Strolling Through Seville
Some years ago, I was very fortunate to be the guest of Airbus, covering their military projects in Spain and their civil facility in France. Transiting Dubai and Madrid, the journey finally found me touching down in Seville in the early afternoon.
Once there, I connected with other journalists and we arranged to meet for an indulgence of the local cuisine. I expressed my interest in exploring the ancient city early the next morning but it soon became obvious that my compatriots were settling in for a long evening. With many miles under my belt and my body clock twitching rather than ticking, I called it a night and settled into my hotel room.
The sun was just pushing the night into tomorrow when my eyes opened and I peered outside. This was a day free of commitments and I soon had gathered my backpack and was underway. It was a clear, crisp Sunday morning and I was alone as I wandered down the cobbled laneways.
I was immediately fascinated by the stratified walls that lined these thoroughfares. Each layer of the diverse mason art spoke of a different century, a different civilisation…a different people. Tartessians, Romans, Moors, Spaniards….they were all there in the mix of mud and mortar.
As I entered the plaza, a portion of the world was beginning to stir. A small cafe opened its wood-framed and glass-paned doors and welcomed me as their first customer. decadence became my dining partner as I feasted on pastries and freshly brewed coffee. After fumbling with the currency and my minimal grasp of the language I was underway once more.
The expanse of the plaza was still empty, except for a man readying his horse and cart to convey tourists when they finally arose from their slumber. Ahead, the Gothic Seville Cathedral towered above me and I edged towards its massive doors with their massive hinges. I peered inside, in the distance a lone priest was lighting candles upon an altar.
In the silence I edged my way across the ornately tiled floors, through arches and beneath domes, beyond more altars and alcoves. The walls were ornately carved and in one corner was a platform atop which stood four ancient escorts bearing a coffin. As I moved closer, more detail formed in the still dim light. Those bearing the coffin wore pinafores emblazoned with various crests and rampant lions, crowns rested on their heads. Crucifix-tipped lances speared high above the memorial and discreetly placed words named the occupant. – Christopher Columbus.
I stood there for a moment in silence, contemplating the remains that lay within the catafalque. A man that had sailed the ocean’s more than five hundred years earlier to discover new worlds. I contemplated what an undertaking those voyages had been, while the previous day I had covered half the globe in a day with in-seat entertainment and eye shades.
Yes, some controversy surrounds his voyages of discovery and yet at this moment, none of that mattered. I wondered if he shared that same restlessness that modern wanderers of the globe possess. His century still boasted so many unknowns, so many undiscovered lands, seas and continents of ice.
Today, we transit the planet in the stratosphere, far removed from their harsh reality of distance. As they stagnated in the doldrums, their week of desperation can now be measured in the sweep of the hour hand on a modern watch. So much has changed. I envy the mystery of their time but not the hardship. Our mystery is limited to our seat number.
Those that sailed to the furthest horizons did so without knowing when, or if, they would return. And yet they spanned the oceans, drew the charts and paved the way for us to make the world our own. I took another moment beside Columbus as the priest lit another candle. It was time to move on and the rest of Seville was still yet to awaken.