Thursday, March 31, 2011

Spanish Tiles/Shades of Blue

One of the traits of Mediterranean cultures seems to be its artistic expression through tilework. I first experienced it in the intricate geometric patterns that I saw during my year as a teacher in Morocco. When I visited New Mexico, I came across tilework that was influenced by the Spanish settlers who blended with the cultures of Mexico. Last January, as we wandered through cities and towns on the northern edge of the Mediterranean, I came across yet more forms of tiled artistry.

The tilework that I found this time bridged the gap of eras and cultures. Places such as Italica were sources of Roman gods, mythological beasts and wildlife found as decorations in no longer used baths and walkways. In the former mosques of Seville and the balconies of Carmona are geometric designs influenced by Muslims and which follow the Koran's statement that there will be no images of man nor beast. Then there is also the tilework of modern Spain that ranges in form from the religious to the historical representation to the modern form of advertising.

There were so many images I really enjoyed that I will need more than one blog posting to share them with you. In this group I tried to include a variety of styles and eras. For some reason or other all of the images that seemed to fit together for this post have elements of blue as part of their features. I hope that you enjoy them.

Thank you for visiting. Feel free to stop by the Tavern for another look. In the meantime, may your travels be interesting and enjoyable.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Cordoba Street Views

We could learn a lot from Cordoba. Cordoba is a city where, for more than 900 years, Jews, Christians and Muslims lived in harmony. That sense of community is one that we could certainly use today. I am not mentioning this to make a political statement, that is not the purpose of this blog. I will only note that during that time of cross-cultural harmony Cordoba was a center of learning while many of its contemporary cities faced numerous problems.

This time I thought I'd include images taken as I walked along narrow streets. Wandering around ancient streets without a sense of urgency and mostly pedestrian traffic was very enjoyable. Narrow, winding streets are a source of wonder to the visitor because you never know what will be around the next turn of the street. (By the way, I say mostly because every so often a smaller car would squeeze its way through the narrow passageways and pedestrians would duck into doorways to preserve their toes.)

On the bridge causeway leading to Cordoba,you see a woman lighting a candle as a form of petition to a religious statue. At the ends of the streets you see a mosque dome and a cathedral. In a square you come across a statue that honors Ben Maimonides' contribution to medicine. Finally, in the Arab tradition you look from a plain exterior through a wrought iron gate into an ornate home interior.

I hope that you have enjoyed your visit to the streets of Cordoba. Another time we'll visit the architectural wonders found in the city. Thank you for visiting, feel free to come again. Until then, may your travels be interesting and enjoyable.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Southern Spain: the Love of Bullfighting

I hope that no one expected to see photos of an actual bullfight. If you did, I'm sorry to have disappointed you. There are two basic reasons why you don't see "live" bullfighting scenes here. The first is that I was in southern Spain at the wrong time. Bulllfighting has seasons, though they tend to be spread out to include both Spring and Fall depending upon where the bullfighting ring is located. The other reason is that, as a rule, I am not a fan of "blood sports" be it boxing or bullfighting. I honestly don't know if I would have attended a bullfight if the opportunity had been available. I do try to experience other cultures without prejudgement and bullfighting has been an important part of the region. There would be skill and courage shown on the part of those who fight the bulls, as well as courage shown by the bulls. It would be a cross-cultural experience to be part of the spectators who line the ring. Still....I would have reservations about the ultimate result, the death of the bull for the sport of the crowd. That is my own personal opinion, and I might convince myself to attend once for historical and cultural reasons. And then again, I might not. I hate it when I am so ambivalent!

In any case, bullfighting has historically been a part of the culture of southern Spain. You can find evidence of the people's love of the event in many different representations. I have included photos from two cities in particular. Seville has great importance in the sport of bullfighting, and so there is a photo of Seville's ring from an outside view. Ronda is historically very important. From that city there are photos of the bull statue outside the arena, bullfighting implements, and a view of the bullfighting ring. The photo of the senora watching a bullfight through binoculars while wearing traditional Spanish costume was found as one of many bullfighting related photos on the side of a building in Seville's city center.

If you are curious about the history, culture, terms, and the actual events related to bullfighting, I suggest you visit this website:

Thank you for visiting, please feel free to come again. In the meantime, may your travels be interesting and enjoyable.


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Southern Spain: Graffiti-Informal Street Art

Those of you who have visited the Tavern for a while may remember that I made a post on the graffiti that I found in France. Southern Spain was another source of informal art that I found to be quite good.

Why take photos of graffiti when there are magnificent examples of architecture, interesting people, beautiful landscapes, or delicious foods? I think that one of the reasons that graffiti intrigues me is that it appears to be a universal cultural phenomena. In almost any place that you visit, you will find graffiti in some form or another. At times it is gang symbols, marking territory. At times it will take the form of political or social commentary. In what ever form it appears, from a mere word to an elaborate technicolored scene, each piece of graffiti is a personal expression made by someone within a community. However, unlike personal expressions revered and placed in museums for future generations, graffiti is subject to the elements of weather and time. Photography is a way of capturing those personal expressions and perhaps preserving them for a bit longer.

I wanted to give you a fair sampling of different kinds of graffiti that I found in southern Spain. Most of the more than 50 that I shot were taken in Seville, a city very rich in this form of expression. Some of them quite serious and with a message: "Andalucia is NOT England" brings forth the resentment that some have towards attempts to Anglocize southern Spain. Some, like the "Respect for Old People" are a bit on the irreverent side. Then we have modern art, such as the one that I have titled "Robowash". Finally, there is Malaga's bull motif, celebrating an important cultural and historical element-bullfighting. To be honest, I had a difficult time selecting the examples to display here, there were so many and I appreciated them all for what they represented.

Thank you for visiting the Tavern, feel free to stop by again. I hope that you enjoyed your time here. If you'd care to leave a comment behind, they're always appreciated. In the meantime, may your travels be interesting and enjoyable.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Southern Spain: Malaga Musings

One of the aspects of Southern Spain that really interested me was the different ways in which cities showed their age. For example, Sevilla was a combination of the old and the new. Modern broad avenues with roundabouts funneled people into squares that led to narrow streets with only foot traffic. This was typical of long-established European cities that I had visited in the past.The Malaga experience was quite different.

Malaga is a city on the coast of the Mediterranean and is today a gateway to
the part of Andalusia known as the Costa de la Sol (the Sun Coast), the Spanish Riviera. Cave paintings give evidence that it was inhabited during prehistoric times. In 700 B.P.E, the Phoenicians established a port city where Malaga is presently located. You would expect to find a 2,700 year old city that blends the new and the old, as you do in other locations.

I had two short stays in Malaga, a week in all. As I walked through the city, and I did for miles and miles, I saw wide streets, vast plazas, modern buildings, and constant on-going construction. Yes, there were a some small winding streets without motorized traffic but it was a distinctly minor part of the total city ambiance. Malaga wears the face of a very modern city, and it presents a natural face not one elderly-botoxed with unnatural features.

I enjoyed Malaga and would like to revisit it. It was a good contrast to my excellent stay in Sevilla. Malaga is a modern city full of life, friendly people, and beauty. Near the fantastic beaches, you can walk through a giant park that is full of tropical plants and interesting art work. It was also the birthplace of Picasso and many of his works are found there. Malaga has an interesting history-it was, among other things, a hotbed of conflict during the Spanish Civil War. Besides all of those attractions, the Cathedral, a Moorish fort, the the tapas bars of the sidestreets and the stores in and around the plazas are interesting places to explore. For more information, you might visit:

Thank you for visiting, feel free to come again. May your travels be interesting and enjoyable.