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Around Córdoba

SPAIN | Wednesday, 4 January 2023 | Views [27]

A scenic drive through the Alcudia Valley

A scenic drive through the Alcudia Valley

WITH PARKING BEING SO SCARCE and expensive, we decided to stay a bit outside of Córdoba’s historic center. Maria José’s exquisite AirBnB is one of the nicest yet, even if it’s too cold to use the pool. While she doesn’t speak much English, MJ has been sending us all manner of information about Córdoba—I don’t have the heart, or the Spanish, to tell her that we’ve been here before!


                Too cool to use the Pool, AirBnB Córdoba

In all honesty, we set a pretty fast pace back in 2013—there were so many things to discover and so many countries we still had to visit. Now we can afford to take things more slowly and explore some of the out-of-the-way sites, too.


                      Atifacts, Medinat Azahara Museum 


                       Medinat Azahara from above

The mysterious Medinat Azahara was a lavish city built around 930 AD by Abd-al Rahman III as a symbol of the importance of his Caliphate. The museum was a disappointment but the computer-generated film about the site was first-class. Even though only ten percent of Medinat Azahara has been excavated, the winding route through the ruins still takes about an hour. 


                     Eastern Portico, Bab al-Sudda


                     Exterior Arches, Superior Basilica


                        Shadows on interior arches, Superior Basilica


                          Entry to private rooms of Ya'Far

One of the most impressive structures still standing—mosque isn’t open to the public—Bab al-Sudda, the Eastern Portico, where emissaries entered for audiences with the Caliph. We were fascinated by the interplay of shadows on the arches of the Superior Basilica and the intricate carvings at the entrance to Ya’Far’s private rooms.


                         A foggy drive at times

Our second day brought us even farther afield. With apologies to James Dean, Parque Minero de Almadén “coulda been a contender.” Almadén, a recent World Heritage addition, has been a mercury mine since the 3rd Century BC and was in operation until 1972. I’ve never given much thought to where mercury came from—cinnabar, as it turns out—but always knew it was toxic. I guess that’s why the miners were slaves, convicts, conscripted soldiers and others from the rough side of society. 


                  Cinnabar ore, Mineros Almadén WHS

Sounds interesting, no? Even if we were fans of underground mine shafts—which we’re not—and the signage was in English—which it wasn’t—the €18 admission would have put us off. That’s more than it cost to visit the Prado and almost as much as the Louvre, and with no senior citizen discounts.


                      Sculpture honoring miners, Almadén


                    No bull, there isn't much to Almadén

We walked around trying to get a feel for Almadén and why 5000 people still live there now that the mine has closed. Other than the cool sculpture of really buff miners and the bull ring, we have no answer. As it turned out, the scenery on the 90-minute drive was the highlight of the day, even though much of the drive was in dense fog.



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