One of the big tourist draws in Barcelona is all the Gaudi architecture, and so we wanted to try to see something of his. Turns out, we saw four buildings designed by him, and all in all, we have the same take: Gaudi is truly unlike anything we have ever seen before, and not really our style. According to a a very long Wikipedia article, "Gaudí studied every detail of his creations, integrating into his architecture a series of crafts in which he was skilled: ceramics, stained glass, wrought ironwork forging and carpentry. He introduced new techniques in the treatment of materials, such as trencadís, made of waste ceramic pieces. After a few years under the influence of neo-Gothic art and Oriental techniques, Gaudí became part of the Catalan Modernista movement which was reaching its peak in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His work transcended mainstream Modernisme, culminating in an organic style inspired by nature." To me, the above buildings looked like gingerbread houses, not nature.
One of the sights to see on my Europe bucket list was the Alhambra, one of the biggest Moorish palace complexes in the world, which is in Granada, Spain. You'll note though that the title of this post indicated it is about the Alcazar Palace in Seville. Yeah, I'm going to go ahead and trust online reviews that said the Alhambra is a mad house overrun with tourists, and the Alcazar is better preserved, and less crowded, so while smaller, overall it's a better experience. And it was as amazing as I had hoped.
I scheduled a couple days in Seville, Spain because I wanted to see a city in the south of Spain, where the Moorish influence was stronger since in the battle for control of Spain, the Moors who had come up from Africa held onto power longer in the south (as compared with the north where the Catholic church started their slow and steady conquest of Spain.) My time started with a city tour, which covered some of the basics of the history of Seville. In this one courtyard, we saw influences in the architecture from when the Romans ruled (what had been arched walkways in bottom photo), when the Moors ruled (prayer tower built in 830 in top left photo), and when the Catholic church took over (converted it all into a church courtyard). The area was also ruled by the Romans, Phoenicians, Vikings, and Visigoths, but the remains from when they ruled are pretty scant since they are far underground. Julius Caesar founded the city, so they consider him the father of Seville.
I really wanted to see Madrid, because I spent many years studying Spanish and had learned a bit about the city and the art there, so I wanted to see it for myself. In all honesty, I pretty much structured my time around seeing some recommended sights (thanks Joaquin and Ginger) and being sure I got to see lots of things related to what I had studied, so consider this a sort of introduction to the culture and history part of my Spanish classes.
Starting with the Prado Museum, which I had read in a Rick Steve's book would be closed the day of the week I was in town, but fortunately, I double checked and Rick was wrong, which I was super excited about! Inside the museum, they have a variety of paintings, including some by Velazquez and Goya, both represented in statues above. The Goya statue is a bit weird, but that fits his paintings, which are also a bit weird. One of them for instance is called "Saturn Devouring His Child" and it's pretty much what you imagine it would look like.