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Posts from the ‘Andalucia’ Category

Seville | The Jews and the Old Jewish Quarter

santa cruz 030Corner of Agua & Vida (Water & Life)

The Barrio (neighbourhood) of Santa Cruz is perhaps the best known and most iconic in the historic centre of Seville, with its patchwork of small squares and picturesque narrow streets that help to keep the heat of the summer at bay. It’s also the oldest inhabited part of the city, dating back to the time of the Romans and even beyond. Although it was only for some 250 years of its more than two thousand year history, part of its romance certainly comes from the fact that this was the old Jewish quarter of the city in the late mediaeval period of the Christian Reconquista.

No one really knows when the Jews first came to Seville, or Spain (known to them as the Sepharad) generally. The first definitive written record is from the Vizigoths at the beginning of the 6th century, but they seem by then to have already been a substantial and well-settled community, numerous enough to be considered a problem by the Vizigothic kings, especially after the conversion of the Vizigothic royal family to Catholicism in 587. They had probably first settled in number in the diaspora that followed the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Emperor Titus in 70 AD, but some believe that they were here much earlier, equating Tarshish of the Old Testament with the realm of Tartessos in southwestern Spain.

santa cruz 019-001Casa number 6

The Golden Age of the Jews in Spain was under the Caliphate of Córdoba in the 10th century, a period of unusual religious tolerance, when Jews came to the cities of southern Spain from all over Europe and the Mediterranean and mingled with Arab scholars and Christians to create a unique culture. It was all too brief. After the end of the Caliphate a renewed influx of fundamentalist Moslems led to renewed persecutions. Many Jews fled to the Christian realms to the north, where, despite mistrust and sometimes hostility, they were generally welcomed as valuable allies against the Moors, and in 1248, when Ferdinand III captured Seville, it was the Jews who presented him with the keys of the city.

1-juderia wall-001Wall of the Jewish Quarter

It is this event that marks the beginning of the Jewish quarter as it’s remembered today. Although the Jews were confined to the Jewish quarter, which was separated from the rest of the city by its own wall, a short section of which can still be seen in Calle Fabiola, and had to wear a yellow badge to identify them, they enjoyed a century or more of prosperity until the civil war in the time of Peter I. Increasing hostility on the part of the Church, and the anti-Semitism of Peter’s rival Henry, culminated in Seville in the great pogrom of 1391, when a mob broke into the Juderia and murdered some 4,000 Jews. In the aftermath many more fled, and others submitted to baptism and became conversos. Two of the three main synagogues became churches, including the Santa Cruz church (now the Plaza Santa Cruz). Although (or perhaps because) many of the conversos were wealthy, and also suspected of keeping to the old religion in secret, they remained targets of hostility. Finally, in 1478, the Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella established the Spanish Inquisition, which claimed its first casualties in 1481, before expelling all unconverted Jews from Andalucia in 1483. The Jewish quarter was no more.

0007_veo-2Plaza Santa Cruz

Much of the area underwent a decline in the following period, but with programs of urban renewal in the 18th century, in the Napoleonic period, and particularly in the preparations for the 1929 Spanish-American exhibition, it gained a new lease of life as a tourist attraction. Today it sees tens of thousands of visitors a year, who come to enjoy its colour and its history. Its little squares, such as the Plaza Elvira, Los Refinadores and the Santa Cruz are indeed among the most beautiful in the city, and the narrow streets with their tiles and balconies work their magic on even the most blasé. Plenty of places to sit outside a bar and watch the world go by too, and some of those little secret places like the Plaza Escuela de Cristo or Santa Marta which you might miss if you don’t know how to find them. The shades of Don Juan and Doña Iñes de Ulloa still walk these streets, brushing shoulders with Carmen the tobacco girl and Cervantes, and many another.

To experience it best rent one of our Santa Cruz apartments, and spend a few days living in one of Europe’s most atmospheric neighbourhoods.

Seville | Spanish Lifestyle

1-IMG_20140216_133811street life in Seville

Although the notion of a Spanish national character can easily be overdone, there are some cultural biases that people from the English-speaking countries will probably pick up on. The Spanish are generally ebullient, noisy and outward going, with a smaller personal space than you’re used to, and this combination can make them seem a bit “in-your-face”, especially given a widespread lack of foreign language skills (the Swiss and the Belgians can look smug at this point; the Brits and the Americans should probably keep quiet). But really, they’re by and large friendly and hospitable.

Timetables. Partly as a product of climate, and partly because Spanish clocks are an hour out of kilter, everything happens later in the day than you’re used to. A lot of people don’t start work until 10, lunch starts at 2 not 12, and carries on through siesta until 5. Then everything opens up again until 8 or 9. Dinner (usually tapas if you’re eating out) is after that, and may carry on until midnight, especially in summer. In school holidays and at weekends you’ll also see lots of quite young children out and about at this time.

