Marsha’s picture above says it all. Our flat was right in the sunny, warm, and inviting Plaza de la Corredera. After the host got us squared away with our place, we didn’t even unpack … we headed back out onto our plaza, to join the other locals, for an adult beverage and to soak up some glorious, warm vitamin D. We didn’t move for about two hours. Our last bit of warm sun was in late November when we walked the French Rivera in Collioure. Looking at the featured picture above, our flat was through the last arch on the back left. Did I mention it was warm and sunny? It was.
Interesting side note: as with all plazas, there are pigeons milling about for the free handout. The difference here and throughout Cordoba? Most of the pigeons were white. Not a life-changing fact, but interesting.
We experienced our first bullet train. On one stretch, from Madrid to Cordoba, we were zooming along at 155 mph. We were surprised how smooth it was. Very impressive. Once again, getting old has its advantages. Spain has a great deal on train travel for ‘mature adults’… the annual €6 Gold Card. Our cards get us 40% off train travel Monday through Friday and 25% off on the weekends. We are really rocking this old fart stuff.
After hopping off the train we found a city bus to take us into the old city of Cordoba, another UNESCO site. The image above shows one of the many orange tree-lined lanes our bus squeezed through. We were young newlyweds the last time we saw orange trees. We really enjoyed the vibe of old Cordoba, edging up to the Guadalquivir River. It was one of the last holdouts for the Moors, who had been here for over 700 years, before the Christians, coming out of the hills, finally reconquered the land. This is known as the Reconquista of southern Spain. As we read in Rick Steves’ book, and found to be true, Cordoba is one culture with three religions: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. It also has a strong Roman influence, with pieces of their building projects still standing.
Of course, we found the local churches on our wanderings. Most of the smaller, neighborhood churches were modest on the outside and reverently calming on the interior. We just never tire of checking out these community structures.
During our many walks around this wonderfully diverse city, we felt a touch of the exotic from the Moorish influence. Off each narrow, winding lane is an outer door that leads into a patio that then allows entrance into a staircase that then takes you to your flat. Whenever the outer doors were open, we would sneak a look into these picturesque patios decorated with clean blue and white tiles, beautiful flowers and plants, and the calming sound of bubbling fountains. In May, Cordoba has a city-wide Patio Festival. Hundreds of patios are open for people to enjoy. I think we might have to come back for this.
Cordoba gets extremely hot during the summer, so these enchanting, covered patios are a reprieve from the heat. The city also battles the extreme temperatures with their narrow lanes enclosed with high, white buildings. This provides shade and cooling tunnel-like walkways. Looking at Cordoba from a slight distance you see nothing but white buildings with accents of color.
Old Cordoba is a charming community of smaller neighborhoods. As we walked about we would come upon delightful plazas with old folks sitting on benches engaged in animated conversations, children laughing and kicking soccer balls back and forth, or young couples lost in their own world leaning against a fountain. All of these plazas had their own stone-patterned outdoor floors. It is just another way of expressing life through art.
One of the passages over the Guadalquivir River is the Roman bridge that leads right up to a Renaissance triumphal arch that was being built for the conquering King Ferdinand III. When Ferdie arrived before it was finished, the builders just stopped construction. And this is what we have today.
Beyond the triumphal arch is Cordoba’s main attraction, the church-turned-mosque-turned-cathedral, the Mezquita. This massive and well-preserved 784 AD Islamic mosque was once the center of a flourishing and highly advanced culture while the rest of Europe was mired in violence and ignorance. They led the way in art, philosophy, science, medicine, law, literature, and religious tolerance. As often happens, there was a power struggle within that led to split and weakened kingdoms. They lost their position of power in the early 13th century when the Reconquista took place as Christians moved back in. The Mezquita is a fantastic example of NOT destroying a beautiful structure after conquest. On the morning of June 29, 1236, the Muslims said their last prayers in this great mosque. That afternoon, the Christians set up their portable road altar and celebrated the church’s first Mass.
The large, calming courtyard has a small orchard with fruit-laden orange trees and small channels of running water that were used for spiritual washing before entering the mosque. Looking up you see the Bell Tower that was built over the remains of the original Muslim minaret.
The first stunning view, as you enter the site, is the forest of the 800+ red-and-blue columns topped with red-and-white arches built from marble, granite, and alabaster. The expansiveness is one of those experiences that cannot be captured with a photo or video. The mosque stood on the site of the early-Christian Church of San Vincente built in the 6th century. There is a Plexiglas panel in the floor to reveal mosaics from the original church.
In the center of the mosque stands the immense Cathedral. This was ordered by Cordoba’s bishop in 1523. Although there was opposition from the town council, Charles V ordered it to be done. Even though it would have been quicker and cheaper to tear down the mosque, the Christian builders respected its beauty and maintained 70% of the original structure as they repurposed the mosque.
We loved Cordoba. When we come back some May for the Patio Festival, we will once again stay right on Plaza de la Corredera. And maybe by then our Spanish will be good enough to buy some books from this seller in the plaza. Instead of paying different prices for different books, you pay by the kilo.
Next week we’ll tell you about Granada. It’s sunny there too!
This week’s flat can be seen by clicking on the bed image below.
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We look forward to hearing from you.
Preston & Marsha
Don’t Retire: Reload – Groovin’ on the Flip Side