Thursday 28th– 31st MAY 2015
There were no worries riding the bikes from the hostel to the bus station in Faro and getting them onto the bus. In theory they went free but in practice it cost 5 Euros, a bribe you could say, so I could select the spot under the bus where I wanted the bikes to stand. I didn’t want 20kg of hard suitcases on top of them. Today was the first time we have utilised a bus during our Part 3 Odyssey.
Soon after leaving Faro we crossed the Guadiana River, the border between Portugal and Spain. Spanish immigration officers came aboard, looked at our passports, looked us up and down, grunted and sent us on our way. Border officials like the one who checked us today must dream of the day they apprehend a criminal trying to get into Spain. If they didn’t dream their job would be so boring.
Referring to the above route map you will notice in the bottom right corner I made a notation regarding our accommodation in Seville. ‘ACCOMMODATION DETAILS Giralgilla Hostel fantastic feeling, nine out of ten’. The high rating was because the hostel management provided all that is required by the likes of us, a kitchen, a place to leave our bikes, a ground floor room and a common dining and socialising area where, incidentally, we met two Canadian travellers Jon and Shawn. Shawn was an accountant and Jon, qualified in systems management, and they are on the road until 2017. During that time they assured us they will visit us in Australia. If they do come and the timing is right we could organise a desert trip.
Some travellers do not like ground floor rooms as they feel their room can be easily burgled. This may be true sometimes. We never leave a bottom floor window open when we are out and about as it has been known for lads using a pole with hook attached to pull items left exposed out through the window.
The hostel was located close to the centre of Seville and the first building we came upon that took our attention was a lavish Moorish Revival style building. Moorish Revival or Neo Moorish is an exotic style that was adopted by architects in Europe and the Americas in the wake of the romanticist fascination with all things oriental. It reached its peak in the middle of the 19th century.
Adjacent to the Moorish style building is an FNAC store and on its street wall was a wonderful array of black and white photographs. So impressive were they that I have the feeling they are going to be what I will remember about Seville. FNAC is a large French retail store (Federation Nationale d’ Achats des Cadres).
The photographic display on the wall of the FNAC building was the work of Spanish photographer Aitor Lara. Much of Aitor’s work relates to sociocultural values. He has worked in many countries bringing to light an anthropological dimension of social minorities including the plight of indigenous peoples.
In 2013 he completed an assignment for Save the Children documenting the situation relating to children in poverty in Spain and in 2014 he received the OjodePez award. The OjodePez award is open to photographers from all over the world who carry out a work of documentary photography in which human values stand out.
Aitor has a web page www.aitorilara.om showing much of his work and an excellent description of what motivates him and his choice of subjects. I sought a clearance to post these images from him and following is a copy of his reply: Dear Fred, Please feel free… it is a pleasure, do what you want.. trust you.. Thank you very much!!! Aitor Lara.
Aitor’s work is an inspiration to both professional and amateur photographers alike. Personally it makes me want to do better with my photographic exploits and after a certain ex professional photographer I know views Aitor’s work I hope he might become inspired to start pressing the shutter once again.
Since reading Aitor Lara’s biography I realise that I too have the urge to bring the plight of the less fortunate to the fore. Following are a few photographs of my efforts.
During our time in Spain there have been two cases when I didn’t give and I should have. One was on the underground when a man with partial sight came through the train drumming on his walking stick and a tin collection can in his hand. The second occasion was a desperate man who, by the look in his eyes, had lost his dignity and will to live. I felt so guilty about not giving to him that the next day we went back to the spot where he stood but regrettably he wasn’t there. I will never forget the rhythm tapped out by the blind man on the train nor the look in the eyes of the desperate man.
