A TRIP TO SEVILLA
HOW TO LIVE IN SPAIN.
Ric Polansky Ó
Brrriiing, brrriiing chimed the phone still lying in its cradle. The secretary routinely reached over and picked it up. “Garcia Constructions” she slurred.
“Is Victor there”, I said.
“You must be crazy”, she blurted.
“Have I dialed the wrong number?” I questioned.
“No, its Feria in Sevilla. Why would Victor be here? Are you dumber than an onion? Nobody who is anybody misses the fair in Sevilla, and furthermore, even he was unfortunate enough to not obtain tickets, we’ve been given strict instructions to send out the message loud and clear, he is there and dancing on the tables. Who is this anyway?”
Caught out-- I thought quickly and sputtered, “This is a recorded message. Should you phone back, I will be in Sevilla.” And therefore I left to return to familiar haunts.
Seville is the romantic capital of Spain. If you haven’t been there, then you haven’t been to the center of Andalusia, the heartbeat of political shenanigans of the junta de Andalusia, the tap-tap-tap of true flamenco. Sevilla’s popular war dance, known affectionately as “Sevillanas” has now become the national dance of the country. Besides a monotonous familiarity of tune it’s real strength is that it can be equally danced by two women sashayingabout.
Sevilla is heaven in every sense; sights, sounds, smells and a cerebral gymnasium of the ancient juxtaposing the ultramodern. Old classic architecture, narrow winding cobblestone streets, tiny boutique shops, plenty of ancient churches, a castle in the center of town, lots of lush verdant parks smelling of orange blossoms and roses, an old Moorish mosque that is the tallest building connected to a cathedral-- well worth a visit. The 1929 World’s Fair was held here so all of the extravagant buildings still remain. There is no better way to visit the Plaza de España other than a horse drawn carriage. Much of Lawrence of Arabia’s palace scenes were filmed here. Each province of Spain has its own shield and depiction on the walls of the main buildings of the Plaza now a military headquarters replete with plenty of arches and ornate Arab decoration. Outside a triad of gushing fountains blow water high into the air on the near side of the meandering moat. An impressive blue, white and yellow ceramic bridge spans it to create a palatial entrance to the main building.
Sevilla is an ancient town much to do with the founding of the new world as here in the Torre de Oro were kept the accounts of all the gold brought back. Ships, would sail straight up the Guadalquivir River and unload the tons of golden goblets, chests of silver nuggets and bags of precious stones right here in the middle of town. Naturally, this open enterprise attracted all sundry types to deal with the gold. Sevilla has an old fame for handling money—anyone’s.
Just as your mind is adjusting to the serene setting and dream fantasy you’ll be smacked down to earth when you discover a new found hand in your pocket. The gypsies play a game here around the cathedral offering you a sprig of rosemary for good luck, no charge, then, they fall down claiming that you’ve pushed them. Before your mind can conjure up the fact that you are being conned you are surrounded by other Gitano groups that join in the charade screaming and grabbing at you for the damage you’ve done. Yes, of course you can buy your way out of the confrontation. Fifty Euros for the European common market member but the American’s get caned for at least one hundred dollars. The near by police don’t even watch the ageless drama any more, play acting as much a part of the folklore of Sevilla as the well known tower: the Giralda.
Late at night on dark corners street muggers are polite enough to cue up for the unsuspecting tourists that flock to Sevilla in schools of buses from the Coasts. Two million visitors will get filched but it keeps the local economy vibrant and away from violence.
Let’s be intellectually honest. How can you imagine a heaven without knowing a hell?
Sevilla, burning heat during the summer and freezing winds during the winter but the spring and fall are the best in Spain. For the Feria de Abril you go there to be seen—and of course do business. Sevilla has it’s own way of being, and manners and over politeness are an indelible part. Ask directions from anyone and he will run in front of your car for blocks to take you to your destination, even if he is wearing a suit and tie. He must perform as such. You, an outsider, are lacking the true knowledge of knowing where you truly are, but, having enquired of him, he has become the chosen one to show you the Sevillano direction, the true Sevillano way.
Years back I felt I had been over charged in a bar. I told my Spanish friends that I was staying with I was going back to firmly protest. Give them a piece of my mind! My more educated Sevillano instructed me in the proper art of manners. “Go to the bar next door, be very polite so they won’t think you are just another dumb foreigner. Order the same beer and tapa. Exalt how good it is. Become boastfully demonstrative about what an excellent bar you are in and sharing such fine tapas amongst such lovely and educated friends. Pay the bill, politely excuse yourself from their enjoyable company and just as you walk out the door exclaim how you had the same beer and tapa at the bar next door and was over charged! They’ll get the message”. And did they, as I was leaving the toros the next evening somehow that cheating
waiter was outside; how he knew where to find me is part of the “arte de Sevilla” but find me he did, and insisted I come back with him to his lowly and meek bar where the transgression would try to be rectified. And it was. And I found new friends.
Every Sevillano is a nobleman; once you know that you can survive, luxuriate, regale yourself there—and in all of Spain for that matter.
The hottest ticket in town is the toros. Most of the entradas are purchased by families that have no intention of going to the bulls but have the foresight of relieving you of your vacation monies. The paper value of the tickets isn’t much. Mine I had gotten off the internet months in advance and were the worst possible seats, valued at fifty-three Euros but were selling for three hundred Euros the day of the corrida. Once in Sevilla I was offered three thousand Euros for just one ticket. It’s a serious business for the true aficionado and robust scalper.
In Sevilla you usually go to the toros via your knowledge of the ranches. The surrounding countryside is rampant in horse ranches and breeders of the pre-historic fighting bulls. The crowd is one of the most knowledgeable in the world due to the proximity of their work and the Real Maestranza plaza de toros built in 1786 and only holding 13,500 true believers. Everybody knows everything, including the names of the poop scoopers, where they live, drink and personal habits. Sevilla is a village much of the year. Two young lads sitting next to me were totally informed about the “fiesta nacional” and it’s workings. Sevilla is also a closed shop and very hard to break into the secretive clans. But, every would be torero or avid follower of the bulls must attend.
Surprisingly enough the lingua franca is French in April, high up in the gradas at the toros, in the winding streets and around the cathedral. The Fair has become fashionable for the Frogs.
The famed night fair illuminated by more than a million lites with it’s heralded tents, serving ice chilled manzanilla and jerez— the must drink of the fair and the horses promenading up and down the rows is a sight to witness. It meant lots of walking which I cannot do just now so that was given a miss. But, Sevilla should not be missed. At least once in your lifetime if you are going to live in Spain, or love Spain and want to read about the happenings here— start with Sevilla. You won’t regret it-- unless you are one that carries lots of cash. And then, as the English bard penned: a fool and their money are soon parted”.