My Favorite Holy Week Bars in Seville

Danny and I decided to make one last stop for the night, mostly fueled by our bladders than our ganas for another beer. I ordered a Coke and dipped into the bathroom while Danny paid.

Two minutes later, as I left, the lights had been lowered, and Danny looked pale under the glow of a projector. He pointed to a screen, which showed an image of a bloody Jesus from a black-and-white film.

“Oh, you get used to that,¨I cooed, but he had already downed his beer and was halfway through the door. Novatos.

“Not cool, Cat. We’re no longer friends.”

For me, the week-long revelry that surrounds Seville’s Holy Week has meant just a ten-day travel break for me. Living in Triana’s vortex of cofradías meant that braving Semana Santa, locked inside my house while life-sized depictions of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ passed below my window. Paso de pasos, quite frankly.

Still, I have become more and more fascinated in the pageantry and culture of Holy Week, and often take guests to bars full of musty busts of the Virgin Mother, spiderweb-covered chalices and black and white photos of anguished Christs to explain the parts of the cofradía and their symbolism. Plus, I kinda love having Jesus watch me have a cold glass of beer and snack of olives, I guess?

Bar Santa Ana – Calle Pureza, Triana

Far and away my favorite of the bunch is Bar Santa Ana. It’s the typical old man bar around the corner from your flat where you feel intimidated to walk into, but secretly have always wanted to – dozens of images of the nearby Esperanza de Triana and San Gonzalo brotherhoods. Bullfights are run on TV while you sip your beer, tabbed up right in front of you on the bar, and the countdown to Palm Sunday hangs over your head while you eat from a huge tapas menu.

La Freqsuita –  Calle Mateos Gago

With a name like the fresh one, La Fresquita has a lot to live up to with its beer. Still, it’s served cold and often accompanied with olives or even a pocket calendar. The small space – its biggest downside – is covered floor to ceiling in pictures of processions and a countdown to Palm Sunday. Since the bar is right off of the main tourist sites and centrally located on Mateos Gago, many patrons spill out onto the sidewalk in front of the bar.

Kiosko La Melva – Manuel Siurot, s/n (at the cross of Cardenal Ilundain). Hours depend on the boss, Eli.

My weekday bar is always Kiosko La Melva. Once a shack used to provide workers from the ABC Newspaper offices with their midday snacks and beers, the small structure is unbeatable for cold beer (which only costs 1€!) and small, delectable fish sandwiches. Eli and Moises, the wise cracking buddies who man the bar during the mornings and evenings, collect memorabilia from Semana Santas past to fill the bar’s small interior. Their favorites? The Jesus del Gran Poder and la Macarena, who are associated with the Real Betis football club! You can take the 1 or the 3 bus to the bar, which is located near the Virgen del Rocio Hospital. Closed when raining, Saturday nights and all day Sunday.

Garlochí – Calle Boteros, 26, Alfalfa.

Seville’s tackiest bar deserves a mention here, although it’s become a bit of a tourist attraction. Wafts of incense arrive to the street as a lifelike Virgin Mary, eyes towards the heavens, guards the door. The plush decor and aptly named drinks – like Christ’s Blood – make it a favorite among tourists, but there’s a “Garlochi Lite” next door with cheaper drinks and not so many eyes starting at you as you pound your cervezas.

As a non-capillita, I had to ask my dear friend La Dolan for her top picks for Semana Santa bars around the city. She told me of Carrerra Oficial, just steps from Plaza San Lorenzo and the Basilica del Jesus del Gran Poder that has put a replica of the famous church’s facades as part of its decor. The bar is on Javier Lasso de la Vega, 3.

Have you ever experienced Semana Santa in Seville? Or been to a Holy Week bar here?

Of Mosques and Men

The muezzin’s soft wails over a crackling loudspeaker broke our girlish chatter.

As he strained to reach the top notes, calling to pray at the edge of daylight, we were ducking the seagulls that took flight in front of the New Mosque, Eminönu Yenicam. Crossing the Galata bridge towards our hostel in Taskim, I turned and watch the golden-topped towers glint in the fleeting sunlight, reflecting on the Bosphorous below.

Turkey was just what I needed – to stretch my travel legs after a year of being dormant, to fill my belly with new tastes, to be somewhere without an Easter celebration. It beyond fulfilled my expectation with its incredible food, friendly people and views bordering on fantastical.

The Galata Bridge stretches over the Bosphorus between the European fingers of Turkey’s largest city. The fisherman are there early, displaying their catches in shallow styrofoam pools or old fish tanks, their long poles leaned up against the blue iron of the guard rails, and they stay even as the muezzin wails at the end of the day.

As seagulls soared over the tourism boats, I caught my breath at seeing a mosque somewhere in the distance. Its twin towers and dome looked like a mirage set against pastels as the sun continued to sink below the Earth. I felt like I was in the far East, far from anything occidental and familiar.

I was snapped out of my revery by the smell of pistachio and honey. The rest of the girls had stopped midway across the bridge at a small snack cart that sold a Turkish cousin to the churro. I shelled out about 72 cents for the pistachio dream, finding myself a million miles away from Spain and a million dreams into Turkey.