Current statistics suggest that at present the unemployment rate in Spain stands at between 24 and 25% and one in four children live below the poverty line. Poverty worldwide is increasing, the rich are getting richer and the poor, poorer. One expert on global economics suggests the world is developing a ‘Downton Abbey economy’, with a small wealthy class (1 percent) and a large class of poor workers. Meanwhile, the middle class is being squeezed with higher prices and stagnant wages, forcing many to go into debt or turn to begging on the streets. (Downton Abbey is an English TV series depicting the lives of an aristocratic family and the servants in the post-Edwardian era).
I have a theory about why the homeless and beggars have dogs. The dogs may warn their owners of danger when sleeping in the open, they provide company and having a dog appeals to dog lovers who are likely to donate more money or dog food, which of course in most cases is suitable for human consumption.
Most tourists and travellers see the destitute and homeless as a nuisance and give no money or thought to their plight. This is not the case with us as we give when we can and we definitely feel for those less fortunate than us.
Sometimes when on the road such as we are now we question our extravagances. What we spend in a day the poverty stricken and homeless could live for a month. With this in mind I often give money to those down on their luck. For me it is easy to tell who is genuinely ‘down and out’, or who are tricksters. All one has to do is look into their eyes; the genuine ones have desperation written in capitals letters there.
Whilst riding the back streets of Seville we came across a man who appeared to be homeless. He had all the usual trappings of a homeless person around him (although no dog) but in his case he had a typewriter. Unfortunately I didn’t record his name so I will therefore call him ‘the mystery typist’.
The mystery typist was pleased to talk with us and from best we could understand he was writing his late mother’s biography. His mother was involved with community health and he was very proud of her achievements and he wants the world to know. The outcome of his writings will unfortunately forever remain a mystery to us but that’s how it is when happenstance enters your day.
Nearby the on-street office of our mystery typist we had another happenstance occur. We found a shop selling antique maps and historic prints. The shop was called Grabados y Mapas Antiguos and as the name suggests it stocked engravings (grabados) of antique maps, lithographs, etchings and drawings. Avid readers of this blog know well I have more than a passing interest in maps and drawings so they will understand how delighted I was to find such an establishment and to add to my delight the proprietor of the shop was an expat Englishman so we were able to communicate freely.
Proprietor Laurence Shand came to Seville twenty years ago and as happens frequently when foreigners visit foreign lands they see business potential and thus Grabados y Mapas Antiguos was born. Prior to coming to Spain Laurence worked in a rare maps and books auction house. Having learnt Spanish and with the desire to get out of ‘crazy London’ it was pre ordained that he should have such a business in Seville.
During our time with Laurence he answered many questions relating to the reproduction of ancient maps and drawings that have nagged me for years. For example, I learned the difference between a woodcut and a lithograph and I also learned a little more about a woodcut I have at home. The woodcut in question is an unusual side profile of Jesus. I have carried the image around on my laptop for some years hoping I would meet someone like Laurence who might shed some light on its origins.
The side profile image of Jesus according to Laurence is probably circa the 1800s and is associated with Emperor Tiberius and has possibly something to do with the Crusades and the fall of Constantinople (Istanbul).
Following are a few images of woodcuts and lithographs Laurence has for sale and for someone like myself who is bit of an aesthete I really enjoyed browsing his collection.
The distinct light and dark of the man indicates that two separate lithographic stones were used to reproduce the print.
On many occasions the producer of the artwork employed a number of artists to draw the various features in an illustration. One artist who was good at drawing people was employed to draw the people, then another good at drawing animals drew the animals and then maybe it was handed over to an artist good at architectural structures who drew the buildings.
A woodcut is where an image is carved into the surface of a slab of wood where the printing parts remain level with the surface of the wood, the non printing areas are cut away. A linocut is a variant of a woodcut. Making a lithographic print is a far more complicated process. and it involves the drawing of the image to be reproduced onto a piece of lithographic limestone using a greasy medium. The surface is then dampened with water which settles on the unmarked areas since it is repelled by the greasy drawn areas. The ink is put on the part of the stone to be printed and this adheres to the drawn greasy marks on the surface, water repelling it from the other areas. The ink-laced plate is pressed onto a sheet of paper thus producing a printed page.
