Seville Oranges are bitter, hence why they stay hanging on the trees all over Seville because nobody bothers to scrump them. They were brought over by the Muslims, primarily for their pleasant aroma and use in perfumes.
This was back when the Muslims ruled the roost in Spain, or ‘al-Andalus’ as they called it back then. They’d been there since 711AD when they’d first invaded from North Africa, sneaking in via Gibraltar. The later ‘reconquest’ of Seville, and Spain in general, by the Christian Kings, is where the ‘sweets’ in the title come in…but more of them later.
Seville was recaptured from the Muslims by King Fernando III in 1248 after a sixteen month siege. The Muslims finally capitulated due to famine within the city walls. I bet they wished they’d brought some edible oranges instead of just the smelly ones.
Seville was one of the earlier cities to be given up by the Muslims, Granada would be the last over two centuries later in 1492. This may explain why there is more in the way of real Moorish (Arabic) architecture left in Granada than in Seville.
Indeed the Christians somewhat wallowed in their triumph by building the largest Gothic cathedral in the world right on top of what was the old Seville mosque. Although they did keep the mosque’s fancy Arabic minaret, the Giralda…albeit turning it into a bell tower.
Incidentally, after 700 years, there still isn’t a proper mosque in Seville. They’ve been trying to build one for the last twenty years but they seem to have had a few planning-permission issues. Maybe the Spaniards aren’t taking any chances this time.
The Alcazar, the old Muslim fortress, was destroyed too, and then replaced with a royal palace. Very little of the original Muslim architecture remains in the Alcazar, although you wouldn’t think that if you visited it. Don’t be fooled, what you see is ‘Mudejar’ style architecture. This was a curious fusion of the remaining Arabic influence with later Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance styles.
It is quite unique to Spain…and then South America, once the Spaniards made it there. Mudejar looks very easy on the eye, but it’s a bit of a fantasy. The sort of thing that Disney might build for an Aladdin backdrop.
If the oranges aren’t worth eating in Seville, then the food certainly is. Indeed, they have the best tapas I’ve tasted in all of Andalusia. The days of free tapas are mostly over, but for a few euros it is well worth paying for. I even had a chicken burger and chips in an Irish Pub that was to die for. I have no excuse for this, but it was the only place showing a footy game on the telly. Honest.
However, the very best thing about Seville is the weather in the winter. It is the warmest city in mainland Europe. Don’t go near the place in August, the heat is unbearable, but eating outside on a warm January evening is well worth the Easyjet fare alone. Definitely one to gloat about to your workmates that are stuck in a snowdrift.
Another benefit of a post-Christmas visit was that we were there during Seville’s Epiphany parade on the 5th January. This celebrates the arrival of The Three Kings. It is a huge cavalcade of thirty-odd gaudy floats, the occupants of which sling out millions of sweets to the thousands of people lining the streets with their goody-bags at the ready.
Although the slinging can be a bit too enthusiastic, you do take the risk of having your eye taken out by a high-velocity mint humbug and I found a lemon-drop still lodged in my ear three days later.