Exploring Pula and the Amphitheatre

Day 16, Wednesday. September 20, 2017

Today was cloudy, but thankfully we didn’t have any rain.  It certainly makes a big difference in our enjoyment of the day and our walk about. This post will be a bit picture heavy, there are just so many interesting things to show you.

Pula’s old buildings are either very dilapidated looking and/or they have been colourfully painted. Here are a few of the streets we walked today.There are a few more people out and about today now that the rain has stopped.Loved these balconies with all the pots of plants. I think a gardener lives here!This is the biggest ship we have ever seen. it was way more than a block long and it is simply enormous!
We went into the Temple of Augustus, only 10 Kuna each, or $2.00 Canadian.  These huge feet were my favourite exhibit inside. They were incredibly detailed. That is my foot in black at the bottom of the picture to give an idea of their size.More narrow streets…
and interesting balconies. You must look up in these cities or you miss so much.Here are some interesting fishing boats. We noticed that they all had lots of lights for attracting the fish at night. We thought that this was illegal, but I guess it isn’t here?

We sat for a while in St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, enjoying the quiet simplicity of this cathedral. It is so different from all the very ornate churches we saw in Spain and Portugal on our last trip.I thought that the church’s Madonna was particularly beautiful This seems to be the church’s bell tower, but I am not certain about that. It is right in front of the church.Next stop is the Roman Amphitheatre that we walked around yesterday. It is the sixth largest amphitheater in the world. It held up to 20,000 spectators and was built in the 1st Century AD., so it is over 2,000 years old! Gladiatorial games were banished in the beginning of the 5th Century and after that it was neglected and gradually fell into ruin.Today this arena is used for festivals and performances in the summer months.Seems we were into ‘selfies’ today!Note the remains of an arched entrance in the foreground.There were rooms and chambers around the arena, some were used to hold wild beasts, and I am not sure what the others were used for. This animation video give a better idea of what the arena and the area around it looked like when it was intact.  The very beginning of the video looks fuzzy but it quickly gets better. Underneath the Amphitheater is a display about making olive oil with many ancient amphoras.Guess what I thought these look like?As we were leaving we saw a pair of lions guarding the entrance into the arena.Here is an artist’s print of the Arena as it is today.We found some more interesting streets to wander, and stopped for some tea and nourishment. All this sightseeing is hard work! We seem to walk between 13,000 to 16,000 steps each day according to my Fitbit. Just a few more steps than I usually walk at home.We climbed up to the Marine Museum but elected to walk around it rather than go inside.  There were some great views of the city and the Amphitheater..As we headed back to our car we were treated to the sights and smells of a little flower marketIt still seems bizarre to me that we can walk down a city street and there it is, a 2,000 year old Roman Amphitheater!

Pula, Croatia

Day 15, Tuesday September 19, 2017

Well, it was raining all night and still raining when we got up this morning but it stopped mid morning so we decided to go check out Pula. We found a parking lot and this is what we see when we get out of our car! An incredible Roman Amphitheatre.

But…I turn around and this is what I see…

The sky is very dark but we go check out the Amphitheatre and hope we don’t get wet. We decide to walk around the amphitheatre today and go inside on a drier day when we might not have to leave because of the rain. There are some great views from the outside.

We take a walk around the central part of the old town and we see some more Roman monuments: the Temple of Augustus, The Roman Twin Gates and and the Triumphal Arch. Image 2017-09-19 at 9.06 PMBy now it is raining quite heavily so we make our way back to the car, passing this interesting looking candy shop with huge candies. The banana candies are life size!Of course as soon as we get home the sun tries to peek out, but it doesn’t mange to do so for very long and soon it is raining again.After a late lunch Bob reads and I work on my journal which, of course I am already behind on.

