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Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Easter in Seville, Spain

Ah Spain. We checked out of our Fez riad at around 11pm on Wednesday night and took a taxi to the station where we boarded an overnight bus that delivered us to Tangier on Morocco’s north coast at sunrise. Another short taxi ride and we were at the ocean ferry docks. We crossed the Strait of Gibraltar in 40 minutes, making landfall at Tarifa on Spain’s far south coast, and a final four hour bus ride had us in Seville by 1pm.

Seville. Seville (Sevilla to the Spanish) is the principal city of AndalucĂ­a province, and the timing of our arrival was very fortunate, the day before Easter. Nowhere in the world is Easter a bigger event than in Spain and nowhere in Spain is Easter a bigger event than in Seville. Over the following nights and days, enormous processions, hours long and involving thousands of participants, inched their way through Seville’s narrow winding streets lined with thousands of onlookers. For the religious it was a solemn and emotional event, and for everyone, street theatre on a grand scale. We’d never seen anything like it; certainly the backyard Easter Egg Hunt will never be the same again!

The processions involved the carriage of platforms holding Easter scenes from many Seville churches to the main cathedral in the city centre and then back again. The life-size carved and painted religious figures on the platforms are ancient, having been sculpted in the 15th century. The platforms were accompanied by bands playing beautiful music and thousands of attendants with covered faces and long pointy hats, initially unnervingly like the attire of the pathetic Ku Klux Klan. Apparently this is no coincidence; the Klan copied their “look” from the Spanish Easter processions. Of course, there’s no connection between the two, and their respective outlooks on life and community couldn’t be more different.

We spent two nights chasing the processions through Seville’s atmospheric alleyways. We videoed a couple of snippets to capture the atmosphere of the occasion.  You can watch them if you wish by clicking on the video links at the top of this post (Lee Tuan makes a fleeting cameo appearance in one of them).  The peak procession activity was in the wee hours of Friday morning. We left our hotel at 11pm Thursday night and didn’t get back until 6.30am. It was a great night and it seemed like the whole population of Seville was packed into those alleys.

Seville is full of character with beautiful architecture and lively cafes and inns that buzz well into the small hours. After a fortnight in Morocco we were happy to swap the tagines and kebabs for tapas and paella. And great Spanish wine.

Seville and its people, and their way of life, impressed us very much, and we were sorry when the time came to move on.

Semana Santa Seville Semana Santa Seville
Semana Santa Seville Semana Santa Seville
Semana Santa Seville
Christopher Columbus tomb

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