On Sunday, we got to take a free group tour of Alcázar, the royal palace in Sevilla (thanks CIEE! Have I yet mentioned how much I adore my program?)
First off, shout-out to our amazing guide (don’t remember his name because I’m the worst blogger in the world) for being incredibly entertaining and informative. I hope that my little factoids in this blog do his knowledge justice because literally everything I’m going to write came from him, not Wikipedia.
So. A royal palace in the middle of the city. Kind of cool right?
Isabel sent expeditions to the New World from this palace.
This is where all the kings of Spain have stayed when they have visited Sevilla, down to Juan Carlos (the last king) and Felipe VI (the current king).
Fun fact: The current king is married to a former journalist, holla! Our guide said that it was a pretty big “scandal” of sorts, much in the same way Kate Middleton was (in terms of a commoner marrying into royalty).
The history nerd and wanna-be princess in me had a field day in this place.
The architecture is absolutely fascinating. Alcázar was first conceived by the Moors but finished by the Christian conquistadors. The Christians decided that they loved the Arabic architecture and thus kept what already existed, and merely added onto and enhanced (thus, there are icons of saints all over, for example).
Our guide said that all of the intricate detail we saw [first picture] was done by hand in plaster. The Arabs loved using plaster because it was cheap and relatively easy to manipulate into exquisite carvings. All of the carvings used to be richly coloured [second picture] but time has faded much of the blues and reds, leaving only the (still amazing) carvings behind.
This dome was one of my favourite parts in the palace. Absolutely gorgeous. It’s not solid gold, but gold leaf (pan de oro which directly translated means “bread of gold.” Our guide told us, “I’m not sure why we use bread but I also don’t know why English uses leaf.” He has a point). Most of the gold you see in these pictures is, in fact, gold leaf.
The architects also drew a lot of inspiration from nature.
This was evidenced in the physical structure [third picture].
As our guide said, “We aren’t looking at architecture. We are looking at nature.”
The columns with the scalloped arches are meant to evoke trees and their leaves.
However, the architects also drew inspiration from nature by creating a huge garden within the palace compound.
We weren’t allowed to walk in the gardens, just through the above-ground walkway overlooking them. However, come springtime, the gardens are opened up and people are allowed to bring books and relax/stroll at their leisure. Definitely going to be taking advantage of that as soon as the weather warms up
The compound is complete with pavos reales (literally “royal turkeys” but really is the word for peacock. Not a terrible direct translation though. Peacocks are pretty royal and they’d probably look like turkeys without the color and huge tail. So basically they’re not turkeys but hey. You get my point.) We didn’t see any today (probably hiding from the rain. smart) but I hope to in the future!
You can’t see entirely well but in very old maps, the world was painted upside-down from how we know it today. So Barcelona is further “south” than Sevilla and further “north” than France and Germany etc.
So picture 1=where one king was married (I want to say Carlos V but I can’t recall exactly)
Picture 2=the wedding’s reception hall, which you can coincidentally still rent out for weddings and other such monumental occasions (Mom and Dad—I will literally never ask for anything ever again if I can have my wedding in a royal palace in Spain. I’m sorry for ever complaining about my math homework).
This giant almost floor-to-ceiling picture depicts the patron saint of the seas with many famous Spanish explorers from Cristóbal Colón to Hernán Cortés.
It was very interesting to hear our guide talk about Spanish history in terms of colonization. He very openly said that the Spaniards were “los malos” (the bad guys) during that time period. But he also said that despite the cruelty and flaws, their contribution of knowledge to the world was priceless.
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For those of you who are less historically inclined, parts of “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Kingdom of Heaven,” and the upcoming season of “Game of Thrones” were filmed at Alcázar. Just saying. I’m living in a pretty chic place.
Basically I loved the palace (despite it’s draftiness. Geez it’s cold here when it rains). Incredible history and beauty to be found. #TypicalSevilla
(See this gallery for more pictures!)