleasant sitting up there.

We did that until we heard drumming and a wind band and realised it was the beginning of the Easter Thursday processions. So we went to the end of the street and watched. They are really quite amazing. In Seville there are 50 brotherhoods or fraternities who get up groups to march. Each involves a huge group of participants of one kind or another. Banner carriers to start, then drummers and wind band players, followed by the people in peaked hats (nazarinos, or pentinents) with in some cases their friends, husbands etc, men who carry the floats or pasos (costaleros) about 80 of these who work in shifts of up to 40 as the pasos are very heavy. Each group going past takes quite some time – up to 60 minutes. They have to rest regularly for the float carriers. In total we reckon some processions involve up to 1,000 participants.  A really amazing business.

The floats are huge works of art, which are usually kept in churches for use at Easter. Some have been in use since the 17th century. They can weigh as much as 2000kg, and are of great value. Some of the groups have two such floats.

We had a good meal and then found spots among the crowd to watch several groups and floats go by. At around 1am we decided to call it a night as we were tired. The crowds were as huge as ever with many taking up spots where they would stay till 4am when the last group was scheduled. This made our way back home very difficult as the crowds were impenetrable. Plus the iPhone (for Google Maps) was down to almost zero on the battery. So sticking closely to the map we walked a wide arc around the city keeping away from the cathedral. We arrived home at 3am with very sore feet.