Thursday, October 31, 2013

art on the street

Lisbon has some of the most incredible street art I have ever seen— some pieces are anonymous subtle surprises, while others are massive, in-your-face works of art. The Crono Project is an ongoing urban art project which commissions artists to use derelict buildings as their canvases. I was over the moon to see my very first Blu and Ericailcane, and my second Os Gêmeos (the first sighting was in Boston last year).

I think there's something healthy in having respect for street art.

Friday, October 25, 2013

tragic lions

The Archaeological Museum in María Luisa Park has a lovely collection of prehistoric idols and Roman artifacts from the Iberian peninsula, including these wonderfully tragic lions. Had I more time, I would have liked to sketch every one of the expressive beasts— they look so sad!

I wonder about the artists' intentions...

pigeon feet

Thursday, October 24, 2013

east meets west, meets star wars

Among the palms and sweet orange trees of the Parque de María Luisa, stretches the Plaza de España, a stunning complex built for the 1929 Ibero-American Exposition. Star Wars fans might recognize this beauty, as it played a role in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace and Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones— neither of which I have seen. I was brought up with the original trilogy; with Han and Leia and Luke, Chewbacca, C3PO and little R2D2, and could never bring myself to see the newer movies. They don't remind me of my grandma.

I know that sounds odd, but my grandma is an avid fan of all things Sci-fi and fantastical, and when I visited her as a little girl, we would watch Star Wars and her beloved Star Trek while Grandpap grumbled something profane under his breath and disappeared into his shed, a cloud of pipe smoke trailing behind him. She loved Star Trek so much, that the various spaceships of the series dangled from branches of her Christmas tree each year. She even attended conventions in costume— something I was deeply proud of, as most of my friends' grannies merely baked and knitted (though Grandma did that too).

Anyhow, I've digressed.

(These fish are for you, Mom)

In places the architecture, woodwork, and colourful tiles feel very Middle-Eastern. The particular style of the plaza building is called Neo-Mudéjar, which is a revival of the older Mudéjar style; a wonderful collision of East and West as Muslim and Christian aesthetics came together in 12th century southern Spain.

Gorgeous, isn't it?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

more pork

It was about that time when a good dose of pork was necessary. Some of you are already aware of the posts I have dedicated to my love for pork, and that I have become a regular smuggler of bacon, presunto, and various sausages when returning from a non-Muslim country. I will even shamelessly ask Pedro to carry some in as well, which he kindly does. So when in Spain, one must indulge in some jamón and assorted Spanish pork sandwiches. I realise now that the sandwiches in the foreground do not reveal a hint of the goodness inside, as I photographed them from above, but trust me when I say that the mysterious pork purée slathered inside was absolutely wonderful.

As usual, I was struck with food envy, and though I thoroughly enjoyed what I had ordered, I needed to try the sandwich with whisky sauce that also came to the table— so I ordered my own.

Oh my goodness.

Monday, October 21, 2013

gothic grandeur

Standing where a great mosque once rose into the sky is the very grand, very Gothic Sevilla Cathedral. Traces of its Islamic predecessor can be found in the cathedral's airy and fragrant courtyard, and in the mathematical, intricately carved Puerta del Perdón gate. Upon the conquering of Sevilla by Ferdinand III of Castile in 1248, the mosque was converted into a church, and its minaret replaced in 1376 (after a devastating earthquake) by a bell tower.

I was stunned to learn that Sevilla's cathedral is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world— I had always believed the imposing church in Köln held the title, but no! What's more, when the construction of the church was finally completed in the early 16th century, it was the very first to end Ayasofya's near-thousand year reign as the largest cathedral in the world. But wait— there's more.

The alleged remains of Christopher Columbus are entombed there too.

When looking at all the glittering gold and grandeur of the cathedral and his tomb (pictured above), my mind can't help but move to darker thoughts: slavery, colonisation, and the countless lives lost in the genocides that took place in the Americas. With Columbus' crossing of the Atlantic the world was forever changed, though oppression and genocide seem to be a sad constant in our collective history— before he set sail, until this very day.

It is a stunning, impressive piece of architecture.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

the andalusian capital

I've been in the sky and on the road again, and this time the road lead me across the Guadiana International Bridge, into Spain from Portugal. The heat was southern and the sun strong when it showed itself, a major change from the chill back in Istanbul— wooly sweaters and socks are currently a necessity in my apartment. On the second day on the other side, we drove to Sevilla.

My curiosity about Andalucía began in college, when I took a course on the Islamic art and architecture of Medieval Spain. Once upon a time, I had booked one of the trips of my art-nerdy dreams, only to have it foiled by a certain volcano in Iceland. I had planned to explore Barcelona and make my way to Granada to see the Alhambra, then if time allowed, the Great Mosque of Córdoba— but Eyjafjallajökull sent me to Athens instead.

So at last I found myself wandering the streets of Sevilla, the capital of Andalucía, searching for Moorish touches in a Catholic city. There was a spectrum of yellows, red accents, Arabian arches, intricate iron work— and surprisingly quite a number of Turkish tourists. The sun was relentless, but it cast long shadows.