Never fear, readers. I know I’ve been away a bit, but I’ve got a few things in tow, including an article (that pays me!) for GPSmyCity and a new stint as an expert for The Spain Scoop. But I’ve got five articles half-finished, 800-some pictures to sort through from Turkey and a rainy weekend ahead, so you’ll get your fill!

Nazareno, Nazareno

It’s Viernes de Dolores in the Catholic world, so you know what that means:

My school is full of nazarenos.

 Now, I know what your American brains are thinking, but this can’t be explained by a few letters: the nazarenos are symbolic of the penitent brothers of religious brotherhoods. In Seville and throughout Spain, these brothershoods march throughout their towns for up to 12 hours, accompanying a float adorned with candles, flowers and an image of Christ or the Virgen Mary.

They say the hoods make the sinners nearly unrecognizable to the people who come from around the world to see Seville’s famous line-up (read a few tips on how to survive it if you do come), but I’d still file it under culture shock.

Though it was tiring (they don’t called it Friday of Dolores, or Sorrows, for nothing!), it was fun to play guessing games with the students and practice prepositions on the two-hour long march.

When the faithful returned to their temple, there were pestiños and rosquillas for all. For now, the mantones and floats are stored until next year, and we teachers get a glorious ten-day break from babies and boogers.

Have you ever attended Holy Week processions in Spain? What was your reaction? Any big plans for Semana Santa? This lady is off to Turkey tomorrow!

18 May

If there are two typically Spanish things, it’s futbol and fiesta.

If you’re lucky, they both happen the same day. May 18th, if you’re a Sevillano, may very well have been one of the best days of your life. Here’s a play-by-play of last Wednesday:
7:15 – Wake up to shouts of, “QUE VIVA LA BLANCA PALOMA!” Or, long live the white dove! and the subsequent release of cannons. The mass of the Virgen del Rocio, or Virgen of the Dew, starts promptly at that hour. I was at Kike’s house, so I covered the pillow with my head and tried to sleep it off.
The pilgrimage to El Rocio, a beautiful and famous hermitage in the middle of Southern Spain’s famous national park, happens every Wednesday before pentecost in both Triana and Olivares. Around here, most girls are named for the famous virgins, and I have no shortage of friends and students named after the white dove, Rocio. Faithful followers rent of by big trailers, spruce them up with pictures of the Virgin and brightly-colored flowers, and make a long trek on foot towards the hermitage, a journey of 67 kilometres. People come in droves to see the simpecado, a gold-laden statue of the Virgin, passed around on Pentecost Sunday.
8:00 – Grabbing Juan Bosco, I set off for the long way home. Instead of cutting through the center and through Triana, I was relegated to practically the highway because the entire Police force of Seville was directing traffic. The carretas, the trailers which carry the pilgrims, had completely clogged San Jacinto. I quickly got dressed amidst cracks of whips sticks and more cannon booming.

8:50 – From my table besides the window in La Sonata, I ate my tostada and had my coffee listening to tambourines tingle. Women in short flamenco dresses with stiff leather boots and men sporting straw hats emblazoned with their hermandad stood around smoking, greeting friends and making sure they had everything together. Many wore green and white (the colors of Triana) braided necklaces bearing a round, silver image of the virgin. Triana and Olivares joined about ten other hermandades that day in camino to the Aldea de El Rocio, as the small municipality is called, and it is among one of the most famous. Sevillanas played and the hermanos filled the streets. I walked to the bus stop and watched carretas join a long line, all numbered, waiting for the official salida at 11am. Sadly, the simpecado, which is often pulled by bulls, had not left.

Most people make the trip to El Rocio on foot, choosing to sleep in the fields at night and leave the trailers for storing food and drink and taking refuge during inclement weather. Rocieras, another version of Sevillanas, keep the troops motivated, and some go on horseback or carry the carretas with tractors.

9:50 – The bus driver pulled into the first stop in Olivares and said, this is as far as we can go. I was easily a 15-minute walk from school, with heels and with treats for my students, so I trucked along the town’s main street until I ran into the trailers. Olivares’s hermandad is also well-known, but the carretas are simple, pulled by tractors and briming with smartly-dressed Olivarenas who waved to the people gathered on street corners and on balconies as if it were their maiden voyage. Since school had been cancelled for the first two hours, I met a few of my compis in front of the hermandad’s church, Nuestra Senora de las Nieves, and watched the remainder of the parade go by.

A carreta leaves Olivares, in front of the hermandad rociera’s chapel

10:30 – Two of my students, Rocio and her cousin Carmela, were missing from my first class, and even though I had a few days left, they had already said goodbye to me. The rest of the school day was fairly normal: classes, private lessons, and by the time I left Jaime and Maria’s, I was exhausted and feeling stressed.

10 pm – I arrived to Kike’s house exasperated and with three boxes of brownies still to make. I was greeted in the plaza with shouts of ATLEEEEEEETI and VIVA ER BETI! Sevilla FC and Atletico Madrid were duking it out that night for the championship of the Copa del Rey. Kike watched while I poured over boxed brownies with scant cooking supplies. Sevilla won 2-0, and I could have cared less. The city of Sevilla, however, did care, and car honking, screaming and red and white fireworks continued until 3am.

Pff, I’d take siestas over virgins any day.

For a video of the salida of the Virgen from her temple, click here

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