Seville’s Hidden Gems

This morning we were meeting our guide to take us on a little walk around the interesting neighbourhoods where the tourists don’t normally go.  I was quite looking forward to it.

We waited in the hotel’s grand foyer…

Check out his awesome furniture collection in the grand foyer…

Then, the lovely Delia turned up – by far our favourite tour guide yet! She was lovely. Friendly, caring, interesting & funny. The type of person you’d want to be friends with (yes, I know we were paying her)

We started with the Santa Cruz area – where our hotel is located and worked our way outwards from there. The first laneway she took us down was this one with beautiful greenery making a natural ceiling, then she stopped at a gate and explained the tit was part of our hotel. It was completely familia to us…. then we walked to the next gate and saw – the door to our room! All this time we thought this laneway was a corridor of the hotel and thought people walking through there at all times of the day and night were a bit inconsiderate with their noise level – but it’s a street! and people walking probably didn’t even know that people were sleeping – just over there.

Santa Cruz is the old Jewish quarter and Delia, who is an archeologist told us how sad she thought it was that there are not many Jewish remnants left in the city. All of the old synagogs were either destroyed or converted into churches (as were all the city’s mosques). There are only a few bits and pieces and you need to know where to look for them.

Recently there has been some excavation happening around Seville and during the digs, they came across levels of Jewish graves (possibly one century and then another century buried on top of that). They wanted to preserve the tomb, so they kept it in the exact place where it was found – then built a car park over the top of it. This is just a piece of wall infant of a carpark – luckily the space happened to be empty so we could have a look, but you can see by the reflection that a car was trying to get in there – not the most peaceful memorial space, but at least they did something.

This square – Plaza Santa Cruz used to be where one of the city’s synagogue’s was located. It was turned into a a church, which was then later destroyed, so they made a lovely garden space instead of rebuilding. This statue in the middle used to be in a different location, but when they had the expo in 1929, they thought that the snakes like dragon figures didn’t fit in with the look they were going for, so it was up and moved to here, with the cross and the catholic symbols, they clearly didn’t give much thought to the fact it doesn’t really go with the Jewish faith, but here it is.

It gets very hot in the south of Spain, but as soon as you step out of the sun – you’re instantly cool making the city very pleasant to walk around when the sun is not directly overhead (but at that time you’re generally inside eating tapas!)

One thing that Delia told us was that the people who are from the south of Spain are very friendly. They’ll welcome you into their homes and be your best friend forever…. but when you actually need them, they’re generally busy that day. A little like this story behind these historical homes you can find all around the city. People who live there have to open the door for the the public to have a look as they are part of the city’s history, however they’ve gotten around that rule by opening the door to the courtyard, but putting a huge iron gate at the street, so you can still see in, but only from a distance.

Oh now… this is a sad story, but may also be a warning for some readers….

Just around the corner from this square lived a beautiful young lady named Susona Ben-Suson.

It was the year 1840, in the final years of the Jewish community in Seville. The newly-emerging kingdom of Spain was enforcing people to either convert to Catholicism, or leave the city. Some stayed and ‘converted’ – pretending to be Catholic in public and practicing their real faith in their homes. There was suspicion among some Christians that those who converted maybe did it with their fingers crossed behind their back and were fearful of a revolt.

A man by the name of Don Diego de Suson, a wealthy merchant, and a recent catholic convert. He was alarmed by the threat to his position, and the christian suspicion, so he convened a secret meeting of prominent converts to discuss the possibility of an armed uprising.

His daughter Susona, however, had a Christian boyfriend, a young chap who lived in another part of town. She overheard the meeting with her father and the other converts, (which took place in the square near her house) and she feared her boyfriend would be put in danger by an her father’s plan, so she waited until after dark and she hightailed it across town and told the boyfriend every last detail she knew. He promptly reported them all to the authorities, and they were immediately arrested, brought before the Inquisition, tried and executed right there in the square.

So now Susona’s father and brother (who was at the meeting) had been killed and she was left alone in the world. She went to her boyfriend and asked what was to become of the love after this and he told her that their relationship was finished as he could no longer trust somebody who would betray their family like she had done.

Stricken with remorse Susona joined a convent and never spoke again. When she died she had left instructions that her head be removed from her body and placed into the window of her house (where, morbidly, it stayed as late as the 18th century) as a warning to others not to betray the trust of their families. Apparently after her head was finally removed a wooden replica was put there in its place.

Now in the square, there is a small tile with Susona’s skull painted on it. After hearing this story right out the front of the house – I felt a little sick, goosebumpy and very loyal to my family.

Here we’re standing in the square of Elvira. The street on the left is called in Spanish – the street of death and the street on the right – the street of life. Apparently during a religious culling of the city christian soldiers chased Jewish people through this square and the people that ran down one street were able to escape and the people that chose the other met their fate. It’s also eery to note that at the end of the street of death is Susona’s house.

Apologies for the gruesome story….

Now, tell me this statue of Jesus doesn’t look exactly like Rohan Atkinson!

Here are some more lovely gated houses…. have a look, but stay back please!

Moving on from Santa Cruz and we headed out of the tourist area and into where the locals live. These re regular residential streets and here’s a very rare garage – I love that it’s painted to look like you’re driving into an estate.

Delia had told us that she was going to show us “the mushrooms” – it was a new art thing and I was imagining it to be a small installation… but we turned a corner and looked up.

It’s called the Metropol Parasol. It’s a wooden structure that is 150 by 70 metres (490 by 230 ft) and an approximate height of 26 metres (85 ft). It  claims to be the largest wooden structure in the world.

I think I like it, but I don’t think I like it in this context. It’s surrounded by Seville’s beautiful old buildings and doesn’t really ‘go’. You can buy tickets and go to the top for a great view over Seville and there is a fresh food market and cafes on the ground floor.

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