Lithography is also known as planographic process as different from the relief and intaglio process.
Lithographic limestone is a fine-grained limestone formed in a very stable environment. Geologists believe that because there was a lack of oxygen in the environment where the limestone was formed bacteria could not survive so the sediments remained undisturbed resulting in a fine-grained limestone.
It was possible to make coloured engravings by either having a colourist apply the colour after the printing or by having multiple plates. If the later was employed some very accurate plate alignment was required.
Whilst with Laurence I showed him the concertina diary I have been keeping on this journey. Avid readers of this blog will remember that last year during Part 2 of Encountering the Past I showed a concertina diary I was keeping at the time to a couple in Tonnerre France (Archives 2014 Tonnerre). They and many people along the way since have been amused and impressed with what I am now calling the C-book. After returning to Australia last year I started making C-books.
One of the problems with a C-book is that when it is unfolded and folded constantly the joints begin to tear and I end up with a lot of loose pages. I explained the problem to Laurence and I think he has solved the problem, he suggested I should use paper similar to that used in Spanish fans. He gave me a sample of the paper, not just a plain piece but a piece with a design painted on it.
The procedure with fan making was: first paint the scene (usually done by freelance artists) onto the paper then cut a sector from the blank fold and add attachments.
At the start of Encountering the Past Part 3 in April I said we were going to meet a few of the many millions of people in the world who may share common interests: today we met one and if any readers ever visit Seville be sure to visit Grabados y Mapas Antiguos, Its location is not marked on the tourist maps as it is not in the main tourist zone but as I have said on many occasions the best places are the places you come across by chance off the beaten track.
For more information relating to Grabados Mapas Antiguos and directions go to http://www.grabadoslaurenceshand.com
There is a very small village to the west of where we live in Australia called Come-by-Chance. Come-by-Chance was named during the early 19th century when a squatter who wanted to take up land went searching for the last plot in the region not taken up. During his search he set up a base camp near where the unclaimed plot was supposed to be. It turned out that the spot he camped was the actual plot he was seeking so he called his squat Come-by-Chance.
So far in this post I have not made reference to Seville’s majestic buildings. One morning early we attempted to get into the world famous Alcazar (Spanish Castle) but the queue was more than we could cope with so I amused myself looking through the door and studying the exterior. Not wanting to disappoint the reader as to what the interior looks like I have borrowed an interior image from the web.
Murder-holes look much like a garderobe, a style of toilet where the sitter sat and what they had to do fell down outside the castle wall. Farmers gathered the contributions, mixed it with wood ash and used it as fertilizer. A murder-hole in the case of the Alcazar was positioned directly over the entrance way and molten lead was poured through the hole which scalded those below trying to force entry through the door.
Not wanting to join the masses we decided to spend the day riding around the outskirts of Seville and I’m glad we did because we found what we are now calling the most impressive building we have seen during this odyssey. The building was not built centuries ago but as recently as 1928 and was used to stage the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929. It is said that it is a landmark example of Renaissance Revival architecture. It’s called the Plaza de Espana.
The prefix Ibero refers to the Iberian Peninsula in Europe and includes Spain, Portugal, Andorra and Gibraltar. Ibero-American includes all Spanish-speaking countries in North, Central and South America plus the Portuguese speaking country of Brazil. Many of the countries represented at the exposition built buildings close by and after the expo finished the buildings were used as embassies.
To access the Plaza de Espana we rode through the Maria Luisa park discovering many of its hidden bowers but what impressed us most was a line up of foldup bikes similar to ours.
The bikes belonged to a group of local school students who were on an outing to the Plaza de Espana. What a great idea having the kids out on a bike excursion rather than using a bus. History and physical education combined.
And now to the main feature of Seville as far as we are concerned, the Plaza de Espana.
Any photographs we took of Plaza de Espana did not show the enormity of the building and without going to the trouble of stitching photographs together I have used an image taken by Manuel Munoz Pia.
