Millions of people heard of the Alcazar in Spain for the very first time, following an announcement from the producers of the mega-successful “Games of Thrones” series that it would shoot parts of the upcoming fifth season inside the Spanish Palace.
The Alcazar will serve as the location of the main palace of the ancient city of Dorne.
The excitement is justified considering the big following of the series. But for travel enthusiasts, the Alcazar is oh so much more than just a series location.
The Alcazar is a great reminder of the past kingdoms that have ruled the southern region of the Spanish peninsula, Andalucia.
The Reales Alcazares de Sevilla or simply, the Real Alcazar is a royal palace which sits on a what was previously a Moorish fort. It is the oldest royal palace still in use in Europe. In 1987, it was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
According to historical record, the Alcazar were primarily built for the Cordoban governors of Seville and construction began as early as 913 AD.
In the 11th century, rulers of Mulim taifa developed the original fort by building a palace called Al-Muwarak. This original construction can still be seen in the now western portion of the palace.
In the 12th century, Almohad rulers added an eastern palace around what’s now the Patio del Crucero and in 1248, Christian Fernando III moved into the Alcazar when he captured Seville in 1248.
Subsequent monarchs developed and re-designed the Alcazar such as Alfonso X who replaced much of the Almohad structure with a Gothic one.
Between 1364 and 1366, Pedro I built the Mudejar Palaco de Don Pedro which is the single most striking architecture and focal point of the entire fortress.
The Alcazar is an example of mudejar architecture, or the design personality of the Al-Andalus who stayed behind Andalucia after the the Christian Reconquisita but did not convert to Christianity.
I got the great opportunity to visit the Alcazar during my trip to Seville in September 2014.
If you have been traveling all over Europe, then chances are, you might have been saturated by the multitudes of palaces and forts and you might dismiss this Spanish palace as another, well, palace.
But for a first-time visitor to the continent, seeing the Alcazar up close was a magical experience. It was like stepping into a portal and getting a glimpse into the past. You can just imagine the Moors who used to occupy these halls. Then the Spanish monarchs who followed suit.
As I walked along the halls of the palace, I couldn’t help but notice the intricate designs, mosaics and tiles adorning the walls and ceilings.
The mosaics are so quite colorful and they feature geometric designs that are more Moorish than Spanish, again reminding everyone of the origins of this immense complex.
The great detail with which the walls, halls and ceilings were built make you instantly realize that this place was built with great care and supervision, fit only for the royals.
The entire Alcazar complex is huge and there’s a big likelihood that you might get lost inside its many patios, hallways and secret passageways.
Despite its immense size, however, there is no doubt that the centerpiece is the Mudejar Palacio de Don Pedro.
The halls on the second floor also has a display of the largest maps, tapestries that I have ever seen. They are so old that I am afraid of even touching it. Some of the tapestries depict the routes taken by Spanish voayagers during the era of exploration in the 1500s.
The outside pond/garden Estanque de Mercurio also had a great impact. After a leisurely walk along the many halls and patios inside the Alcazar, I stumbled upon this fountain and pond. Located near the gardens, this place just gives one a sense of peace and contentment.
There is water coming from the roof and as the sun’s ray passes through the falling water, it creates a mini rainbow that just took my breath away.
A few hours of visit is just not enough to get a good appreciation of the Alcazar’s many halls and patios. I stayed for only about two hours because of limited time and still, I wasn’t able to discover many of its hidden secrets.
But I guess, that’s the way, Real Alcazar is. No matter how much you try to explore it, it remains an enigma even to those who have walked through its corridors many times before.
And to satisfy that lingering curiosity, you just cant help but go back.