Get to Sevilla
Last two days before departing, my adrenalin came to its peak!
That Saturday, last day of August 2013 we took the flight from our hometown Pula to London Stansted. As our flight from London Stansted to Sevilla was scheduled for the late afternoon, we had more than enough time to take the Stansted Express train to visit London for few hours. Train took us to London’s Liverpool Street Station where we met with Andrej’s childhood friends who now live in London. It was a beautiful, warm sunny day with completely clear blue skies.
Unusual weather for London yet we were not complaining. Quite opposite, our spirit was smiling. Just outside Liverpool Street Station we stopped at a nice bar Hamilton Hall Pub and toasted to the occasion with few beers.
Then they kindly invited us for a lunch in a Bengal restaurant nearby. After few hours spent in good company, we were back on the train to London Stansted airport and then on our flight to Sevilla. Bengal food showed to be really heavy for us, to the displease of our co-passengers. There was one, very rude steward, but already armed with Camino’s spirit, we immediatelly forgot and forgived.
It was late night, past 11 PM, when we landed on Sevilla airport. The hot southern zephyr hit us in this dark Andalusian night the moment we stepped outside our plane. Officially it was 27 degrees Celsius. This should have been a warning sign for us. Camino was “telling us” it’s early September in Andalusia and the sun down here is still heating like hell. We didn’t hear it then as we were so much amused with the upcoming Camino. Just two days later we will start to regret disregarding this “warning”. Many times! Local bus drove us to our modest accomodation in Sevilla. Airport was not so distant from city center, just that it seems we managed to get all the red lights? At about midnight we finally reached our accomodation. It was just a budget room in Hostal Jentoft yet the place was located close to the Isabella II bridge. Crossing that bridge will mark the begining of our Camino. I managed to fell asleep only at 2 AM but in the end, had just enough sleep to spend a nice Sunday in Sevilla.
SUNDAY IN SEVILLA
First day of September, Sunday early morning in the Andalusian capital Sevilla. Today we will take out time to rest and tour the city. Visit famous sights, enjoy first Spanish coffee, first desayuno (breakfast in Spanish). We need to acclimatize with the environment and calmly get into the Camino mood and mode. Day dawned nice and sunny. Sunday was very calm. Warm, sun rays started to shine the river and iluminating lovely traditional houses along the riverside. This quiet and peace are exactly what we needed to sedate our Camino’s advent.
We left the hostel before 8 AM and since we need our morning coffee, we will take it in the first open bar. This looking for the first café con leche (coffee with milk, in Spanish) will become our daily routine on this Camino. On other Camino routes this is not presenting such a challenge as all those routes are dense with villages and towns. Via de la Plata is quite different here. In order to avoid the daily heat we had to depart for our daily stages very early, sometimes even few hours before the sunrise. Consequently we would have to walk for hours before we would encounter an open bar. On top of this, specially in the first half of Via de la Plata, daily stages are very long because of the simple fact that sometimes there are virtually no villages for accomodation for twenty or thirty kilometers.
Slowly walking, we found open Starbucks, nearby the Alcazar. In the park opposite to the bar, few residents were taking out their dogs for a morning walk. On the same side of the road the beautiful Hotel Alonso XIII stands. It somehow reminds me of the La Mamounia hotel in Marrakesh?! We drink our coffee slowly, immersed in own thoughs. I’m thinking how wounderful this city of Sevilla is and remebering last time I visited it, just after high school. It is pleasantly located: Spain’s deep south, so close to Africa’s north. For centuries nations and cultures were mingling here, and that’s very visible today in Sevilla’s architectural heritage.
I could easily live here! Suddenly, few small birds landed on the table, looking for croissant’s crumbs. Did they came to gently wish us “Buen Camino” (Good Camino in Spanish) and give us their blessing? Will they watch us from above? Living those moments in silence… Calm before the storm?
And this is me, with a really short hair cut, as we have some thirty five days ahead and no time for hair cutting. I will not shave my beard neither. To remind me of the time passing by.
Today we would not just visit the city and rest yet we will already start to explore the Camino. Look for one or more flecha amarilla (yellow arrow in Spanish) to show us our “way out” on the route for tomorrow. We will perform this same ritual in every place after our daily stage, usually in the late afternoon. Our daily stage would start very early, even few hours before sunrise, in order to avoid the heat. Also, it was necessary to arrive very early at the destination as there were a limited places to stay. After a shower, a siesta nap and a good rest, short tour of the village or town would follow in the late afternoon. Than, this “chase” for the yellow arrow and the exit from the town for the next day, would occur.
We found the very first yellow arrow on the bridge Isabelle II. Yellow arrows will be our guides for the whole, long path until the very cathedral in Santiago de Compostela! Upon finding the first one on this Camino Andrej was trully happy: “you will see how important is and what happiness provokes finding every single each one, during the Camino, especially when path goes into dilemma”.