The photograph above only shows one quarter of the building, the remaining three quarters is behind where Bev stood to take this photograph.
In the past I have said ‘it’s in the detail’ and that rings true again here. The following photographs show the detail and I thoroughly recommend you click on the images and enlarge them, the detail is unbelievable.
At this point I don’t think I am going to bore you with seventeen photographs, I will just show you a few, they really are beautiful. I found the maps particularly interesting and I guess it’s because of my interest in maps.
The whole of the courtyard in front of the Plaza de Espana was covered with tiles and interspersed in some areas were decorative tiles. The following photograph shows the small decorative tile detail.
The decorative work was everywhere, on seats, steps, handrails and right at the very top of the towers.
For those who have been keeping up with our Encountering the Past adventures they will know we have seen some pretty impressive buildings during our travels, however we think the Plaza de Espana is the most impressive building we have seen and maybe its because we understand the art of the potter, clays and glazes, which is what Plaza de Espana is all about.
Another relatively modern building Bev and I were impressed with in Seville was the old railway station which has been converted to a shopping centre. We found it as we attempted to find a supermarket. As often happens when we first arrive in a city we look for a supermarket. We prefer the corner store type but in Seville when we asked for a supermarket we were directed to a large complex.
Again when riding the outskirts of Seville we found another impressive building and its entrance was the grandest of all.
I would bet my boots, as it is said, that the ceramic tiles and adornments for the Plaza de Espana were made within these walls. Imagine the workforce required to make the tiles and adornments for that project pouring out through this arch at knockoff time.
The ceramics factory is no longer operating. Where the clays were pugged and manipulated modern art now hangs. The galleries were closed the day we visited so all I can do is take you for a ride around the outside.
As we rode through an arch near this piece of sculpture a trumpet fanfare heralded our approach.
The grounds of the complex were extensive, gardens and olive groves added to the ambience of an open space away from the traffic.
Before closing this post I would like to show you a piece of artwork and an event that we often come across in our travels. The artwork is a painting on a wall and the event, a wedding.
The wedding: we didn’t get a photograph of the bride and groom but we did get photographs of those in attendance. Weddings are good things to go to as one can see what the fashions of the day are in that country.
Bev and I have a number of friends, including Gillian, who dislike yellow clothing and every time I see a yellow piece of clothing I think of her. When I walk past a yellow dress in a shopwindow I say, ‘Hi Gill. How are you going?
The car in which the bride and groom left the church was a hit with guests. I think there were more photographs taken of it than of the bride and groom. There was a lot of posing by the car for photos.
Bev and I married soon after returning to Australia from our 1970s journeys and our bridal car was the same model as the Seville bridal car. Ours was not as flash but it served the purpose and that was to get us to our honeymoon location, a hayshed on the outskirts of Tamworth where we camped for a few days where my nephew and friends joined us.
For me the most interesting aspect of the wedding was the shoes some of the ladies wore. Call me an eccentric if you wish but I study shoes, especially the ridiculous ones. I am amazed that women wear shoes with such high-heels when there is evidence that feet can be damaged in the long term. Not only do women suffer from malformed feet they also can sustain twisted ankles. Cobblestones are not conducive to wearing high-heeled shoes.
Footnote: The law in Spain with regards the taking and publishing of photographs of people taken in a public place are: it is allowable to take and publish photographs of people in a public place for private and commercial purposes without seeking a media clearance.
The taking of pictures of police in the performance of their functions is legal, since the right to privacy and self-image of the police is less important than that of the right of information and free speech. You might wonder why I want to know, but when taking as many photographs as we are it’s good to know the law as we do not want to end up being fined for innocently taking a photograph and publishing it.
That’s the end of another post. The next post will relate to Tarifa where we camped for nine days in 1973. This time it will be the jumping off point for Morocco. We hope you have enjoyed travelling with us. Leave a comment if you wish.