There’s a good reason why “siesta” is the most widely understood Spanish word in the non-Spanish speaking world – it’s just such a good idea. Although a long afternoon break is anathema to the corporatist work ethic of much of Northern Europe and America, it actually conforms to the natural rhythm of the human body. And in the days before aircon, or if you’re working outside, what else could you be doing in the heat of the summer sun? It also allows you to stay up late and get up early.

jamonjamón Ibérico de Bellota

When it comes to eating out the hustle, bustle and sociability of the tapeo is an essential part of Spanish culture in general, and Sevillano culture in particular. Despite the buzz, it’s essence is laid back and informal, with lots of sharing and conversation, and at the end of the evening, lots of lingering over a final drink. People often go from bar to bar, but no one ever tries to move you on to clear the tables for the next shift. Visitors often remark on how civilised this way of eating and drinking feels.

Before the tapeo, if work schedule and weather permit, is the paseo, the evening stroll. The Spanish live outside more than their northern counterparts, and on a warm spring or autumn evening what could be finer than a walk out of doors and perhaps a bit of window-shopping?

arenal (2)Bullfighting is still very popular in most of Spain, though not, of course, as popular as football. They still kill the bull, and the ritual and symbolism are part of every Spaniard’s repertoire, even if they’ve never been to a bullfight. These days the social, see and be seen, aspects of attending a bullfight are as important as the fight itself (unless you’re a bull).

Religious processions are very popular throughout Spain, though not, of course, as popular as football. Although strict religious belief and observance are in decline, Spain is still very much a Catholic country, and in Seville participants prepare all year for major events such as Semana Santa (Holy Week) which still draws huge crowds.

Even if (unfairly) the Spanish, especially in southern Spain, don’t have a reputation for working hard, they do have a reputation for knowing how to party. Every locality has its annual fair where they dress up in flamenco costume, dance the night away and drink lots of rebujito (a cocktail of sherry and 7up). In Seville the Feria is in April.feria flamenco dresses

All this, of course, just scratches the surface, and if you want to find out more about why so many people love Spain and its relaxed lifestyle, you need to come and stay in one of our holiday apartments and experience it for yourself.

Apartsur – Recurso de Alzada – Ley de Turismo de Andalucía

¿Cuál es la situación legal de los apartamentos de uso turístico? Una pregunta con difícil respuesta hasta ahora, pero tenemos buenas noticias.

resolucion-recurso-alzada-ley-de-turismo-andaluciaRecordamos que con la modificación de la Ley de Arrendamientos Urbanos (Ley 4/2013), los apartamentos “en oferta turística” se someten bajo la regulación de cada comunidad autónoma. Pero, de momento, en Andalucía no existe esta regulación, lo que provoca una situación de alegalidad entre la ley a nivel nacional (“Arrendamientos Urbanos”) y la ley a nivel de Comunidad Autónoma (“Ley de Turismo de Andalucía”).

Durante los últimos dos años, la Delegación de Turismo de la Junta de Andalucía, estaba interpretando esta laguna de ley a favor del lobby hotelero, amenazando y multando a los alojamientos privados de uso turístico.

Pero parece que esta cacería ha llegado a su fin. En última instancia de los recursos por vía administrativa, la Junta de Andalucía nos da la razón, y admite el Recurso de Alzada que había sido interpuesto por los abogados de Apartsur.

Citamos los principales argumentos de “Fundamentos de Derecho” en la Resolución de la Junta de Andalucía:
“de la publicidad que se efectúa del apartamento anunciado no se desprende que dicho alojamiento resulte encuadrarle… en el tipo de apartamentos turísticos”
“estaría dentro del ámbito de aplicación de la Ley de Arrendamientos Urbanos… aquellas cesiones temporales que carezcan de regulación sectorial propia”
“dichas viviendas en la normativa turística andaluza, no se encuentran por tanto sometidas al deber” (de presentar la declaración responsable)
“en ausencia de norma sancionadora, no podíaimponerse sanción alguna”

Resumido en otras palabras: Si la publicidad del apartamento no utiliza el término “apartamento turístico” y no se prestan servicios adicionales, nuestra actividad está regida bajo la Ley de Arrendamientos Urbanos, mientras que no haya una regulación sectorial propia en Andalucía.

Aquí enlace a nuestra página Google+ donde puede encontrar la Transcripción Completa de la Resolución con fecha 28 de Noviembre del 2014.

 

Malaga | Alcazaba and Gibralfaro

This week we have another guest blog post by history buff, tour guide and long-time Seville resident Peter Tatford Seville Concierge. This time, Peter takes us to Malaga.

