|The alleyway of the Hotel in Carmona|
Seville. Not much known outside Spain. Yet as one researches Spain, one cannot escape Seville. You hear about its wonders everywhere. The internet is flush with the photos and writeups about Alcazar. A Game of Thrones shooting site. The pinnacle of Moorish architecture in Medieval Spain. The Moroccan taxi driver in Barcelona told us about it. The Bull Fighting arena in Las Ventas, Madrid has many displays from Seville. If Madrid is the cosmopolitan hub of Spain and Barcelona is its free spirit, then Seville, or Sebiya as it pronounced, is the cultural soul of Castilian Spain. Seville is to Spain, what Pune is to Maharashtra. It is a must-see sight. And I have included it in my itinerary.
|Intricately carved stone of the facade of Alcazar|
|Game of Throne Dome!|
There is a problem. While booking the hotel in Seville, I find the only decent hotel I can afford is in a locality called Carmona. I did not pay attention to the fact that Carmona is a good 40 km from downtown Seville! When I detect this, it is too late. The hotels of Seville are for some reason in the range of 700 – 1000 Euros a night! Airbnb throws up even weird options – homestays as far out as 60 km away! There is something amiss! After spending some late nights researching Seville stay options, I give up. Instead, I start focusing on Carmona. It is not such a cultural desert after all. The distant suburb of Carmona has a charm of its own. Its own ruined fort walls and churches and a Roman necropolis! I console myself that if not Sebiya then Carmona. I discuss this with my wife and she agrees enthusiastically. Somehow I am reminded of the sour grapes story. The next problem is, while Carmona is on the main highway from Seville to Cordoba and Madrid, there is no decent fast way to connect it. At least not that I can find one on the internet. I book an ALSA but which takes about 45 minutes. Thankfully it connects conveniently to the bus from Malaga to Seville. So after two bus changes, I reach the sleepy suburb of Carmona in the afternoon.
|Geometrical patterns on the walls|
|Stylised Arabic inscriptions|
The sun is shining mercilessly. The bus has dumped us in front of a café, which is not yet open and there is hardly anyone on the streets. I call up my hotel who send a taxi promptly. The 1km journey costs me 10 Euros but I am grateful. As we enter the hotel, I realise it is a heritage property. The hotel has seen better days but the grandeur of the medieval opulence of the palace remains. Huge staircases, chandeliers, ornate ceiling, and paintings adorn this palace converted into a hotel. We make our way to the first floor lugging our baggage. It is a huge suite with two rooms and an even larger toilet. It seems we are transported to early 20th century colonial India! But soon the chinks become plain. The air conditioning is ineffective. There is no hot water and no room service. The staff speaks only Spanish and the restaurant is super expensive. But we make the most of what we have and snap pics in the grand alleyways as if we were royalty but in decay! After settling we start a walk on the cobblestoned medieval town.
Carmona was a major transport hub between the urban centres of Cordoba and Seville in the Medieval times. Situated on a hill, it provides a vantage point of several miles in both directions. The walled town is atmospheric. The ramparts of the wall towering over the landscape. Just outside the Cordoba Gate, one can see for miles around. The green and a yellow patchwork of fields are interrupted by a six-lane highway to Cordoba and onwards to Madrid. While there are no sites to see, but the ancient houses, crumbling fort walls and the cobblestoned street are atmospheric. We hit a small square where most of the shops are shut as it is siesta time. An ice cream shop is open. We make the most of it. The shopkeeper speaks no English but ice cream is a universal language. He punches the final cost on a calculator. We pay up licking our respective icecreams. Our kids shout the most enthusiastic “Gracias” ever heard! The evening is upon us and some of the shops have started opening. A small grocery store is open and we enter it to buy some yoghurt and other munchies. We spot agarbatties and little Buddhas made in India. The price in euros dissuades us from enquiring further. After spending the better part of the evening roaming the streets we walk back to our hotel. We enquire about going to Seville by public transport as the Taxi ride is a stiff Euro 120.
The next day being Sunday there are only limited services. We decide to take the early morning bus to Seville. The plan is to see the Alcazar in the morning and then catch the evening bus to our next stop, Lagos in Portugal. The next morning we make good time and are the first passengers at the bus stop. A south Asian looking person approaches me and asks me in Punjabi, “how to go to Seville?” I reply in Hindi. But he is confused. I try the same thing in my broken Punjabi and he seems to understand. I wonder at this. A bus journey of two hours later we are in Seville and clueless. We are looking for a baggage drop service. We find none. After scouting for an hour, my wife offers to sit by the luggage at the huge Eustacion de Santa Justa. I along with the kids go for a quick visit to Alcazar. We have pre-booked timed tickets.
The Alcazar is not a place which lends itself to such a hurried visit. After all, it was the palace of the powers that be for nearly 300 years. The Moorish architecture of the Alcazar is pristinely preserved. The ceilings, floor and walls have intricate geometrical designs in the Islamic style. The gardens outside are laid again as per strict geometric conformity. Interspersed with flowing water and fountains. By the time we walk below the labyrinthine alleyways, passages and halls to stand below the GoT dome, my kids are exhausted. We take a quick selfie. We exit Alcazar and reach the Santa Justa station where my wife is waiting patiently. We find a McDonalds, munch in and then make way for the ALSA bus to Lagos in Portugal.
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