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Irene's Adventures

Spain - Cordoba

SPAIN | Friday, 15 September 2017 | Views [165]

On our way from Seville to Cordoba we stopped at the small town of Carmona for lunch. We parked behind a church and wandered around a bit. We found a lot of abandoned churches. We had our lunch in the plaza then carried on to Cordoba.

 Carmona gate   Carmona church

As with Seville, we stayed in a hotel outside of Cordoba. We checked into Hotel La Lancha in the village of Alcolea. We arrived early so drove back to Cordoba to scout out where we wanted to be the next day.

 

We quickly found the old city and parked the car in a parkade built around Roman ruins. We walked out of the old city to the river. We came across an old water mill that was built to bring water to the Palace gardens, but Isabella didn't like the squeaking noise so it was torn down. What we see today is a reconstruction.

Albolafia Water mill

The Guadalquivir river is wide enough for small islands that used to have flour mills. They used the current of the passing water to turn the mills. Today, they are inhabited by birds.

flour mill

From the watermill, it was a short walk to the Roman Bridge. The bridge, too, is mostly a reconstruction. However, the 19th century cobbled paving does give it a Roman feel. It is close to the great Mosque and ends at the Calahorra Tower on the south side. The bridge has 16 arches and abutment protections. We watched fish swimming about, never being swept along by the current, for a long time. Halfway along the bridge was a small shrine to St. Raphael. We were more taken by a musician playing some mean blues on his harmonica. We listened to him for a long time, then bought a couple of CDs from him.

Roman Bridge with Calahorra Tower    Ed listening to blues musician

The Calahorra Tower was about to close so we returned to the north bank and entered the old city through Arco del Triunfo. It was getting late so we made a mental note of the entrance to the Mosque-Cathedral before finding a nice restaurant to have dinner.

Arco del Triunfo

El Olivo restaurant was amazing! It was a tiny courtyard in the back of a gift shop, surrounded by rooms for rent on the second floor. It was all white with royal tablecloths. The chairs were delicate wrought iron painted white and adding to the ambience. There were flower pots bursting with flowers attached to every wall. It was beautiful. While we were enjoying our dinner, we were told that the flamenco dancer would be starting in an hour. How could we leave? We had another beer and waited.

El Olivo Restaurante

A male guitarist, another man and a woman came onto the small stage. While the guitarist played the man and woman accompanied him by clapping a beat. They didn't sing but made sounds that also added to the guitar music. After a couple of songs in this manner, the woman got up and danced am aggressive flamenco while the guitar played and the other man clapped and sang. It was the perfect evening. The lights were low, the music passionate, the dancing fierce, and the surroundings enchanting. Life doesn't get much better than this!

flamenco dancer

The next day we returned before the Mosque-Cathedral was open to visitors so we wandered through the old city. Cordoba is famous for its flower-filled alleys. We were late in the season but still found lots of flowers spilling out of pots attached to the walls. There were courtyards lush with potted plants, flowering and non-flowering.

beautiful courtyard  beautiful courtyard

 

We came upon a curious shrine affixed to the outside of the Cathedral wall. It had several steps going up to a small shine with another set of steps leading down.

shrine

We walked through Plaza de las Tendillas which serves as a connector for the main commercial avenues.

 Plaza de las Tendillas

We walked through Plaza de la Corredera which has an elaborate history as a site of public spectacles, including bullfights and Inquisition burnings. Nowadays it's ringed by balconied apartments and is home to an assortment of cafes and restaurants. It also hosts a busy morning food market selling all kinds of fresh produce. We caught them packing up their wares.  With the plaza being boxed in on all sides by apartments, the mid-day heat must be stifling.

Plaza de la Corredera

We came across the Roman temple of Cordoba which was discovered in the 1950s during the expansion of City Hall. That explains why a modern building was incorporated into the ruins.