 

 

Zagreb, the Upper Town

Day 12, Thursday, September 16, 2017

This is the view out our window. It overlooks a busy street but our apartment is really fairly quiet.
We head for the Upper Town. Our location is central so we can walk pretty much anywhere we want to go. We were surprised to see a Terry Fox Run taking place.We take this funicular which is officially the shortest one in the world! In just a few moments we are in the Upper Town…
with great views over the over city of Zagreb.I don’t know if these are ethnic costumes, or if these three ladies are belly dancers. Either way they are dressed quite magnificently.Every once in a while we come upon a modern building that is quite surprising.  We are still amazed at the parking in Zagreb.This is St. Mark’s Church which was built in the 13th Century with the coat of arms of Dalmatia and Slavonia depicted in coloured tiles on the roof. We find a door that is open and stand inside a bit, listening to someone play the organ.Many of the buildings in Zagreb have beautiful ‘bones’ but are in need of a lot of repair and restoration.This ornate wrought iron fence protects the courtyard of the Department of Divine Worship and Teaching, whatever that might be?This is one of the rare sculptures of St. George after he has actually killed the dragon. The arched gate on the right is the Stone Gate.
This is the inside of the Stone Gate, the only town gate from the Middle Ages that is still intact. It is a shrine to the Virgin Mary. Here is more information  the Stone Gate if you are curious about the legend.  The little plaques on the walls are thanks for prayers answered. There was a steady stream of people coming here to pray, light candles, or leave bouquets of flowers.

We happen upon a wedding and stop along with other tourists to have a peek at the proceedings. The bride stands outside to welcome people and then enters the church with her flower girls ahead of her and her bridesmaids following behind. Quite different from  weddings in Canada.

This Art Nouveau building seemed unusual here in Zagreb. It is the only one we have seen.

Bob wanted to go to the Casino at the Westin Hotel, as it was rated the best one in Croatia. His mom loved casinos, so this visit was for Baba.  We walked for fifteen minutes in the rain to get there only to discover that it was the tiniest casino we have ever been in. Maybe thirty slot machines and a few gambling tables. There were only ten people in the place, including us,  and we ended up winning 10 kunas, which is about $2!  Every time we wanted to cash out of a machine to try another one an attendant comes to pay out the money.  We think it is a strange system. Shortly after we walk home, in the rain, there is a huge thunder and lightning storm, with some very close lightning and a torrential downpour.  We are quite happy that we didn’t have to walk home in that!

Amsterdam’s Red Light District

Sunday, September 10, 2017

I don’t suppose a visit to Amsterdam would be complete without checking to see what the Red Light District is about. Because we were going to be out late tonight we had a nice relaxing morning and finally headed downtown early afternoon.  Our first stop was the Oude Kerk, or the Old Church, which is the oldest building in Amsterdam. This church took shape in phases from 1300 on. Over the centuries this church has functioned as a public space where citizens could meet, close transactions of any kind and listen to beautiful organ music.    

Today there was an art installation by Sarah van Sonsbeek, Check out the link to see more information about the show.    https://oudekerk.nl/en/programma/sarah-van-sonsbeeck/ The painted pillars lead your eyes up to the ceiling which is made of wood and was built by shipwrights. It looks like the upside down hulls boats. 
I loved this winding stairway which led high up to a little tiny door right near the ceiling.  Wish I knew where it led to.. Although most of the floor was cover with the gold blankets we were able to see some of the old tomb covers in the floor. Note the dates, 1590 and 1596.  I wondered about the family crest of a bird leg and wing. It seemed rather strange.

After a brief visit to a Buddhist shrine in China town we visited De Waag.  This building is only open today for a Open Monument Day which is held once a year.  It turns out that this building held the Anatomical theatre where  Rembrandt painted his famous ‘The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp’ in 1632.  

We were in the Anatomy Theater that was built just above where Rembrandt worked! That was quite amazing.

There were a lot of stairs to climb to get up to the theater…which was in the old watch Tower which used to be a gate in part of the wall that protected Amsterdam.There was a flea market outside so the bottom of the building is hidden. We were in the centre tower where the little yellow windows are. Rembrandt painted in the room below.We had a bite to eat and wandered about waiting for it to get dark and we were very surprised to see two huge Hudson Bays Stores, each four stories tall.The houses along here were old and beautiful. The Red Light District, not so beautiful.There are sex shows along both sides of the street.

Where ever there are red lights along the street, as in the right hand side of the above photo, there are very small rooms with doors opening onto the streets.  Inside each rooms is a chair or stool, a bed and a washroom, and a woman selling her body. The women stand or sit in the windows so that the men can inspect them and choose the woman they want to have sex with. You can just see the edge of one of these rooms at the base of the stairs.  The streets were packed with people, the majority of whom were men. We saw several men enter these little rooms, and then the curtains were drawn.  I found it all very sad, and felt for the women who were in this profession.  It is hard to believe that anyone would choose this line of work if they had other choices or opportunities available. The views of the canals gong home were much nicer than the streets of the Red Light District.

