My time in Seville was made all the more special by a visit to a small, local neighbourhood that most tourists don’t make the time to see.
Despite the frankly uninspired and borderline delapidated bus station I loved Seville from the second I stepped off the bus, and not just because it was a world apart from the deplorable resorts serving all day English breakfasts to drunken tourists on the coast.
Seville has a colossal cultural and historical heritage that is often largely overlooked or even forgotten about, and it shows this off with a quiet, beautiful elegance. You can feel an electricity in the air in Seville, as if the intense emotions that gave birth to the flamboyant Flamenco are still simmering under the surface, but it is more than that. It has a laid back, creative vibe that seeps into every pore. If Seville has a passionate heart, it also has a creative soul.
Seville is the Spain I wanted to see, away from the touristy coast.
But it wasn’t the grand tourist attractions that made me fall for Seville, it was a small, unassuming neighbourhood that most tourists tend to dismiss. Triana.
Just across the Puente Isabel II bridge and a short walk from most of the main attractions of the city centre, Triana gives you a glimpse into the real soul of Seville and almost whispers to you exactly why this ancient Spanish city is so special.
Walking through the historic Mercado de Triana, a local market, set me up for what proved to be an immersive cultural experience. Practicing my extremely bad Spanish as I attempted to buy some fruit even led to a few friendly laughs and a couple of pitying looks from the vendors who took pity on me and rescued my faux pas with their own superior language skills, I got a glimpse into the community that made up this small market.
Of course the history geek in me still got a little sustenance as I found out in a nearby museum that the picturesque market was built on top of the ruined Castilo de San Jorge, and the awesomely named Callejon de la Inquisicion is only a short walk away, but for once that was not what I was there to see.
I wanted to indulge myself in another of my favourite things to do, plonking myself down at a cafe and people watch, and I was spoilt for choice as I walked along Calle Betis, the riverfront that is just teeming with tapas bars, small, atmospheric restaurants and waterfront cafes.
This is where the cultural heritage of Seville felt most alive.
Historically, Triana was a heavily working class district, with a strong immigrant and gypsy influence due to the fact they could not enter Seville itself, and – as legend goes – this is where the real flamenco tradition began, and there is still a palpable pride in that heritage, a fierce, welcoming passion that still echoes within modern Trianero residents, so much so the area is nicknamed the independent republic of Triana.
Eating my way through almost endless tapas in the cafes and watching residents go about their daily business made for a perfect, and delicious day. I’m not going to lie I had absolutely no clue what a few of the tapas dishes were, but they were so stunning I can still taste them even now! It really is a good thing I stuck to soft drinks, because my liver would not have thanked me for the amount of drinks I ordered just to get one more piece of bacalao or jamon iberico!
It was in one of these bars that I had an experience that would cement the term ‘perfect day’ onto my trip to Triana forever.
The bar itself was nothing special. It was nice enough, small and very atmospheric like many others nearby, and it served delicious tapas, but it was only when an old man with a thick moustache sat down with a guitar, and a young girl with a far too serious expression for her age started dancing that it really came alive. This wasn’t a traditional tourist flamenco show this was an impromptu dance, the young girl was even wearing jeans and a leather jacket! But after she started stamping the floor with so much force my old Karate Sensei would have been impressed, the bar really took off with most of the patrons cheering and shouting, some of them even joining in! Real Flamenco can get really rowdy!
Don’t get me wrong, visiting the Cathedral and the Alcazar were amazing experiences and well worth any travellers time, as was my visits to each and every one of Seville’s grand tourist sites. They were all stunning. But to me that was not what Seville was all about. The Seville I fell for was found in the passion of the impromptu flamenco shows, the easy and friendly tapas culture and the warmth of the people in Triana.
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