In the summer of 1975, between my junior and senior year of high school, my cousin Paul and I were selected by our NJROTC commander to travel by navy ship to Sevilla, Spain. It was my first time leaving the United States and likely the spark that created my passion for travel. I just had to return to Seville.
Sevilla, Spain’s fourth largest city (pop. 704,000), bustles yet it is very accessible for a traveler like me. This big city is small since all the top sights are easily within walking distance of the Cathedral and Giralda. While Cordoba has its Mezquita and Granada its Alhambra, Sevilla has a soul. It a wonderful-to-be-alive kind of place. Its history is interesting and in the 17th century it was Spain’s largest and wealthiest city. Amerigo Vespucci and Ferdinand Magellan sailed from its river harbor. Christopher Columbus is entombed in its great Cathedral.
The Cathedral, Europe’s third largest and largest Gothic church in the world, captured the imagination of a certain teenager in 1975 and it still captivates me. It’s not unusual to hear a gasp from a first-time visitor when they step foot inside. Started in 1401 on the site of a mosque (naturally), it took one hundred years to build. The Giralda, or bell tower, was actually built in 1184 as a minaret for the previous mosque. It is 330 feet tall and has a spiraling ramp rather than stairs to accommodate a donkey-riding muezzin who clip-clopped to the top five times a day for the Muslim call to prayer.
Today, my last day here, I spent a pleasant morning strolling through the Triana neighborhood directly across the Quadalquivir River. I also took one last hike through the old Bario Santa Cruz where my hotel is located. It’s the old Jewish Quarter and is a tangle of streets too small for cars (although sometimes one squeezes through) and is a great place to get completely and utterly lost. Some of the streets are so narrow, their buildings so close they’re called “kissing streets.”
I truly love the old world charm of Sevilla. James Michener once wrote: “Sevilla doesn’t have ambience, it is ambience. I totally agree.