Wandering through Amsterdam


Saturday, September 9, 2017

The rain kept us home until after lunch, but when the sun finally peeked out we took a tram towards the museum district.  We had packed a picnic lunch so we sat in the sunshine near the Rijk Museum, people watching as we ate.  Seems like everyone was trying to get their photo taken on the ‘I am Amsterdam’ sign, but we passed right on by. I wasn’t sure I could manage to climb onto one of those letters.We wandered through the Rijk Museum gardens, admiring these great Dubuffet sculptures…before heading towards the Bloemenmarkt, or the Flower Market, which was our next stop. I couldn’t believe how many bulbs were for sale and some of them were absolutely enormous.   Right beside the Flower Market there were several cheese shops, which had samples for tasting. We tried several and they were all delicious so we bought a little pack  of several different cheeses for snacking later.I wasn’t joking when I said there are more bikes than cars. Here’s a view of the sidewalk near an intersection.  This is a normal sight, the sidewalks everywhere have rows and rows of bikes parked on them. Sometimes there is barely room to walk!
This is the view from one of the bridges over a canal. we are surprised at how long some of the houseboats are.  Most of the canals are lined with these houseboats, which are permanently parked and hooked up to water, sewer and electricity. Strangely, we never saw anyone actually on one of these houseboats.  Maybe they were hiding from all the tourists?We spent a couple pleasant hours walking up and down the side streets and canal streets, mostly just window shopping but we did pop into a shop or two, including this antique shop which was huge and packed with all sorts of interesting items.I couldn’t resist a photo into this shop, everything was piled all over. It was quite a jumbled mess.
Do you notice anything strange about this street of houses?

On our way towards the train station we stumbled upon Dam Square, a popular gathering place. There were people sitting, and walking everywhere, there were also cars, trams, horses and buggies, and little rickshaw vehicles being pulled by bikes, In other words, complete chaos! Sure was interesting people watching though.

This is the view looking back towards where we were sitting when I took the first photo from right beside the monument. Oh, and just a few more bikes.  Did I say they are parked everywhere?We decided to take a canal boat ride, so we spent an hour actually on the canals looking at all the buildings from another viewpoint. The tour also took us out into the harbour which was interesting.  It was just getting dark as our boat ride ended.We were both rather tired so we caught our tram home about 9:00 pm.

Peñiscola, Spain

Sunday, November 29th, 2015.

Our holiday is drawing to a close.  We will be in Barcelona tonight so that we can return our rental car tomorrow.  Our last nine days in Spain will be spent exploring Barcelona and visiting the sights.

As we left Valencia we were stopped by the police to allow this protest march to cross the road. We later discovered that police had evicted staff from a public broadcasting television station after it was closed by the government due to austerity measures. Check here for a short video and more information.

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On the drive to Peñiscola.FullSizeRender

There is a castle in Peñiscola, about three hours south of Barcelona, that we want to visit because the Game of Thrones Season Six had some scenes that were shot there. I found a good picture of the castle at www.spain  Somehow I missed getting a picture of the castle that shows where it is located on top of the hill in Peñiscola.r_castillo_peniscola_t1200389.jpg_369272544

We find a place to park, which isn’t always an easy task, and head towards the castle, which is near the port.FullSizeRender_2

Soon we are trudging up steep hills, past narrow streets, looking for the way to the castle, which doesn’t seem to be marked anywhere.FullSizeRender_5

We pass this interesting building which is covered with sea shells.FullSizeRender_3

Quite by luck we find the right road up to the castle and we soon are standing on one of the castle courtyards. The Peñiscola Castle was built between 1294 and 1307 by the Knights Templar. This last great fortress was to become their last refuge as they were evicted and arrested in 1307 by James II of Aragon. In 1411 Pope Benedict XIII converted the castle into his papal seat and lived there until his death in 1423.  Remember all this took place years before Colombus even set sail for North America in 1492! FullSizeRender_2

We explore this interesting castle, wondering what areas might have been used for the filming for the Game of Thrones.  The castle was never finely finished as the Knights Templar were never able to completely finish its construction.FullSizeRender FullSizeRender_5

Can you spot Bob?FullSizeRender_2

Looking down the same step narrow steps.FullSizeRender_4

We think this doorway must be a good candidate for the inclusion in the TV show.

