A year ago I was in Europe and lately I’ve been thinking over some of the places that were the most memorable from that trip. If you read my travelogue posts from back then you already know the details of each place I visited, but I thought I’d do a series of short writing pieces over the next three or so weeks where I give my thoughts on particular cities or regions as a whole. I’m not going to talk about every location; just the ones that have been on my mind. The order that I write about them will be in the approximate chronological order of when I visited and each writing piece will feature two locations with a photo from the trip to accompany each of them. As a bonus, at the end of each writing piece I’ll note where I was, one year ago that day.
Seville (or, Sevilla, as it is properly called) is the largest of what I think of as the big three Andalusian cities—Seville, Granada, and Cordoba. It’s probably the most iconic as well, drawing in visitors from around the world to take in that quintessential Andalusian feel. A decent analogy for Seville would be to say that it is sort of like a well-aged bottle of wine. It doesn’t have the pop and vibrancy of cities like Barcelona or Granada, but has an older and refined charm to it. Seville has a lot of things that attract tourists, such as the fourth largest church in the world and the Royal Alcazar, (palace) but my personal favorite spot in Seville is the Plaza de España (pictured right). I’m not that old and haven’t seen all that much of the world, but I’m fine declaring it to be one of the world’s most beautiful architectural masterpieces. Brick, stone, and tiles are laid out in splendid fashion, the likes of which I’ve hardly seen anywhere else. Seville has tried bringing in some modern art and architecture, such as the giant mushroom structure, the new bridge over the river, and the World’s Fair expo grounds, but I don’t think the city needs it. Seville is all about aged elegance.
Tarifa and Tangier
I have stood at the edge of the world. Ok, so Tarifa isn’t actually the edge of the world, but it feels like it. Down at the southern edge of mainland Europe you can see the Atlantic Ocean, Africa, and the Mediterranean Sea with a single turn of your head. The winds blow in strongly from the Atlantic, bringing in all the kite surfers looking to catch the air. Across the strait is Tangier, which despite being only a forty-minute ferry ride from Tarifa, feels a world away from Europe. The narrow crowded streets in the old city are bustling with shops and salesmen. Nearby a series of high-rise apartments line the beach, with a new port under construction. Back in Tarifa I saw perhaps the most brilliant sunset of my life, with reds, oranges, and yellows reflected in the clouds and the small pools of water on the beach as the sun went down over the Atlantic. It was the edge of the world, and the sun was saying goodbye.
On this day, one year ago, I was wandering all around Istanbul. In the morning I ventured into the Grand Bazaar, and in the deep core of it I found a Turkish tobacco pipe shop from which I bought a friend’s wedding gift. For lunch I grabbed a meal with two people from my hostel at a restaurant near the Süleymaniye Mosque, and in the afternoon I went out to the old city walls and also visited the Chora Church. From up on the walls I strained looked around in every direction but couldn’t seen an end to the city.