Roman temple     Roman temple attached to City Hall

There were funny signs with a picture of a dog near drainage grates that said “pipi aqui”. Pee here. Too funny!

pipi aqui

We also saw a sculpture of a famous sculptor – Juan de Mesa. The details on this sculpture were exquisite.

Juan de Mesa

Along the river, the street was blocked off for a festival. There were kids riding bikes and skateboards. There were vendors selling their wares. It was nice to see that there were water fountains on the sidewalks. How clever in a hot climate!

 water fountain

We had killed enough time for the Mosque-Cathedral to be open. We bought our tickets in the Orange Tree Courtyard. As the name indicates, this courtyard is full of orange trees. Although the entire courtyard is covered in cobblestones, there is an opening for each tree, similar to trees planted on modern streets. There was a central well that had water pouring into irrigation channels running to every tree.

Orange Tree Courtyard  irrigation channels

Entering the Mosque-Cathedral had us stop dead in our tracks. We were greeted by a forest of columns, arches, and domes. There are 856 columns of jasper, onyx, marble and granite. The alternating red and white brick and stone over the arches created a hypnotic effect. There were elaborate double arches to help support the higher ceilings. It was a forest of aches, so simple, yet so amazing. We simply wandered around gawking like kids.

Mosque-Cathedral arches

On the east side of the building was the Mihrab, the prayer niche that faces Mecca. The arches became heavier and more elaborate as we got closer.

double arches

The Mihrab itself had gold mosaic on the walls – 1600 kilos of gold! If we had not read that detail we would never have guessed. It was shiny but very simple in its design.

Mihrab

The shell-shaped ceiling is carved from a single block of marble.

marble ceiling

At the centre of the mosque is the cathedral. The Mosque dates back to the 8th century. When the Christians captured Cordoba in the 13th century they began to use it as a church. In the 16th century, they added the cathedral. When it was finished the King admitted that they had ruined a beautiful building. It is your typical cathedral with an opulent main altar, intricately carved choir, huge organ, and high Gothic ceilings. In comparison, I preferred the Mosque part. It was open and simple, despite the 1600 kilos of gold. The cathedral part had a busyness to it that was distracting.

Cathedral ceiling  Cathedral

We passed a museum of the Inquisition and had a tour. It was the most gruesome and horrible display of Christian righteousness I had ever seen. Torture devices were on display with placards stating exactly how the device was used and the exact kind of pain and suffering the victim experienced. I hurried through as it was very disturbing.

Inquisition torture museum

We went back to the Calahorra Tower for a tour. It was originally a fortified gate built by the Moors. Enrique II added the round tower, connecting the outer arches of the gate. It was used as a prison and a school before becoming the museum it is now. This fascinating museum had audio-visual presentations which depict how life was in Cordoba around the 10th century when Christianity, Muslim and Judaism lived side by side. Student: “But what, then, is the best society?” Averroes: “One where each woman, each child and each man has all the means to develop their God-given potential.” Wow! Wise words from the 12th century.

 

We learned, with the help of a diorama, that agricultural and irrigation methods of the Muslims were an improvement over the Roman system of terracing and aqueducts. Muslims put in vents and locks to regulate the evacuation and accumulation of silt. There was a display of medieval surgical tools developed by the Muslims.

surgical tools 

There was a model of the Mosque before it became a Cathedral. It was interesting to see it wide open. There were lots of dioramas depicting life in Cordoba throughout the years. They were very well done and life-like.

 diorama

We went to the top of the tower and had a fantastic view of the Roman Bridge.

 Roman Bridge

We stopped for dinner at Taberna Restaurante El Olivo and ate under the olive tree. Sweet. The restaurant was outside the old city walls, beside the moat.

moat

While we were eating I noticed one of the doorways into the old city was wider on the bottom than the top. After dinner, we went for a closer look, and sure enough, we could see where carts had scrapped the lower level of the stone away.

 door wider at bottom due to carts rubbing

It was time to head to Granada.

 

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