Tag Archives: Semana Santa

A Day in Mérida – parte dos

Apr 26 – As our whirlwind tour of Mérida continued, we walked to the edge of town to see the Aqueductos Milagros – ancient Roman aqueducts that are considered miraculous because they are still standing after more than 2000 years. These are one of the original four aqueducts that supplied fresh water to the city.

We were happy to see our friends the storks nesting on top of the aqueduct.

Next we swung by another church, but that one wasn’t open either.  It did have an odd statue out front though:

I thought maybe it represented a pilgrim with sore feet, but the plaque said, “To those who make possible the Semana Santa (Holy Week) of Mérida”.  I guess they hoist a lot of floats and parade around in this town too.

Now here’s an interesting story.  In the 1400s, a knight of the Order of Santiago decided to build his palace on the site of the ancient Roman Temple of Diana.  Rather than knock down the temple and use the bricks, which was a very popular construction technique, he incorporated the temple into his design, using it as the front porch!

In 1972, the city fathers were going to knock down the palace and restore the temple, but cooler heads prevailed and they decided to leave it as-is, as the temple would have fallen long ago if not for the upkeep by the owners of the palace.  So, a win-win all around!

Finally, we visited Casa del Mitreo, a typical Roman villa that is currently being excavated and restored by archeologists.

Another tile floor, this one showing either the Roman gods or the zodiac – not sure…

And then it was time for lunch!  We really enjoyed all that Mérida had to offer. Tomorrow, we’re back on the road!

A Piedad statue at the roundabout and view of our home in Mérida – the Hotel Zeus.

Guillena to Castilblanco de los Arroyos

Apr 12 – Having walked 13 miles yesterday, I figured that today’s 12 mile trek would be a snap.  It is another beautiful day, cool enough in the early morning for a sweatshirt.  We walked confidently out of Guillena, following our yellow arrows.  Just out of town, we saw a pond, with trees reflected perfectly in its calm surface.

After a bit of highway walking, we found the trail, which looked like it might provide more shade than yesterday.  

Once again, plenty of spring wildflowers in bloom.

We passed a castle in a farmer’s field.

We saw a local family out for a walk, and were passed by a singing cyclist, but otherwise we had the day to ourselves.  Except for some burros.

As we approached our destination, we encountered a sign meant to encourage us.  Of the original 1000 km trek, only 927 left to go!

Unfortunately, as the afternoon heated up, my pace slowed down and we made it to town about two hours later than planned.  When I removed my socks, we surveyed the bloody damage to one of the toes on my right foot.  Jim proclaimed tomorrow a rest day.  Hallelujah!

Apr 13 – I am very much enjoying my rest day.  This is a nice little town, very clean and friendly. We walked down the street to a bar for coffee, and over to a bakery for some bread and ham for breakfast.  Looking at the map of our next segment, it will require an 18 mile walk along a roadway, with no towns in between. After my poor performance yesterday, Jim doesn’t think I’m ready for that (and I agree!), so he suggested we look for a bus to take us at least part of the way.  We asked around and found the central square and a man with information about buses.  There are several buses that go back to Sevilla, but only one that goes north, and it runs only once a day in the late afternoon.  “What time tomorrow?”, we asked in blissful ignorance.  “¿Mañana!?  No! Es impossible!”  Turns out that tomorrow, Good Friday, is the biggest fiesta of the whole year.  No buses run tomorrow!  Crap.

We had our main meal at lunchtime (ham soup with hard boiled eggs in it, and chicken with couscous).  We walked around in the afternoon and waited until after siesta time (2 – 6pm) for the stores to reopen so we could buy some supper, but it turns out that tonight the fiesta begins, and the supermarket and all the shops are closed.  Thanks to our experience last Sunday in Sevilla, we knew what happens next.  We walked down the block to the church, and watched the men decking out the pasos with flowers.  We saw Jesus carrying his cross, dead Jesus in a glass coffin, and two sorrowful Marys.

