Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Living on Calle Vidrio

I live on Calle Vidrio near Puerta de Carmona in the old city, the medieval city of Seville, this once capital of Muslim Spain. The street in front of my first-floor apartment is hardly wide enough to pass a car, paved in cobble stones and mortared with the grime of the ages. Apartments, churches, shops and palaces, colorful and smooth-walled, rise on either side when I walk down it as on a day hike through a slot canyon in southern Utah.

But not only is Calle Vidrio of this fashion. The medieval part of the city is a vast maze of such ancient streets south to the Alcazar Gardens, then north to the Andalucia Parlament, and west to the bull ring and the Plaza de Armas on the River Guadalquivir. On an easy morning walk through these winding streets, you might scout your route easily on the map, but then on the ground, out in the streets, you find you are utterly lost, the cars passing within inches of your body pressed close on an impossibly narrow sidewalk, great greenery hanging down from the window gardens above you, cigarette smoke puffed at every corner bar, and little more than a slip of blue sky above leading your sense. The map leads nowhere, so you wander, in search of the astonishing cathedral of Seville. You wander and wander until somewhere between this and that you catch sight of the towering Giralda, the great bell tower with Roman stones at its foundation, Moorish brickwork telescoping into the icons of the Catholic Church. How you arrived here, you do not know, but here you are none the less. And seated now for your afternoon coffee, the plaza resplendent before you, an edge of January air sharpened against your nose, you realize that the best remedy to reform a control freak is a walk in old Seville.

I am here in Seville this spring semester, 2009, to teach in the study abroad program at Texas Tech University. Each semester some 70 students travel from Lubbock, Texas to southern Spain to study Spanish language and history, and in my classes, travel writing and Hemingway. In Lubbock, I teach in the Natural History and Humanities degree program in the Honors College at Texas Tech, and am most grateful to my dean and colleagues for supporting my semester away.

This is not my first journey abroad, nor my first time in Spain, and yet an experience like this one—four months a resident guest in a foreign land—is enough to draw me from the myopic world-view we Americans sometimes put on. It reminds me, once again, that our way, that my way, is only one way of many, and the knowing of this is a ritual that must be repeated, like communion or like the coming of spring or like forgiveness. To re-learn this truth, to have it with me, I must step outside the door, again, and again, and take a turn through the streets of old Seville.


  1. Very nice. I love a lot of the lines in there, but the one that makes me smile is about reforming a control freak by having him walk the streets of old Seville. ;-)

  2. Kurt, I would hardly need to visit Spain. Your description makes me feel that I am there. Can hardly wait for the next entry.

  3. Have fun, Kurt. Sounds like a great experience! I read Chaucer in Canterbury, Muir in Yosemite, etc. Our footprint in the footprint is important. Keep posting!

  4. Hey Writer Man,
    Hope you have an enlightening and enjoyable time in Spain. Looking forward to your posts. They are a class in and of themselves. You speak with a smooth and clear voice. I agree with your mom, I am there.
    Your Cuz,

  5. I feel like I am there...keep the posts coming! They are an enjoyable read, and I'm glad you are enjoying the semester in Spain.


  6. Thie street is one of the most romantic places in the world for me. I lived there in 1975-6, the year after Franco died. My two friends and I were staying in Pension Occidente on that Street. (i don't remember the number).We were studying Spanish at the University. The hostel was full of Spanish students. It was run by a large widow called Dona Maria and the rent was sixty pesetas a night. We would often all stay up all night and go the bar on the corner for toast with olive oil and coffee. It was there I met and fell in love with a medical student called Jose Luis de los Reyes. His father was a Brigadier in the civil Guard. He asked me to marry him and I was too cowardly to accept. I have travelled to many places but this part of Seville will always be my favourite

  7. One should try staying in a hostel, and don't forget to learn from the

    mistakes of one and all, and lead a good life ahead.

    Rio Pousadas

    1. I just came across your blog and reading your beautiful words. I thought I would leave my first comment but I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog.

    2. It has relevant information. Thanks for posting this. Your blog is so interesting and very informative.Thanks sharing. Definitely a great piece of work Thanks for your work.