Seville, Spain

Friday, December 21, 1928

I won’t do any daydreaming over Wednesday night. There were about 20 farmers in the car and one or the other of them always had to be opening a window to look out, thus freezing everybody else. Maybe his motive was hidden. It was a question with me whether to endure the sweet-perfumed atmosphere inside or put my head out the window and freeze. My cold helped, so I survived by the former. All in rags and patches, they were sprawled all over the car with their luggage. A hunter got on about 2 AM, then I had a dog under my feet. It was light about 6:30 and soon after the Portuguese customs officer came aboard. He was a hard-boiled babe and made the peasants step, who in turn loved him like a dose of castor oil. I paid no attention to him except to smile at his hard-as-nails attitude and for some reason he didn’t even ask to see my passport. At 7:30 we arrived at the border where there was a long wait, so I walked a kilometer to Badajoz. There was a very dense fog. This town’s chief distinction lies in its large tower gate at the end of a long bridge leading across the river.  It is really not a bad place at all.

In the new train I had a compartment all to myself. Did I say a compartment? I meant a Frigidaire. Got hot on the Charleston, though, and all warmed up. [??] The car soon began to fill up and it wasn’t long till I was holding a squawking mess of chickens while the owner climbed aboard. Lots of local color at the numerous stations en route. The first warning of an approaching station is a general upheaval of the car by those collecting their grips, chickens, dogs, bags, sacks of food, hams, and what-not. Then they walk all over you to get out. When they are gone, the tide comes in. Boxes, umbrellas, blankets are tossed up through the door and passed along by those inside to a vacant place. In pile the newcomers after their junk. When things are in order, out they climb to say goodbye to their friends and when the whistle blows, in they scramble once more. In the meantime a goodly portion of the town has assembled at the station. The beggars walk alongside the train rattling off their pet phrases. A little stand nearby is doing a thriving business selling drinks (hard). At one station two enterprising young lads with a violin and a dilapidated guitar would tear through a popular piece, then pass the hat. Old women walk through the crowds selling “lotterie tickets.” And the way they yell would immediately sink a fog whistle. Perhaps a couple of smartly dressed soldier-police are parading up and down, conscious of their dignity. A half-dozen little donkeys, heavily laden, stand patiently by. Somebody blows a tin horn. The platform is transformed into a mess of excited people all in each other’s way. Boxes and chickens go banging through the crowd. Young hopefuls get their last instructions and go the rounds kissing everybody wholesale. (The men kiss each other here.) Two minutes later the olive-tree orchards and pretty green hills are slipping by once more. The broad rolling plains gave way, near Seville, to the picturesque hills or mountains of the Sierra Morenas. The little towns with their houses clustered about the cathedral are typically Spanish. Every larger town has its Toros on the edge of town. Occasionally you see the old ruins of a monastery or castle high on a hill.

Near Seville a man tore into our section, handed each of us a little piece of hard candy wrapped in paper, and made his exit. This was nice of him. A moment later he reappeared, giving each of us a slip of paper upon which was printed the picture of four cards. It was as I suspected. The third appearance was for 10 centivos. I forked it over as it was only a cent and a half. The next time he came, he brought me to prize—two handfuls of candy. I couldn’t have lost though, for the night before I had found a 5-centivos piece in the station. Always have to find the smallest denomination in circulation. It has happened four times now.

Breaking away from the pesky mob of hotel “advance agents,” I set out to look things over. It makes me mad the prices they ask for nothing, and in 2nd-rate hotels. $1.60 and $2.00 is common. A clerk in the 2nd hotel I turned down took me to another, Hotel Ambros-Mundo or something similar. It is probably 3rd-rate, but is OK and I got a cheerless but clean room for 80¢ plus, I suppose, some taxes.

While passing through Portugal and Spain I was struck by some of the wide roads they have—as wide as the fields are. These trains are painful. Many stations consisted of but a small stucco house, and a row of cactus on each side of the track. Another bad habit in the order of things over here is the practice of selling shrimp. They are cooked alive, dumped in baskets whole, and sold on the streets. You have to break the tail, head, etc. off before eating them.

Today I arose late (ahem). After purchasing my bus ticket for Gibraltar, I went to the bank for some English pounds. Then I set out to see Seville. Either the people here are crazy or I am. Not to be conspicuous, I put on my suit, but my suede jacket instead of the coat. Still business is good. I’m sure now it is either the crease in my trousers or the color. Must be the latter, but I don’t think they look funny. Some of these purple or lavender suits or caps are much more comical.

Seville is a peach of a town. The capital of Andalusia, it possesses all the beauty and charm of southern Spain. [Copped straight out of the guidebook. . .] She is a city of flowers and sunshine, on the banks of the navigable Guadaquivir. She shines with a brilliant luster that the charms of nature have bestowed upon her. The beautiful parks, monuments, artistic treasures. A romantic atmosphere invades the city. The narrow winding streets of the old quarter, the pretty courts, the mantillas, they all recall past civilizations. Everywhere in the parks are rose trees, palm trees, orange trees by the side of quiet pools or bubbling fountains. Such is the place where the Iberian-American Exhibition will take place next spring. Huge, elaborate palaces are to house the exhibits. Beautiful, wide palm-lined boulevards branch in every direction. The place is too pretty to be described. Everywhere the Spanish artistic touch has asserted itself. The Alcazar with its far-famed gardens is one of the prettiest in the world. The cathedral is a magnificent temple, one of the most beautiful in the world. XV century Gothic for the most part, it astounds the senses by the splendor of its architecture, by the majesty and beauty of its lofty naves, as well as by its wonderful wealth of paintings and sculptures, ironwork and stained-glass work, in precious metals and embroideries. It is said that when the Chapter decided to build this cathedral, they declared “Let us raise a temple of such huge proportions that the generations to come shall think us mad.”

By this great cathedral stands the Giralda, a famous tower and the most striking monument in the city. “A notable XII century Almohade minaret with renaissance belfry of the XVI century.” There are several plazas, chief among them the Plaza San Fernando. The narrow streets present busy scenes until late at night. A great many women wear the mantillas; many more just black veils. The men, many of them, are guilty of what we call a Puritan Hat, tall, round, stiff, and with a wide straight brim.

Seville is a clean city. The old houses in the old section are kept in good condition, and no matter how the place looks on the outside, there is always a charming court with palms, balconies, and perhaps a fountain, to be seen through the door or gate. The daytime is nice, but the nights pretty chilly. $5.13.

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