07.05.2012 - 08.05.2012
We arrived in Cordoba late in the afternoon and spent the evening walking around the old Jewish Quarter where we found a nice little restaurant with a courtyard and had a dinner of hummus and falafels. This was followed by a pot of freshly brewed Andalusian tea that tasted delicious. It was nice to walk around the city at night at is stays light until quite late and it was still very warm. There was a nice atmosphere with tourists and locals strolling around.
We started the next morning with some sightseeing; the Moorish Mezquita (The Great Mosque) of Cordoba is over 1200 years old – “that’s much older than those temples we saw in Cambodia”, said Sully to put things into context – and it is the main reason why Cordoba is so well known today. These days the mosque is used as a cathedral and a tourist attraction but it still retains the original architecture and details from the time when it was at the centre of a vast Islamic empire.
We spent a couple of hours inside the complex as it has a nice courtyard with fountains and orange trees for shade. Inside the cathedral there are hundreds of pillars made from marble and jasper joined by arches of alternating red and white bricks which give the building its distinct character and aesthetic appeal. We read that the arches were designed to look like the shape of the date palm, which was much revered by the Arab rulers at the time.
We were in Cordoba during the time of its annual ‘Festival of the Patios’. Each year private home owners open their courtyard gardens up for public viewing as part of a competition. They each take much effort to decorate their garden walls with wonderful flowers and it makes for a very colourful event. Another Moorish legacy, the patios are filled with pot plants, decorative tiles and water fountains. The Spanish version of Britain in Bloom?! We were lucky enough to visit a number of homes whilst in Cordoba and get a rare glimpse past the large wooden doors of the old-quarter!
We spent our final afternoon walking around the city of Cordoba in both the old and new quarters. Whilst the modern city has much to offer (including good shopping), it was the narrow cobbled streets and old churches of the old town that we found most captivating. It was easy to see why Cordoba was once known as an important centre of culture in Europe. We walked for miles, past the old city walls, the fortress, the Caliphs’ Baths, along the river and then rested in the public parks.
One of our favourite discoveries was a convent of nuns that sells cakes and pastries to raise money for their order. We had read that many Spanish convents have a little shop to do this and that the nuns are hidden so you don’t get to see who serves you. The one we found was nice as we met the nun and tried to speak some Spanish with her. We found out that all of the nuns in this convent in Cordoba have taken a vow of silence during daylight hours, except for her as she has to sell the goodies. They were delicious biscuits with nuts and plenty of icing sugar on top.
On our last morning in Cordoba we packed up and headed towards the province of Seville. On the way we first stopped at the ruins of Medina Azahara, once the site of a palace and administrative complex (basically a whole city), built by a Caliph in 961 to demonstrate his dominance and greatness. It was once an amazing place but is now in ruins and constant excavation works are taking place to piece together the fragments. What we found particularly interesting was the museum that explained lots about the history of the Moors in Spain and showed some of the artefacts found from the archaeological investigations.
After a couple of hours in an air conditioned museum, we were quite keen to get back out into the sunshine and so we hit the road. Before we reached our next destination we stopped at a town called Almodovar del Rio, grabbed some food from their minimarket and had a nice picnic in the shade of the castle walls high up on the hillside where we could see for miles.