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I love how the old stone steps are worn from all the feet that have climbed up and down them over the centuries.
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FullSizeRender_2 FullSizeRender_5These stairs lead to the dungeon. As we walk down them I imagine the terror so many people must have felt as they were dragged down these very steps.FullSizeRender_4

There was an exhibit in the dungeon about the Knights Templar that was interesting. In one of the photos below you can see a grate in the dungeon floor.  Beside it is a photo of the cell with restraints that was under that grate,  It was a weird feeling looking down into that cell, and at the table and other torture instruments in that room. I wonder if there are ghosts that linger here?Image-1After the dungeon we climb up to the top of the castle for some great views of the town and surrounding countryside. Looking down on the town shows just how close together the houses are, they really are one on top of the other as they climb the hill towards the castle. You can also see the high rise apartment buildings that are being built along the ocean front.FullSizeRender_4FullSizeRender_2 FullSizeRender_3 FullSizeRender_3

This doorway is on the outside of the castle walls.FullSizeRender_4

Around the corner and down the hill from the above photo, there is a garden area with a refuge for raptors that are wounded, sick, or born in captivity.  They are rehabilitated and once well enough they are returned to the wild.IMG_2589

Can you spot the two girls climbing the walls?FullSizeRender_2

On our way back to the car we pass what must be the biggest paella pan ever.  They were using what looked like a small shovel to mix and serve the food.FullSizeRenderWe need to reach Barcelona by 6:00 to meet our Airbnb host and we are still three hours away. About 150 km. from Barcelona the odometer on our rental car turns 6,000 kilometres!

It takes us a while to find our apartment.  It is located down a narrow side road that looked like an alley so we didn’t think we were in the right place. The only place we could find to park the car so I could go out and look for the apartment is in a handicap parking spot. There really are no parking spots anywhere around here.  Just as I was getting concerned that we wouldn’t find the apartment I hear someone call my name.  Our host has just arrived and she sees me looking rather lost and confused standing on the sidewalk.  Turns out that little alley is indeed where the apartment is located.

We put the car in the garage, which isn’t an easy job, the street is very narrow and the garage is barely big enough for the car, and we get settled in our last apartment of the trip. Later in the evening we go for a little walk and discover a fair only a few blocks from our apartment. This little girl was so intent on catching her ducks to win a prize.FullSizeRender_5

Granada Cathedral and Alcaiceria Market

We are back home and although we had a good flight home it was still 24 hours from the time we got up until we arrived home. It is going to take a while to get back on Alberta time. I have fallen behind on my blogging but I am going to continue posting until I have it completed. Thank you for following along with us so far and I hope you will enjoy the rest of our trip.

Saturday, November 21

We spend another day in Granada, as we want to visit the Cathedral and the Alcaiceria, which is a reconstruction of the Moorish Market that burned down in 1843. This market is a maze of narrow streets and colourful shops that are absolutely crammed full of merchandise. We purchase a few souvenirs and Bob has a few laughs at my rather pathetic attempts at bargaining.

IMG_2488The Cathedral is right beside the market so that is our next stop.  Upon entering the front door this is the what we see.FullSizeRender  Here is a closer view of the magnificent dome over the altar.  FullSizeRender_3This cathedral has a very ornate very large organ. FullSizeRender_4I spotted this stand with several huge medieval books but it was in a roped off area so I couldn’t get any closer to get a good look.FullSizeRenderA bit further on down one of the side aisles I was thrilled to find a display of these ancient books. They were behind glass but I was able to get a much better look at them.FullSizeRender_4The lighting wasn’t the best, but there were several cabinets with books inside. While I was absorbed in studying the calligraphy and painted images, the lights in the cabinets shut off and it was too dark to see them anymore.  I had no idea why the lights shut off and although we returned a couple of times to check if the lights had been turned back on I was out of luck. I am glad that I at least had the opportunity to see what I had.
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We have seen similar skull and crossbones in almost every cathedral we have visited. They are on tombstones embedded in the cathedral floors.FullSizeRender_2The pillars and ceiling are quite ornate and the space they enclose is immense.  Notice how small the people are.
FullSizeRender_3This is a view of the back side of the Cathedral, seems I didn’t take one of the front. If you want to know a bit more about the Cathedral check out this link.  http://www.thousandwonders.net/Granada+Cathedral  It also has some nice pictures.DSC01159There is a suggested walk through the Albaicin, on the hillside opposite the Alhambra so we head out to explore it.  The beginning of the walk was quite nice.FullSizeRender_3I quite liked this ‘Granada’, or pomegranate, on the front of one of the buildings we passed on our walk.FullSizeRender_2We do find this lovely little garden and one other garden attached to a little museum along the way.  In the museum garden there are several orange trees loaded with ripe oranges, and we ‘borrow’ one to eat later.FullSizeRender

