One of the books I am most likely to recommend to anyone is We, by Yevgeny Zamyatin. Almost everyone has read either 1984 or Brave New World or both, but We predates them both; Orwell and Huxley have had to defend themselves against how much they took from We. I prefer We mostly because it’s funnier, but they all deal with slightly different things: oppression via censorship, via drugs, or via rationality.
That has almost nothing to do with this post except that my dear friend came to visit me for 10 days, but I am going to call her “O-90” in order to respect her privacy, and O-90 is the name of one of the main characters in We. If you don’t understand something in this post, I’m probably referencing We.
We visited Madrid:
Madrid is a lot of fun to show to others. It’s a big, bustling city, and we were lucky to be staying at a great location right in the heart of everything. Here’s something interesting O-90 found:
It’s a door-knob or a door-knocker. There was a matching hand on the other side of the door. I don’t know if these hands have some other significance, because we found a matching set on a door in Córdoba… and in Sevilla!
We also went to Córdoba:
The first time I was in Córdoba, it was December. All the doors were closed. The Alhambra was big and nice and everything, and the Roman bridge was impressive and still-existing, but I honestly didn’t understand why my friend S-4711 loved Córdoba enough to live there for 3 years.
This time, though, all the doors were open. Córdoba is beautiful! At O-90’s lead, we took a trip into the old Jewish quarter and the charm of Córdoba really started to show itself: compact, winding streets covered in cobblestones and ivy, open doors where craftsmen bent over their hand-made work, and bubbling fountain after bubbling fountain decorating hidden patio after hidden patio.
Here’s the door-knocker:
This is one of my favorite castles that I have ever been to. The views from El Escorial are breathtaking. Maybe it was because the sky was blue and the day was warm. Maybe it’s because there was a herd of cows in the garden, and they made me laugh. Maybe it’s because the artwork rivaled the Prado. This was the first palace that I visited and thought, “I understand why someone with a million billion dollars would want to live here.” As secure a fortress as it is, and as much as it was built to represent the very grill on which the martyr San Lorenzo burned, it was comfortable, beautiful, peaceful, and somehow livable. You know, in a “I have a million billion dollars” kind of way.
We actually took so long walking through the basement, we didn’t even get to see the living quarters–nor could we walk up the main staircase beneath a ceiling painted going up into the heavens so realistically that it gave me vertigo. But the tomb in the basement was worth it! My jaw dropped when I walked into the room that held the corpses of kings and queens for over 5 generations. It wasn’t disgusting or claustrophobic; it was one of the richest things I had ever seen, built completely of vaulted marble and wrapped in gold. I’d show a picture, but to take one would have gotten me thrown out of the palace. You’ll have to come yourself to have a look. Let me know when you’re going and I’ll come with you!
For a daytrip from Sevilla, we went to Itálica:
Itálica is the name of an old Roman city that was the birthplace of three Roman emperors and several Roman senators. It has a large ampitheater, hot and cold baths, the ruins of palaces filled with intricate mosaics, and so much more that I can’t tell you about yet because it’s still covered with 2000 years of dirt — and the sleepy town of modern-day Santiponce.
Itálica keeps the original Roman street-plan. You can walk the original main Roman road and see the original Roman curb-sides still in-tact. I laugh a little because of all the things the Romans cared about — rooms filled with art and plush lounge chairs and rich plates and cups and mosaics — I’m impressed by the curb. There’s also a really cool gutter.
And, por supuesto, Sevilla:
We stayed in Sevilla for the most time because I had to work. That’s when O-90 visited the palace, the palace gardens, the cathedral, and other things around town. Here are some of the touristic highlights of Sevilla:
With those out of the way, O-90 and I just had fun. Check out some of the awesome graffiti we saw:
My favorite day exploring Sevilla with O-90 was the day we went to Plaza de España and el Parque María Luisa. If I had a euro for every picture we took that day, maybe I could afford to live in El Escorial.
In Sevilla, O-90 started having me take pictures of all the food we ate. What I should have taken pictures of was Rayas, our favorite gelato place. It has the most delicious hazelnut gelato, and it’s only 10 minutes from my piso. Qué suerte!
Another awesome thing O-90 and I did in Sevilla was watch flamenco. How I love flamenco! They’ll tell you flamenco is beautiful. They’ll tell you it has soul. Personally, I thought, “all dance is emotional,” and went in expecting to be entertained. But I’ll tell you now: it moves me. Flamenco is, as they say, legit.
O-90 liked it, too, which might have something to do with why we watched it two nights in a row. We couldn’t stay away!
O-90’s stay was just too short. Just as I started getting used to sharing a 9’x9′ space, she left me to fly back over the ocean and return to her job and family and friends. Qué triste!
I love having company in Sevilla because their unique interests help me branch out of my rut — I’ve only been here one month, and I already have a rut. I probably learned almost as much about Sevilla during O-90’s visit as she did!
Now, even though I know my future visitors have a lot of things to juggle before they can fly across the ocean, I am getting my fix of meeting new people and seeing new things by having intercambios, or language exchanges, with local sevillanos. For example, today I had an intercambio and as a result, I have a new favorite café to drink tea! Another time, my intercambio was next door to an asian food market, so now I can finally get my missing ingredients for spring rolls.
I still feel like a guest in Sevilla, and I think it will take more than 9 months until I even begin to feel like more than a visitor, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. For now, I’m happy to absorb Sevilla by osmosis.
I’ll leave you with one last door-knocker: