You wake up with the alarm clock. It's 4:35 and your vacation has just begun.

You will spend three whole days in Seville with your girlfriend: sunday through tuesday. Monday and tuesday should be workdays for both of you, but she won't be working because it's the Carnival holiday in Brazil, and you won't be working because you know you can get away with it -- you're a PhD student and as long as you show things regularly to your supervisors, nobody cares about how you spend your time. This fact is at the core of your Complicated Feelings about doing a PhD, but that is a topic for another time. For now, Seville.

You execute your morning routine with the slow and tedious movements of a mummy, although mummies have it better because they sleep for thousands of years, while you slept for only four hours. You exit the house in a grogged state and beneath a dark sky, a combination that your mind is coalescing with the basic idea of "travel". While walking through the streets, you immediately remember that your luggage's wheels make an irritating and extremely loud sound when being carried over the tiled-stone floors of the spanish streets, like TEC TEC TEC. You are confident that this is waking up like half of the city's population, but what are you going to do? Carry the luggage instead of pulling it? Like if!

You stop at an ATM, because it's always a good idea to have money on hand when traveling, and currently you two have none. It is exactly 5:37 and there is not a single soul walking on the street. You take a picture, and your girlfriend interjects: "show them! show them that we're withdrawing money in the middle of the night!". She is referencing the fact that in Brazil, doing this is basically asking to be robbed. You were not conscious of this while taking a picture -- you simply thought the street was pretty at night --, and now you are sad because Brazil. Thankfully you are so grogged you do not have the attention span to be sad, and you quickly arrive at the train station.

You take a train, and then another. You sleep. You wake up in Seville.

Immediately upon exiting the train, you are greeted with a glorious realization: it's hot! When you took the train in Madrid it was a chilling 3ºC, but here in Sevilla it's a comfortable 18ºC. Of course, by Rio de Janeiro's standards this would still technically qualify as "cold as fuck", but it' all about the celebrating the small wins here, right?!? You take this warm welcome as a sign that your vacation is going to be great.

You're hungry, so you go to the train station diner and buy two Croissants to eat. While you're eating them, your girlfreind checks on Google Maps for how to arrive at the hotel. Turns out there's a bus that youcan take -- line 31 --, and there's a nearby bus stop. Great! You and your tec tec luggages brave through the empty landscape that usually surrounds interstate Spanish train stations, and eventually arrive at the conjectured bus stop. A poster on the stop indeed confirms that line 31 passes right through here, however there is something strange in the air that nags you -- the street is absolutely empty, and not a single car can be heard. Your public transit instincts, honed after decades, tell you loud and clear that an UFO landing here looks more plausible than a bus passing through, no matter what Google Maps says.

Suddenly, at the end of the street, you see it: people jogging. Not one, not two, but a handful. "That's good, that's healthy", you think. But they simply keep coming, and you realize that either Seville has the largest jogging community in the world, or there's some sort of special event happening. And as you get tec tec nearer, this becomes all but confirmed: there are people shouting and whistling, police cars redirecting traffic, and above all, numbers on the runners. "This is so cool!", you say to your girlfriend, and after some discussion you two agree that it's best to forget about the bus and go on foot to the hotel -- it's only 2 kilometers, after all (or 1/20 of a marathon).

You walk alongside the runners for quite a while, enjoying the spectacle, when suddenly your girlfriend breaks the news to you: "we'll need to cross". You slowly realize that she's talking about crossing the marathon, that is, in front of the runners. Your first thought is: 'Maybe they have stoplights?', but thankfully you ask something less stupid instead:

"Can't we walk around it?" "It doesn't look like it, the map says we need to cross right here" "Isn't there a catwalk of some sort?" "I don't know"

Shit. You stop seeing the marathon as a welcome gift and start seeing it as a cruel foe that needs to be vanquished. After walking a little bit, you see an opening: a crosswalk filled not only with people cheering, but also some that hold luggages and look nervously between each other, clearly waiting to cross. If this were in Brazil you'd immediately strike a conversation with them: "rough weather eh? a riverful of runners!", but this being another country, you simply stand behind them and bolster their numbers.

A minute passes. Then another. And then another. One person or another does indeed manage to cross, exploiting a hole in the marathon, however the bulk of your party remains waiting, perhaps for the perfect moment. After five minutes, you realize that this perfect moment will not be happening any time soon, and if these people are all too scared, then you must make the first move. You won't be intimidated by mere marathon runners! As soon as you see a large enough hole, you move, tec tecing as quick as you can.


You arrive safely at the other side of the river. You do not stop to celebrate -- you keep tec tecing as fast as you can, like a burglar after a heist. Your girlfriend catches up with you: "D'you hear? The people were cursing! They said 'hombre!!'". You simply keep walking -- if they got a problem with you, then they're running the wrong way.

After twenty minutes of walking, there is a shift in the architecture and you realizethat you've just entered the historical centre of Seville. The large car-optimized roads give way to a pedestrian labyrinth with streets big and small. This reminds you of the Gothic quarter of Barcelona, but less cavernous and more... provincial, in some way. You're amazed by the variety of the setup: there really seems to be no rhyme or reason to where streets should begin or end, or how wide should they be -- everything seems to follow the same pattern that it did centuriesago, when this place was growing organically.

In one of these nooks and crannies, you find your hotel. To access it, you must enter a building and then climb a extremely narrow and steep staircase, with a shining aluminum handrail that although almost obligatory appears to be added only recently. It looks all very precarious. At the highest step of the stairs, an old wooden door appears, with the inscription "la Pensión Vergara". You push the door, and what greets you is... one of the strangest hotel lobbies that you have ever seen. The floor is a square with a hole in its center; there are plants and water everywhere; the ceiling is high and open to the sky; there is no sofa, only cushioned benches. You remember that pensión means inn, and being an inn it is basically a house whose rooms are rented for travellers such as yous. Being a house is not the problem -- you've been lodged at various common-people-houses during your travels in Spain --, what gets you is that this house does not look like any house you've ever been to. As you will shortly learn, it looks peculiar to you because it comes from a completely different tradition of architecture and interior design. It is ´muslim`, and most places in Seville follow a similar architecture. It's open and fresh -- you love it.

There is a bar, and a man who has the tranquility of an hotel-owner asks: "Español?". You say yes -- by that I mean your girlfriend says --, and he tells you that everything is OK with your reservation, but check-in only starts at 13:00, and now it's 10:12; he can store your luggage until then, if you want! You accept (that's why you came here now, basically), and you see that behind the bar there are two rooms -- one has a television, a sofa and a bed, and the other is a kitchen. You remember that the hotel has 24/7 reception, and you wonder if this man actually lives here in the room behind the bar, waking up in the middle of the night just to receive drunk tourists. You take a look at his face again and now wonder if what you saw before as tranquility is actually just tiredness. You will never find out if this is true.

What you will find out, though, is what your rooms look like. Later you will come back here and this man will take you to your room: a 4-people bedroom that is much more spacious than what you could possibly need, but that was (you conjecture) the only one available with at least 2 beds (which was what you rented). The bedroom follows a proportion of dimensions that you've never seen before (almost 3:1), denouncing that either it was built with a different purpose in mind, or muslims really like to sleep in dead-end corridors. There isn't a single table on the room, only 2 single beds and 1 double bed, however, the double bed itself is extremely soft and uncomfortable. Since you have a history of back problems that you really don't want to invoke during a nice vacation such as this, you two end up sleeping in the single beds reserved for the children, which are thankfully better. You open the luggages on top of the double bed and use it as a table -- everything works out, see? It is also important to note that this bedroom is not a suite: the bathrooms are located in the public area and are shared between visitors. There is one in front of your room, for example, but soon you discover that it doesn't have a toilet -- only a sink and a shower. Think about this: it is a bathroom with no toilet. Ascribing it all to "muslim tradition" is starting to make less sense (muslims poop, don't they?); increasingly, you get the strangest sense that this place was procedurally generated.

You move on to your first touristic event in Sevilla.

DID YOU KNOW? From the 8th to the 15th century, several parts of the Iberian peninsula (Spain and Portugal) were under the control of Muslim rulers, from the Umayyad dynasty to the Emirate of Granada. Their capital was always in the region of Andalusia, where Sevilla is situated. This is why their influence is so much stronger here!