We spent a fair amount of time checking our map and trying to figure out which way to go. The route was not well-marked and we had to backtrack more than once. It was a long walk up lots of steep roads and really for what we saw we weren’t sure it was worth the effort and time, but at least we got some exercise.FullSizeRender_2

This is a view of the Alhambra from a viewpoint on a terrace by some restaurants near the end of our walk.FullSizeRender_4

On the way back to the bus we pass this building with its ‘street art’ and bricked up windows.  We saw so many apartments and buildings like this, empty and/or abandoned, right beside occupied buildings and shops. I sure wouldn’t want to be living in an apartment next to an abandoned empty building.  FullSizeRender

The Alhambra, Granada

Friday, November 20

We caught the local bus into Granada and walked down this wide pedestrian street on our way to the tourist information office. This pedestrian walkway is made with marble paving stones, certainly something we don’t see back home.image Outside the tourist office is a unique Christmas tree made with begonias.image

There is also a shrine for the victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris.  imageThe buildings in Granada are very beautiful, imagine living in an apartment in this magnificent building.image

Soon we are on the way to the Alhambra. This was a palace, fortress and medina all rolled into one. We decide to take a bus rather than walk up the hill to its location.  This turned out to be a very good decision, as it is a long winding road up to the entrance.

We have a timed entrance ticket into the Nazaries Palaces so we make our way there first. We pass through the modern day medina (shops) and peek into a few on our way.  This fellow is making the inlaid wood boxes, table tops and other items that are for sale in his shop. It is very exacting work.image

We just have time to visit one of the towers before our visit.  This area below the tower has the remains of houses and shops.image

The view is spectacular from the top of the tower, but we are surprised at all the smog.image image  We are once more reminded of Paris as the flags here are at half mast.imageThe Alhambra has a lengthy history and it was first built as a fortress in 889. There is more information here if you are interested.          https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alhambra

The entrance to the palace begins in this room with beautiful coloured tile walls.

image  And then we walk through this little keyhole shaped door, image  and we are in the incredible courtyard.     image  From here we see one amazing sight after another.image image image I have seen lots of people taking selfies, but this one is definitely the cutest.image

The Court of the Lions has the magnificent Fountain of Lions in its center. This is an alabaster basin supported by twelve lions in white marble, which symbolize power, strength and sovereignty.imageAll the buildings are decorated with intricate carvings that were once painted.  In some places the paint is still visible.

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Water fountains and pools abound in the Alhambra.image We also visit the Generalife which is a villa with beautiful gardens that was a retreat away from the rest of the palace.imageimage

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Next stop is the Palace of Charles V. The palace was built around this round center court and there is an art gallery in part of the building.  There is a small charge fee to go in and we are impressed by the quality of the exhibits and how well organized the gallery is.image image

These sculptures were from the 14th century I think.  They were larger than life sized and stunningly beautiful.  image

There were also some very old books on display.imageNot sure why they were on the walls on the outside of the Palace of Charles V, but I sure liked these.image

We spent the whole day at Alhambra and catch the bus back down into town, walking along the ‘river’ as the sun starts to set. Bob is happy we will be taking another bus back to our apartment so he doesn’t have to drive and I don’t have to navigate!image

The Real Alcázar, aka The Water Gardens of Dorne

Saturday, November 7

We had a great day visiting Seville’s Real Alcázar. It is a magical place in its own right but it was also the setting for the Water Gardens of Dorne for part of Season Five of The Game of Thrones. imageI am going to post my pictures without too many explanatory comments as I have included two links that have more information about the Game of Thrones settings and they also explain very nicely about the Alcázar.

