A Day and a Night in Cordoba

July 25, 2018 - Córdoba, Spain

We were  up early enough to say goodbye to all the others - Emily and family left at 7 because they had to return their car, and catch a plane from Malaga. It wasn't so sad parting from the Canadians because we are going to catch up with them tomorrow night in Madrid. But still, it was quite melancholy to be doing the last tidying up, making sure cutlery and crockery went back to the right apartements, and taking the last photos of our lovely villa.

David handled the drive to Cordoba with his usual skill, but when we arrived in the narrow little street leading to our hotel, he decided to drop us and the luggage before negotiating more narrow little streets to return the car. We walked the block or so to the NH Collection Amistad Cordoba, only a little way from the Casas Juderias where Max and I stayed last time, and where Sue and Jackie stayed a week ago. Our rooms were not ready, but they stored our suitcases for us, and we set off to walk along the Guadalquivir River. We were fortunate to find a kiosk where tickets were being sold for the Equestrian Show tonight, so we bought some which entitled us to watch the horses training at lunch time, and also to see them being groomed before the show tonight. A little way along the river bank, we found a cafe selling pizzas and sat and waited for David. Unfortunately, at some stage during the week, the car had acquired some damage to the strip under the driver's door, as if it had been parked too close to the gutter. None of us remember it happening, but anyway, David had to pay the excess on the insurance policy which we know he can recover later from Covermore.

We set off to explore the Mezquita, but found it wasn't open until 2, so the others sat for a while in its lovely gardens, the Courtyard of Oranges, and there were indeed oranges on the trees. After a while I went to watch the horses training. A rider was putting one white horse through its paces, round and round, then diagonally across the arena with those lovely dancing steps so characteristic of Andalusian horse performances. A chestnut joined it, and I watched for a while before it was time to go and meet the others.

The show takes place in the Royal Stables, built in 1570 by King Phillip II who loved horses, and set out to breed the Andalusian or Pure Spanish horse from Arab stock. The building, which is adjacent to the Alcazar (you can see the Keep from the arena), is surrounded by a fortified wall, and includes a building with internal columns and a vaulted roof in which are a number of carriages, presumably once used for carriage races or performances with the horses. On the other side of the arena is a row of stalls behind an arched, tiled roof colonnade, where the horses are kept and prepared for the show.There is also a large indoor eqestrian ring where apparently the horses are trained, and an outdoor arena for performances, with a small grandstand at one end. Between the arena and the walkway leading to the stalls is another arched colonnade with vines growing on it, and orange trees in front, and there are gardens, orange trees and palms along the wall of the museum. There is a lovely tranquil atmosphere about the whole place, and this lunchtime there were only about half a dozen people watching the horses.

As I left the arena, I had a text from Max to say my cousin Noo died yesterday. Oh dear. She was quite frail when I saw her last, only about 8 weeks ago, but apparently her death was unexpected, and peaceful.

On my walk back to the Mezquita, I couldn't resist taking a photo of a menu in Spanish with each item translated into English. My favourite was 'tomatoes creamly soap' which I interpreted as 'creamy tomato soup'.

The queue was very long, but David and the tickets  were in the middle (Sarah and Lucie soon arrived from their shopping expedition) and it didn't take long to get inside. This is one of the buildings that tourists come from all over the world to see; Max and I came when we were here in 2015, but you could come every year and never fully take in all the detail.

The site was originally occupied by a Roman temple, then the Visigoth Christian Church of St Vincent. After the Moorish conquest it was shared by Christians and Muslims until Abd-al Rahman I bought out the Christians in 784 (but allowed them to build churches eslewhere) and began construction of the Great Mosque. It was considerably expanded under later rulers, and finally completed in 987. It consists of an enormous central hall, with aisles either side, the roof being held up by 856 columns. Many of these columns were Roman, either already on site or brought from other places in Spain. They support double arches, the lower of horseshoe shape, and the upper semi-circular. The famous alternating red and white stones of the arches, built of locally sourced stone, are apparently inspired by those in The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. A Muslim poet said they look like 'rows of palm trees in the oases of Syria'.

The central prayer niche, or mihrab, is on the wall facing Mecca, and is amazing, gilded and covered with mosaics, designs of plants and animals and quotes from the Koran.

A link was built at one stage to the Royal Palace, and in the 11th century a minaret was added in the courtyard.

There are 9 outer gates, and 11 inner doors, and an uncountable number of chapels lining the aisles. These all have the names of Christian saints, and some, including a Royal Chapel, were certainly added by the Christians, but I am not sure how many were there, or what they were used for, in Muslim times.

In 1236 Cordoba was retaken by the Christians, under the leadership of King Ferdinand III of Castile and Leon. The minaret was covered with a bell tower containing bells from the captured Cathedral of Santiago de Compestela. The Great Mosque became the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption. King Charles V gave permission in the 16th century for the building of a Renaissance central nave within the mosque, but when he visited it he said 'You have destroyed something unique to build something commonplace'. Thousands, probably millions, of later tourists have agreed with him.

I was dismayed to learn that the Catholic Church will not permit Muslims to worship in the 'Cathedral'. This, as well as being sad, seems to me quite ironic; it's the Moorish architecture that is the essence of the building, and the Christian influence is either irrelevant or 'commonplace'. No doubt those who worship in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption don't see it that way.

David and I stayed longer than Sarah and Lucie, but eventually we made our way back to the hotel, and then had to ask for our luggage to be retrieved from the store room. When it still hadn't arrived after twenty minutes or so I went down, found it in the hall and had to bring it back to the rooms myself. I was not impressed.

The idea was to have a rest before going out tonight, but I had spotted some earrings I simply had to have, so I went out and bought them, along with some more coasters - multi-blue Spanish-tile-pattern - and Spanish-tile-patterned socks.

We wandered out for dinner at 7.30 and found the Raefe Bodega-Taverna where we had a lovely dinner - fried eggplant, pork skewers, patatas with chilli tomato sauce. Then it was time to walk down to the Royal Stables. We wandered around to see the horses being groomed and having their manes plaited and decorated, then took our seats in the grandstand. There is a commentary in both English and Spanish, and the horses, with accompanying music, enter the arena through an archway in the vine-covered colonnade. There are a number of different routines, with one horse, or two, or sometimes 4, as well as a flamenco dancing. Tonight there was only one dancer, although sometimes there are more, but we really enjoyed watching her, especially when she performed a 'dance' with one of the horses.

The show, which starts at 9.30, lasts only about 70 minutes, with one interval. Afterwards, as we walked home, we remarked on how warm it still was.


2 Comments

Sue:
August 26, 2018
Nice to be reminded about Corboba and the mesquita did love the place, though it was hot, it did end up about 10'days later to be hottest place in Europe a title it could have probably done without.
Sarah:
August 26, 2018
Thanks again for the reminders of a really lovely day xxx
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