A Day Trip To Cordoba

I arose early and was out the door by 8:30 AM.  I found the number 32 bus that would take me to Estacion de Santa Justa, which is the name of Seville’s train station.  Once I got there I had to wait in line for about 45 minutes before making a reservation and then purchasing a round trip ticket to Cordoba.  It is just 75 miles from Seville but a Rapido would take just 45 minutes while a slower train would take up to an hour and a half.  One of my main issues with the Eurail Pass is that the ticket is made of paper so you must speak to a human being in order to either make a reservation and/or purchase a ticket unless, of course you want to pay full price.  That would be foolish since I already paid a lot of money for this 60 day global pass.  I think I’ve said this in other blog postings in the past, but it bears mentioning again.  I don’t understand why when folks get to the ticket counter it can take sometime 15 or 20 minutes to purchase a ticket.  I know all of the rail systems publish schedules. Add to that the fact there are never enough folks at the various ticket windows you can very well get anxious fearing you may miss your train because you’re waiting so long to purchase a ticket.  As you have probably figured out by now this is what happened yesterday.  However, since I allowed enough time based on past experience I did make my train with about 10 minutes to spare.

Once I arrived in Cordoba I went to the tourist office and found out how to get to the Mezquita-Catedral, Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos and the Jewish Quarter better known as La Juderia.  The good news is all three are right next to one another.

First a brief history of Cordoba.  The Roman colony of Cordoba  was founded in 152 BC and became capital of Baetica province, covering most of today’s Andalucía.  In 711 Córdoba fell to Muslim invaders and became the Islamic capital on the Iberian Peninsula. It was here in 756 that Abd ar-Rahman I set himself up as emir of Al-Andalus.

Córdoba’s heyday came under Abd ar-Rahman III (912–61). The biggest city in Western Europe had dazzling mosques, libraries, observatories, aqueducts, a university and highly skilled artisans in leather, metal, textiles and glazed tiles. And the multicultural court was frequented by Jewish, Arabian and Christian scholars.  Who knew?

Towards the end of the 10th century, Al-Mansour (Almanzor), a fearsome general, took the reins of power and struck terror into Christian Spain with over 50 raids.

Córdoba’s intellectual traditions, however, lived on. Twelfth-century Córdoba produced two of the most celebrated of all Al-Andalus scholars: the Muslim Averroës (Ibn Rushd) and the Jewish Maimonides. These polymaths are best remembered for their philosophical efforts to harmonise religious faith with reason.  Again, who knew?

In 1236 Córdoba was captured by Fernando III of Castilla and became a provincial town of shrinking importance. The decline began to be reversed only with the arrival of industry in the late 19th century. In recent years, the culture, artifacts and traditions of Al-Andalus have enjoyed a growing revival of scholarly and popular interest.

The first and main stop was the the Mezquita-Catedral. I hired a guide for a personal tour that cost me 5 Euros.  It was worth the price.  The tour lasted about an hour.  Founded in 785, Cordoba’s gigantic mosque is a wonderful architectural hybrid.  I’ve never seen nor probably ever will see anything like it again.  When I entered the catedral I was astonished by the horseshoe arches making this unlike any church I’ve ever seen.. The main entrance is the Puerta del Perdón which is a 14th-century Mudéjar gateway.  Also inside the gateway is the Patio de los Naranjos or The Courtyard of the Orange Trees.

Once inside, the guide told me to look straight ahead to the mihrab which is the prayer niche in the mosque’s qibla which is the wall indicating the direction of Mecca. The first 12 transverse aisles inside the entrance comprise the original 8th-century mosque.  It is simply breathtaking.

In the center of the building is the Christian cathedral. Just past the cathedral’s western end, the approach to the mihrab begins, marked by heavier, more elaborate arches. Immediately in front of the mihrab is the maksura which is the royal prayer enclosure (today enclosed by railings) with its intricately interwoven arches and lavishly decorated domes created by Caliph Al-Hakam II in the 960s. The decoration of the mihrab portal incorporates over 3,500 pounds of gold mosaic cubes, a gift from the Christian emperor of Byzantium, Nicephoras II Phocas. The mosaics give this part of the Mezquita the aura of a Byzantium church.  It is just amazing.

Because Muslims could not incorporate the human body in decorative features they maximized the use of plant and geometric motifs.  Marble panels, sections of stucco and mosaics combine to make this place a masterpiece of Islamic art.  In fact eighty percent of the building is a mosque while only twenty percent is taken up by the catedral   However  make no mistake, the who building belongs to the church. Recent excavations have found that on the site where the catedral sits was a Christian church before the mosque was built.  Pretty amazing.

The Mezquita has a structure totally different to that found in Christian Churches and as such could be extended without affecting the building’s architectural style.  Its simple structure, which I love, enabled further aisles to be built while retaining the overall symmetry.

Afterward a little lunch then a walk around the narrow streets of the La Juderia.  It was a pleasant walk with lots of shops and restaurants.

Last before I had to catch the bus back to the train station I walked a few blocks to the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos or the Castle of the Christian Monarchs.  The castle was built by Alfonso XI in the 14th century on the remains of Roman and Arab predecessors.  The castle began as a palace. It hosted both Fernando and Isabel, who made their first acquaintance with Columbus here in 1486.  It has terraced gardens which are full of fish ponds, fountains, orange trees, and flowers.  It was a pleasure to stroll and the views from the tower are beautiful.  There is a hall that displays some beautiful Roman mosaics, dug up from the Plaza de la Corredera in the 1950s.

After my visit to the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos I walked over the Puente Romano bridge that goes over the Guadalquivir River to catch the bus back to the train station for my 45 minute train ride back to Seville.  On the way the bus passed a pharmacy where the green sign flashing with the time and temperature said the outside temperature was a very hot 47 C which translates to 114 degrees.  Know I know why I was so hot.

As soon as I got back to Seville I had dinner and came back to the hotel, had washed my under ware and socks and went right to bed.

Today I took a long walk around Seville with no particular agenda other than to visit the site of Barber Of Seville that famous Italian opera by Gioachino Rossini.  The opera takes place in the Barrio de Santa Cruz.  Well I did not find the barber.  However, what I did find was a very quiet place right in the heart of the Seville.  A nice way to end my stay in Seville.

Now its time to upload this post and begin packing for my trip to Granda.  Tomorrow I’ll start putting together pictures from Cordoba and some miscellaneous pictures from Seville while I’m on the train.  That adds up to two albums.  There will also be at least one surprise video.  I hope to have all of that posted by Sunday.

I’m using the Lonely Planet Guide To Spain and the Michelin Guide To Andalucia for my facts.

1.Louis.skypala@verizon.net © Louis M. Skypala 2014