http://travelphotodiscovery.com/game-of-thrones-set-for-andalucia-spain/

http://scribblerinseville.com/game-of-thrones-season-5-the-water-gardens-of-dorne-aka-the-alcazar-of-seville/

We climbed to the walkway you can just see in this photo.  It is behind the arches in the wall past the pool.  We had great views of some of the gardens from here.imageWe spent four and a half hours wandering through the palace and gardens, and we still didn’t see all of the gardens.imageIn the background you can see one of the many bridal couples we saw today who are here taking pictures.  Interestingly, there was always just the bride and groom and one or two photographers, there were no bridesmaids or groomsmen.image  Can you figure out how the goldfish are flying through the sky?image  I love the intricacy of the carvings and details on the walls and ceilings.image

imageThis was a popular spot for a bride and groom to stand and get their photo taken with their reflection in the pool. Bob tried to take a photo of my reflection but there were too many people around.imageWe did find a quiet spot in the garden to sit for a few minutes. Remember, we walked in the Alcázar for 4 1/2 hours!image

We asked a bride and groom if we could just take one picture before they started taking their own photos in the Queen’s Baths.image

The sun was low in the sky when we left near five o’clock and I liked the way this fountain was silhouetted against the wall.imageAfter we left the Alcázar we followed a walking tour map that Bob had picked up at the tourist office, through many of the old narrow streets of Seville.image

I peeked inside one doorway and spotted this beautiful garden courtyard.image

I couldn’t resist having my picture taken with this beauty!image  One more photo of the bell tower we climbed yesterday. Can you spot another bride and groom? We probably saw a dozen brides today!image

We stopped for yummy ice cream and sorbet, walked the streets, watched some crazy amazing break dancers, and finally caught our bus home around eight.

Seville Cathedral and La Giralda

Friday November 6

The Seville Cathedral is the largest Gothic Cathedral in the world, the third largest Church in the world and has the largest, richest alter in the world! The sculpture in the courtyard is the bronze weathervane (giraldillo) portraying Faith that used to be on top of the tower, and from which the tower gets its name.  A replica replaces it on top of the tower.imageJust inside the door is an arial picture of the Cathedral which gives an idea of its immense size, and we are going to visit all of it!
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This link has some great pictures and easy to read information on the Cathedral.  Take a look, I think it is quite interesting (and it saves me lots of writing!)    http://www.sacred-destinations.com/spain/seville-cathedral

We enter the Cathedral and simply stand in awe.  It is hard to describe the feeling we have being in such a place.  The light is wonderful as there are three rows of stained glass windows, and the sun streams in casting jewels of colour over the immense stone columns. Interestingly I think that black and white photos capture the feeling of being in the Cathedral better than coloured photos.

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The organ here is enormous, perhaps the biggest we have seen and there are two parts to it, across from each other in the choir. These two pictures show the organ from the left and the right, this set up means that the pipes are visible on the front and back of each part of the organ.

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Here is one of the many beautiful stained glass windows.  I believe this one was from 1479.

imageThe Chapter House dome is elliptical and was built in the 1500’s.  It is perhaps the first elliptical dome ever built and I thought it was particularly beautiful.imageI read that the cathedral has 80 chapels, in which 500 masses were said daily in 1896. The altar is quite unbelievable.  It is carved in wood, covered in gold, and is 20 meters tall with 45 carved, polychromed biblical scenes.

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Christopher Columbus has a tomb here although other places also claim to have his remains. DNA testing is being carried out to determine if it is indeed Christopher Columbus who is interred here.

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Next we climb La Giralda, the belltower, which has 35 ramps which are wide enough so that two guards on horseback were able to climb to the top of the tower.  This link has more info on the Tower if you are interested

http://www.sacred-destinations.com/spain/seville-giralda

The views from the belltower make the climb very worthwhile. I have decided I like Belltowers very much.image image imageAfter our visit we make our way back to the tram to take us home.  The ice cream is displayed very attractively, we decide we will have to try some tomorrow.  I found a place that has sorbet, all natural ingredients, and no milk!imageOne last view of the tower.  The top level with the bells is where we stood.image