The original nucleus of the Alcázar was constructed in the tenth century as the palace of the Moslem governor, and is used even today as the Spanish royal family’s residence in this city.
It retains the same purpose for which it was originally intended and is the oldest royal palace still in use in Europe. Built and rebuilt from the early Middle Ages right up to our times, actually it is a group of palatial buildings and nice gardens.
The Alcázar embraces a rare compendium of cultures where areas of the original Almohad palace – such as the Patio del Yeso or the Jardines del Crucero –
– coexist with the Palacio de Pedro I representing Spanish Mudejar art, together with other constructions displaying every cultural style from the Renaissance to the Neoclassical.
The calm of the Sundays’ early morning and coffee continues to shadows us through the magical Alcazar.
UNEXPECTED BLESSING IN THE CATHEDRAL
What happend before our visit to Alcazar, was a miracle! It happend in the cathedral of Sevilla of Saint Mary of the See. It is the largest Gothic cathedral and the third-largest church in the world. The cathedral is also (presumably) the burial site of Christopher Columbus. The builders used some columns and other elements from the ancient mosque, including its minaret, which was converted into a bell tower known as La Giralda, now the city’s most well-known symbol. It was built to resemble the minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakech (Morocco).
We enter the cathedral and find out that just a small corner at the entrance is free for visitors. Yet we would like to see the whole church now. A lady that is responsible for order inside the church explains that a Holly Mass is taking place and that we can pass to the Celebration. The altar is located in the center, deep and opened just to one side where some ten rows of chairs are divided on the left and right side. In peace we join the congregation and contemplate for some time. After a while, we agree to slowly leave the Holy Mass and go out but… something is holding us for few more minutes. How important influence for the whole Camino!
The beauty is that one can see and realize the magic importance of that just on the end of the Camino but it was felt there in the same moment that was… or was just about to happen. Leaving, almost escaping the Holly Mass between the lines of the last two rows of seats, in one moment we find ourselves in the central passage and in the same precise moment, all priests concelebrating the Holly Mass virtually run to intercept our way out just to… sprinkle holy water all over us! An unexpected consecration of our Camino.
While exiting the cathedral few older women are trying to sell some fragrant leaves but I’m not in the mood to lose time. „Don’t you want to know your future???“. „No I don’t“.
CREDENTIAL AND WE ARE READY
Credencial was taken in an nearby street in a small hotel. Then the first seal was collected at the cathedral in Sevilla. Incomprehensibly clerks in the cathedral’s office were kind of ignorant so it was necessary to “explain” them about the seal.
Doing the CAMINO DE SANTIAGO is a personal commitment and it corresponds exclusively to the pilgrim himself to provide himself with the appropriate means (food, shelter …) to carry out this undertaking.
The hospitality of the villages has always ensured to facilitate this pilgrimage by erecting shelters, hostels and hospitals in which the most needy enjoy accomodance.
The pilgrim can not demand anything for his condition, but be grateful for the help received.
The rifugios lack subsidies and must be maintained with the collaboration of the pilgrims themselves.
When you arrive at the rifugio, show your credential without waiting to be asked for it.
Abide by the rules of each refuge and attend the instructions of the hospital staff.
Keep the shelters where you stay clean and take care of their facilities.
Respect in them the rest of others.
If you walk in an organized group or by bicycle, you should first look for an alternative shelter other than the pilgrim shelters.
This CREDENTIAL may be withdrawn for improper use of it.
Aware and agree. (Signature of the pilgrim)
Just after, we went to visit the Plaza de Espana with the famous palace.
The very first “siesta” (in Spanish: a short nap taken in the early afternoon, often after the midday meal) was coming and before this traditional southern rest a good local lunch was needed. First taste of Iberian cuisine and we started with pulpo Gallego (Galician octopus) and a good beer at the Bar Gonzalo.
A dilemma was either to stay at the hostel or to change now for a new one, a better one, to gen more good sleep before our first day on the Camino. Maybe better not now to spend time and energy on finding a new place so we stayed at our present one. The price way also good – 35 Euros per room per night. Otherwise, latest spendings were: in London – Stansted express train in London 27 GBP, luggage storage fee 15 Euros, 10 GBP for newspapers and chocolate, in Sevilla – 15 Euros lunch, 8 Euros Al Cazar entrance fee, 4 Euros Credencial, 3 Euros for a soft drink, 2.5 Euros for ice cream and water, 15 Euros in total for souvenirs.
A walk in the warm Sevillan afternoon, another visit to the same bar for a bit of bacon with eggs, a pieace of blackberry cake and a beer, in total 12 Euros. Then, a walk to the hostel. Day “zero” was closing and tomorrow, before dawn I will take my first steps on my first Camino!