Arriving in Córdoba – May 22, 2017
The drive to Córdoba was not long and quite beautiful. It felt like you could be anywhere in the countryside of Europe, or even Mexico. There were lots of farms and, in particular, huge areas of solar panels and wind farms. Spain is on the forefront of utilizing solar as a renewable energy source. There was a light on a 1.5 kilometer pole that generates enough electricity to serve a huge area. The rays of light emanating from it can be easily seen from a distance. FYI, the grocery stores don’t provide plastic bags for your purchases, unless you purchase a reusable bag. That is pretty progressive.
After a couple of hours, we arrived in Córdoba, a beautiful town. The old part, dating back to the second century, was charming and had a very distinct residential area, as compared to the other old cities that are mainly filled with shops selling souvenirs. Córdoba has a population of 400,000 and they seem quite active.
We walked with Emilio, our local guide, through the Jewish Quarter. It seems that the Jewish influence throughout Spain was evident everywhere. As a World Heritage City, Córdoba is well maintained. As a matter of note, despite the financial woes that we have heard about over the past few years (along with Portugal, Italy and Greece), all the cities we have visited, as well as the roadways, are immaculate, well maintained and free of graffiti. And, the plentiful gardens, filled with roses and other beautiful flowering plants, provide a quiet place to relax.
Maimonides, the famous Jewish scholar, was born in Córdoba. He has a plaza named for him and is well regarded. There is one synagogue here, but it is not used, as there are few Jews left here. Our next stop was totally memorable. It was the Mezquita Cathedral. Unremarkable from the old stone walls outside, it is an architectural marvel inside. Started in 795 AD by the Arabs and continued in the 9th century, it has over 95 columns, each signed by the craftsman. And they are all different, with unique capitals on top, different heights, and made of different materials. We saw one that is made of alabaster and when a light is shined directly on it, it is translucent.
There is not a lot of light inside the building, as the Muslim Arabs wanted the light to come in from the huge west-facing doors, so it would be behind them when they would be facing Mecca facing east inside. The arches are amazing, especially when you remember when they were built and that they are self-supporting. The mosaic work was equally impressive. In the 12th century, the Christians converted it as a very elegant, ornate cathedral.
The mahogany wood used for the carvings came from South America and are pieces of art. The sculptured marble figures are incredible. Of course, the paintings depict religious figures and could be in the best museums of the world. Once the Christians came, the mosque darkness became light-filled by opening the ceilings to let in the light, from God! The pictures do not do it justice, believe me. The building covers four acres and with the garden courtyard, it is five and a half acres in size.
It was time for a bit of lunch and an opportunity to sit down. We had the typical and recommended soup of Córdoba, salmoreja, a creamy tomato soup with small chunks of ham and cheese. It was horrible! Where was the gazpacho I was expecting? So far, no gazpacho anywhere. It is far more prevalent in the north of Spain, I believe. The ratatouille with eggs was good, though. A little nap, and we were ready to return to the old city for more exploring.
The flamenco looking aprons were tempting, as were the leather handbags. After much consideration, no apron or bags. Neither were bargains and probably would become dust collectors once home. Dinner at the hotel started with the same soup as lunch, which was not a good sign. We left early from our 9:00 dinner and headed to the annual Córdoba Fair, a big deal locally. There were many booths selling clothes and souvenirs, as well as local food on the way in. Once inside, there were rides, so big that we couldn’t imagine why anyone would put themselves in such jeopardy. Some of the rides were truly scary.
Women and children were dressed in flamenco outfits and there were many huge tents set up for dinner and the ubiquitous flamenco show. The noise, lights and sensory overload were too much to handle, so we walked back to our hotel and collapsed. It was after 11:00 and the end of a long day.