Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I learned the real meaning of "breathtaking" in Seville, Spain

I can't count how many times I've heard the expressions "breathtaking views" and "it will take your breath away." However, I didn't really understand its meaning until I traveled to Seville, Spain in 2006 to attend the April Fair (Feria de Abril). Because the principal Feria activities take place in the afternoon, evening, and late into the night, I did my sightseeing in Seville in the morning. On one of these trips, I walked into the patio pictured at the right, and at that point it literally took my breath away. At that moment I finally understood the meaning of "breathtaking" because I don't remember this ever happening to me before, and it hasn't happened since then.

This patio is called "El Patio de las Doncellas" (The Patio of the Maidens) in the Reales Alcazares in Seville, and I think that it was the elaborate stucco work that had that breathtaking effect on me because it caught me by surprise. What surprised me is this breathtaking feeling didn't happen when I visited the Alhambra in Granada two days earlier, beautiful as that was, and I saw a lot of elaborate stucco work there as well.

The Reales Alcazares (loosely translated "royal gardens") has been the residence of the rulers of this region since the Middle Ages, and its various parts, built at different times throughout history, likewise represent different architectural styles starting at about the 13th century. When you first walk into the courtyard, you can see the Giralda tower of Seville's cathedral in the background over the wall. The residence, with its elaborate gardens, still serves as the residence of the king of Spain when he travels to Seville on official business, and the second floor, where he resides, can be toured when he is not there, though the security is tighter on that floor than on the first floor and the garden area.

Something else remarkable happened while I was there. Before traveling to Seville, I had heard the saying "When you're in Seville, you can kick a stone and witness history." Something like that actually happened to me in the Reales Alcazares; while walking in one of its rooms, I accidentally kicked a piece of loose tile that had come up from the floor!

I would highly recommend visiting the Reales Alcazares if you are going to Seville, because a "breathtaking" experience just might overtake you!