Every man, woman and bambino was out in front of the church by 7pm.  Fewer penitents in pointy capriotes, but a very credible brass band and lots of swaggering costaleros ready to do their part in lifting the heavy floats.  We are told they each weigh about a ton.

This time we were able to see the pasos leaving the church door and being negotiated down the steps.  The townsfolk applauded when the men reached the street and turned them 90 degrees for its walk down the block.

It took about half an hour to move each of the pasos down the street. We didn’t stay to the conclusion of the festivities, so I can’t tell you how it all turned out.  The music, drums and tolling of the church bells continued until well after midnight.  I wonder what tomorrow will bring?

Sevilla – the Plaza de España

Apr 10 – For our last day in the city, we decided to walk across town to the Parque Maria Teresa and the Plaza de España. On our walk, we stopped in several churches that had their doors open on a Monday morning, and got to see more of the floats (pasos) from yesterday’s Semana Santa extravaganza.

We also spied some flamenco dresses on sale, if you are in the market ( I especially love those shoes!):

Parque Maria Teresa is the Central Park of the city, built originally for a 1929 Exposition.  It has fountains and birds, waterfalls, trellises, mosaic tiled benches and peaceful shade.

There are lots of ways to get around the park:

The Plaza España is a great big plaza, with lots of stuff for sale, boats to rent for a ride around the moat, and bubbles for the enjoyment of all.

On our way home, we passed palaces, the university, and other things we won’t get to experience on this go round.  All the more reason to return to Sevilla!

Posts will probably be sparser from here on – we’ll be on the road!

Palm Sunday in Sevilla

Apr 9 – Since we arrived in town ,we’ve been seeing lots of preparations for the Holy Week celebrations that Sevilla is famous for – Semena Santa de Sevilla.  They have been hanging red bunting, cordoning off roads, and setting out wooden chairs by the thousand.

Today, Palm Sunday, the crowds are out in their Sunday best, getting ready for tonight’s processions.  By early afternoon, we saw many children and adults in long robes and tall masks with eye holes called capriotes.  Although these are chillingly reminiscent of KKK attire in the US, we are told that this is the costume of penitents (nazarenos) who are repenting of their sins in anonymity.  

Every community wears a different color.  Here in Triana, the capriotes are blue and purple velvet.  It’s a hot day, and they must be sweltering under those hoods.  By 5 pm, the penitents, holding long candles that will be lit after dark, proceeded down the Main Street to the beat of a drum.

The streets were jam-packed.  Children stood on the sidelines and some penitents gave them candy or Saint cards. The youngest penitent:

Perhaps the oldest:

Next we could hear a brass band, and we could see our community’s float (paso) in the distance.  Each parish displays a float depicting a different part of Christ’s Passion story. The floats are kept all year in the parish church.  Our float showed Jesus, perhaps at Gethsamane, with a praying Jesus in the front and a Roman soldier in a red robe and feathered helmet, behind.  As the float approached, a thousand parents shushed a thousand children, so the float could go by in silence.

The float swayed from side to side as it moved down the street, and a closer inspection revealed that it was human powered.  This also explained the burly, sweaty guys (costaleros) in the weight belts, who walked close to the float and switched places with their peers from time to time.  We are told that the men of the parish may wait many years before getting a chance to carry the paso, and they practice together for weeks to learn to properly hoist and walk with the heavy floats.  To get to the Catedral, they also have to walk up and down curbs and steps.

Then, the brass band.  They only played one song, repeating it at each corner.

Finally, more penitents (nazarenos) carrying black crosses.

The procession continued over the Triana Bridge toward the cathedral, where it will merge with all the other floats from the other parishes later tonight.  The chairs for viewing down by the cathedral are very expensive and must be purchased months in advance.  We were happy to see our neighborhood pageant and then return home.  The streets are full of revelers and there has been lots of drinking all day.  I wonder if we’ll sleep tonight?