Saturday, June 29, 2013
Photos from today's walk can be found here.
Another new place for me. This charter has us deadheading from the US thru Cologne and Frankfurt to Seville. From there, after appropriate rests along the way, we will be shuttled to the airplane at a nearby military facility and fly our assigned legs of the charter.
I've never been to Spain before, though my airline does fly to a couple destinations in the country (but it's a different fleet, not the MD-11). We got in yesterday, arriving at the hotel around 3:PM, but--my circadian clock being in shambles--I really needed to sleep. I managed to go out for an hour's walk before coming back to the hotel to wind down and try to sleep. I achieved this (to some degree) from around 6:30 or 7:PM until about 1:AM or so. Then I sat around until about 3:30 before trying to get another couple hours. By 7:30 I'm up and headed down to the hotel's free breakfast, then off on foot to explore the town.
Yesterday's brief jaunt was not terribly interesting, so I'm glad I didn't use that experience as an excuse to sit in the hotel all day. My walk today took me in the opposite direction to a much more interesting part of town (I use Google Maps to get a general lay of the land before I depart, so I at least know what general direction to go). After an hour or so I found myself in the center of town (after passing a very odd, plastic-products apocalypse by a city park. Literally thousands and thousands of plastic bags and bottles and drinking glasses scattered densely along a couple of blocks. On my way back a crew was working to clean it up and the mess was mostly gone. Very curious.)
There's so much of Europe I haven't seen, but there is a certain sameness, a common thread running through the places I have seen: Paris, Cologne, Athens, London, Amsterdam. And now, Seville. It's a combination of things, I imagine: the signage and the types and brands of cars and a slightly different mode of dress than one sees in America and a zillion other little details--the design of their payphones and door handles and junk food and so on. Some of the sameness across EU countries is age-related, I imagine, though even that is hard to say. Much of what we see in these places is a re-creation of more ancient things, and many buildings are no older than what one sees in American cities. But the layout of the towns themselves betrays a more ancient origin (in much the same way as lower Manhattan or Boston show their pre-surveying origins). The small streets of Seville remind me of these other European cities, narrow and winding and cobble-stoned. And the streets are punctuated every few blocks with something that feels genuinely old--a church or palace or museum. But even these things are mixed in with modern structures and buildings of indeterminate age.
I was most taken with the narrow little streets. Except for the big (obviously new) 4- and 6-lane thoroughfares, few of the streets run in a straight line. On the contrary, most everything twists and winds such that you can never see more than a short block ahead of you, and the road either curves out of sight or dead-ends with a narrow little hidden escape when you get there. And every couple of blocks the narrow paths open into intimate little cobbled squares which are rimmed with cafes and boutiques. The vendors were just opening up as I walked thru, and tables and chairs and sun umbrellas were being put up. This seems to be where neighbors gather, and as the day progressed I saw lively conversations around the tables, folks jockeying for table food and smoking and sharing wine or beer (yesterday as well). The result is that the city feels warm and enveloping, intimate and friendly and manageable (despite its 700,000 / 1.5 million city / area population). The narrow-streeted neighborhoods of China have a similar feel, and they're also very social places; but again Seville has this "European-ness"about it. Signage or the scale of the buildings or the materials or some combination.
I'm reminded that my lack of food adventure causes me to miss out on things at times. Food here seems to be overwhelmingly social. The local custom of tapas seems to involve groups of friends and family gathered around plates of community food, kind of like hors d'oeuvres in scale, that are consumed in breaks in the conversation. I saw this a hundred times on my walk (including a surprising number of beer-drinkers at 9 in the morning). Susan has been to Spain before (though not, I think, to Seville). She would have forced me out of my comfort zone, and my visit would have been richer for it.
My route tracker put my walk at about 12.5 miles by the time I found my way back to the hotel. A nice introduction to a place that I may never see again (after laying over here again Monday-Tuesday).