11th April 2017
With the relaunch of my website just last week I’m not sure if I ever got around to detailing my most recent travel plans, which involved eight days in Spain, four of which were spent travelling around three cities in the southern region of Andalusia: Córdoba, Seville and Granada. After this whirlwind tour of the south I then headed back to spend the latter half of my holiday lazying around Madrid and meeting up with friends, but for now here’s the first city I visited – Córdoba!
After spending a quick night sleeping in Madrid after landing late in Madrid Airport, I was up early and on a train from Madrid Atocha to Córdoba. Before I could even begin to figure out the storyline of the dodgy Spanish dub of a BBC film that was being shown on the train, I had landed in the city.
I then proceeded to head straight for the main attraction in this historic city, La Mezquita, a mosque which began construction in the year 784 and has since been expanded, conquered by the Catholics and built upon, and which is now affiliated with the Catholic Church – but more on that momentarily.
On the way from the train station the thing which hit me the most was the sheer amount of orange trees lining the streets, and the resultant piles of oranges on the ground, and then the inquisitive pigeons which were picking amongst the fruit. To this end I managed to snap the following photo which captures the look of Córdoba quite succinctly…
Ambling amongst the pigeons and citrus, I soon found myself at the gate of an old wall, which led into a charming little area of windy streets adorned with foliage. I had a good snoop around there for a while until a drop of rain hit my face, whereupon I noticed that the sky had gone from looking mildly threatening to downright menacing, and so I resolved to speed up progress on my journey towards La Mezquita and the promise of shelter.
Don’t be fooled by the streak of blue sky in the image above, by this point it really was beginning to look like my day in Córdoba was to be a washout! Walking along the side of the wall towards the city’s centre was a beautiful journey, however, and so curating photos for this blog post has been a nightmare challenge in self control – I did wind up returning from Spain with over 3000 photos…
As expected the heavens soon opened and I dashed for the shelter of a nearby churro stand, where I saw out the worst of the downpour before deciding to make like a plucky Brit and wander unfazed through the rain. In my determination not to let the rain dampen my time in Córdoba I almost walked straight past La Mezquita! I soon joined the throngs of tourists hovering around the entrance, and squeezed my way into the courtyard of the grand Mosque-Cathedral as the rain began to pour once more.
Once inside I began to appreciate the beauty of the architecture, but with huge crowds of tour groups huddling around the entrances to escape the rain, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how I was to get inside. My plan at this point was to go in to escape the rain, but I soon realised I had to buy a ticket from one of the kiosks across the other side of the courtyard – at which point the quickest and most amazing change in weather I’ve ever seen occurred! One minute the sky was dark grey and we were being lashed with rain, the next there wasn’t a cloud to be seen and the strong Spanish sun came beating down on the pretty architecture of the city.
With this sudden break in the weather, I decided to keep hold of my ticket until a little later and headed out into the streets of the old city to do a bit more exploring. I began to take a few photos of the streets of the city before I made my way to the old Roman bridge, which offered some pretty cool views over the city and the river, including the waterwheel of this abandoned mill…
With the lovely weather showing no sign of giving up, I soon decided to head into the Mosque-Cathedral, whereupon I was in awe. Throughout the gorgeous interior can be seen very clearly the influence of the two different key influences on the building, Islamic and Catholic design. For those unaware, much of Spain was under Islamic rule roughly between the years 711 – 1492, during which La Mezquita (literally meaning “the mosque”) was built, and after which the Catholics repurposed the building as a cathedral by adding plenty of their own architectural features.
The most striking feature within must be the double-arch design, which I was told allowed for a higher roof than would have otherwise been possible at that time. With the building being expanded and modified by various Islamic and Catholic leaders, the style and condition of these arches varies as you traverse the vast interior – for example above you can see that the arches on the left are in much better condition than those on the right.
Above is an example of a much more intricate design for the arches, with the Catholic cross sitting within the clearly Islamic arch demonstrating a contrast that my designer eye just couldn’t ignore. As I headed to the back of La Mezquita, there were many original Islamic features which were breathtakingly beautiful, including archways gilded with gold and intricate geometric patterned roofs – as a lover of geometric design I found myself squinting at these for quite a while!
I then wound up finding my way into the storage area for the current day religious artefacts, as the Mosque-Cathedral is currently in active use as a Catholic church. This was very impressive, but not half as much as the Cathedral architecture which I stumbled upon afterwards.
I then stumbled into the central Catholic cathedral section which was built right over the original structure, and which has a look and feel very different to the surrounding arched spaces.
After wandering around the space for an age, taking many photos and soaking in the atmosphere and breathtaking architecture, I eventually headed back out into the sunny city to have a spot of lunch.
For lunch I had my usual menú del día and then began to explore the windy little streets of Córdoba some more. I ended up wandering down the famous little flowered street, found a very extra shrine to Mary on the back wall of the Mosque-Cathedral, and then wound up exploring its courtyard once more.
Soon, however, it was getting late (well, about 5pm) and I had a train to catch at 7, so I began to slowly amble back towards the train station, passing much of what I’d visited earlier – but with nicer light and weather I snapped a good few more photos en route.
I eventually landed back at the train station and had a coffee before catching my train onward to my next destination, Seville, where I settled down for the night – but the tales from Seville are reserved for my next blog post which I’ll hopefully get up in the next few days!
Needless to say after all my gushing that I found Córdoba to be a gorgeous and amazing city, full of things to do and see and plenty of friendly people and little restaurants to eat at. I was happy to have just spent a day there as my main focus was getting myself around La Mezquita, but I found that I actually managed to do quite a lot – the city is quite compact so there’s always something to look at as you wander from one sight to the next.
I’ll be sure to get Córdoba on my travel page with recommendations of what to do and eat just as soon as I’ve published all four blog posts covering my whistle-stop exploration of Spain’s southern cities!