Malaga has long been one of my favourite Andalucian cities. It’s not just a place to pass through going to and from the airport, or a high-rise resort with so-so beaches. Though there is still an element of that, in recent decades the city has done a lot to change its image, and its heart is now very firmly in the right place, with a pedestrianised historic centre, a thriving food culture, some of the best parks and gardens I know of anywhere, a recently renovated harbour front with shops and restaurants, and loads of cool museums and art (from favourite son Picasso to the Contemporary Arts Centre).

alcazabaat the top of the Alcazaba

For me, though, one of the most important things is that this is a city with history. Founded by the Phoenicians, and occupied by the Romans, its most impressive monuments date from the long Moorish period. From almost anywhere in the city you can see its two fortresses, the lower Alcazaba (from the Arabic al-qasbah, a citadel) and the upper Gibralfaro (gebel-faro, the rock of the lighthouse; Gibraltar, the rock of Tariq, has the same derivation). From below it can be seen to best advantage from alongside the Roman amphitheatre, itself rediscovered by accident in 1951 when the houses on the hillside below the castle were demolished to make way for a planned garden. Although the Alcazaba was also the palace and royal residence of the local kings, its primary role as a fortress is most obvious from here. There is an entrance to the castle here, but there is a second way in (all will be explained later) which avoids the steep climb up from the bottom.

view from gibralfaroview of the port from the Gibralfaro

In the meantime, take a trip up to the top castle, the Gibralfaro. The Phoenicians had a lighthouse and fortified enclosure here, and the current Moorish building dates back to the 10th century, with a substantial rebuilding in the early 14th. Our tip for the Málaga novice is to avoid going up the steep path that connects the two castles, and instead to take a taxi, or a bus up the back of the hill, and walk down the path to the Alcazaba afterwards. One of the main reasons for coming up here, as you will see for yourself when you get there, is the magnificent view right across the city, from the bullring almost immediately below you, past the Alcazaba, Park Malaga and the harbour, to the mountains beyond. Enjoy it from the castle walls, the mirador (lookout) or best of all from the terrace of the Parador Hotel with a drink to go with it. It’s a magic moment.

From there walk all the way down the hillside path to the bottom of the wall of the Alcazaba that faces the sea to find the alternative entrance. This is, in fact, a lift that takes you almost to the top of the centre of the fortress. It’s always my preferred option, particularly in summer, to be carried to the top of things, and only to walk downwards. During the period of the Córdoba Caliphate this hill had a modest fortification to protect the city from pirates. In the more troubled times that followed it, the local ruler built his residence and the double-walled castle enclosure that still exists today. It’s considered to be the best-preserved of all the Spanish alcazabas, and although much smaller than its counterparts in Granada and Seville, the central palace area with its courtyards, pools and gardens, still gives some idea of the high level of civilisation compared to most of the rest of Europe.

alcazaba (2)inside the Alcazaba

Walking along the old battlements it’s easy to see why the siege by the Christian armies leading up to its fall in 1487 was the longest of the entire reconquest period. The castle has endured ever since, surviving abandonment, neglect, and even being occupied as a tenement slum by the city’s poor before being carefully restored during the 1930s and 40s.

I think Malaga is one of those places that always seems to have another side of itself that it only reveals gradually, so it’s well worth renting an apartment and taking a few days to explore what’s on offer.

Seville | Bienal de Flamenco

Flamenco is the traditional song, dance and music artform of Andalucia, which evolved from it’s gypsy and North African roots into something like its present form around the 17th century. If you’re into all things Flamenco, then for sure Seville is the place you want to be during the next five weeks. If you’re not, then come anyway, and you may well become a convert. From September 12 to October 15 the city is hosting the Bienal de Flamenco, the largest festival of flamenco in the world, and the city will be alive with the passions, sounds and rhythms of Spanish guitar and flamenco dance.

bienal flamenco 2014photo courtesy of the Bienal de Flamenco website

The slogan for this, the 18th edition of the festival which began in 1980, is fuente y caudal, source and flow, a reference to a 1973 album by the legendary Paco de Lucia. I have been lucky enough to have seen him play twice at previous bienals, and was looking forward to seeing him again this time around, but sadly it was not to be as he passed away suddenly earlier this year. A number of events have been planned as a homage to his memory, including a “We Play For Paco” event the day before the official opening, which will be held in Plaza San Francisco.

paco de luciaPaco de Lucía – photo courtesy of the Bienal de Flamenco website

Many of the big names in flamenco will be here, performing in the city’s major venues, such as the Espacio Santa Clara, the Alcázar Palace, the San Telmo Palace, and the city’s four main theatres, the Maestranza, Lope de Vega, Alameda and Central, but the Bienal is not just about big name performers. There will be dozens of rising talents and young hopefuls in the smaller theaters and clubs, and because flamenco is a tradition that develops, rather than being fixed and rigid, I’m expecting fringe and fusion styles of flamenco to be well represented.

In keeping with the theme of this year’s festival the official venues for street performances are clustered along the river, and around some of the city’s famous fountains, such as in the Puerta Jerez and Plaza de la Virgen de los Reyes, but as in previous years less formal shows may pop up almost anywhere in the city.

There will also be exhibitions of photographs and flamenco memorabilia, forums and other activities, including a special symposium on the life and work of Paco de Lucia.

Bienal de Flamenco 2014
September 12 – October 15
Official Programme