Three cultures in Cordoba

Cordoba Travel Blog

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The mezquita courtyard.


Today was a day trip to Cordoba, half-way between Sevilla and Madrid (yes, we´re going backwards!).  We jumped on the train again this morning and arrived in Cordoba mid-morning.

I´m a history junkie on trips like this.  One of the things that really interests me about Spain is their history under Moorish control -- I think the 700s to the 1400s.  It was a rare time of relatively peaceful co-existence in Europe between Jews, Muslims, and Christians. Cordoba was a major center of learning and cultural development during this time.

We started in the Mezquita Cathedral. It was first a Visigoth (300s - 700s?) church.

Photos don´t do justice to how beautiful this dome is in person.
The Muslim ruler bought it and replaced it with a magnificent mosque. You enter through the "Courtyard of Oranges" -- a tranquil courtyard full of orange trees with an interesting irrigation system fed off a central pool.  Then you enter the mosque.

It´s visually alluring.  You´ve probably seen pictures of it in pictures of Spain without realizing it. Hundres of lined up columns with red and white arches under a relatively low ceiling. The light is too dim for decent photographs, unfortunately. Because it was visually arresting.

This is the main prayer space of a mosque. It could hold up to 7000 men for Friday prayers.  Beautiful wordwork in the ceilings.  Calligraphy around the walls. Amazing gild work over some important areas.

And plonk in the middle of it is a cathedral.

Wandering the Jewish Quarter trying to find the synogogue.
  When the Christians re-took Cordoba from the Moors (1400s), the built a cathedral in the middle of the mosque to re-claim it as Christian. (Beats the heck out of tearing it down like they did in many other places). Even they agreed, when they were done, that they made a mistake. The church part looks silly and out of place in the middle of the mosque.

They also closed many of the doors to the outside to build side chapels, which is why it´s so dark in there. Another mistake from my point of view.

After the mosque, we had lunch. I insisted on pizza because it´s important to me to be able to speak authoritatively on pizza in every country I visit.  The big loser so far? New Zealand.  They do weird things to pizza.  Ireland did fine.  Japan did fine.  Spain did fine (goooooood cheese!)  Can not recommend NZ pizza however.

The women´s section of the old synogogue.

Can´t wait to get to Italy!  I suspect they´ll do fine too.  :)

Afterwards, on to the Jewish Quarter to see a 14th century synogogue, one of the few still standing in all of Spain. It was a small synogogue but beautifully done. They used the artistry of Moorish calligraphy to decorate the walls with verses from Psalms.  We took pictures of every wall, even though the worship space is only maybe 20 feet x 15 feet. 

Nearby, we stumbled on a new museum that I highly recommend if you come to Cordoba -- Casa de Sefarad (Casa de la Memoria). ( The Shephardic Jews are the Jews from Spain. This is the former home of a Shephardic Jewish family where they detail the daily life of the Shephardim in Spain.

Jeff looking pensive (or tying his shoe) in the courtyard of the Sefardim museum.
  The displays are high quality and well-translated into English.

We were blessed that one of the volunteers was giving a small group of women a private tour that we were able to join. We learned so much about the life of the Shepardim, their exile, the Inquisition, the lives of (and discrimination against) the Jews who chose to convert, etc.

The museum was created and supported by one woman. It is her mission and dream. I have to give her credit for a truly high-class job. I can recommend it to anyone.

Debbie and Kathy Albert: we thought of you throughout. You´d have loved it.

From there, we wandered up the street to the Casa Andalusi, the former home of a Muslim family (also exiled in the 1400s). It was not as well done but it was lovely to wander through a home and see how space was used (beautiful courtyard!).

The courtyard of the Moorish museum.
They also had  neat display on paper making from this time period.

All this was just inside the old city walls of Cordoba. You actually wander into the walls since homes were built up against them and alleyways were part of them.

We left the Jewish quarter and laid around in a park that was just outside the walls. We laid under the trees, listening to the nearby fountain, watching a family out for the day (teenage boys fake-fighting with each other). High quality international loitering!

We decided we´d done all we needed to do in Cordoba and caught an earlier train home.

We had another adventure in transportation -- we took the city bus from the train station to the hotel. Now, these are the long buses with the accordian middle and the driver was not shy about the gas pedal! Made walking to the seats in the back quite an adventures.

International loitering, barefoot in a park.

We actually managed to get off at the right stop (always a challenge when the street signs are spotty, at best) and walked home through some tranquil gardens.

We went to dinner at a nearby cafe and I drank a lot of sangria.  Jeff has been ordering it everywhere, noting the differences in how it´s made. He really wants to make some at home (so you Wednesday night BBQ people, come ready!). It´s so easy to drink. At its simplest, it´s red wine and fruit juice. You can suck several down before you know what you´ve done!

Which I did.  Of course, I´m the ultimate lightweight, so two in rapid succession is enough for me.  But I kept drinking anyways, since we were only about 100 yards from our hotel.  :)  Jeff walked me home and went back to have another drink (met a lovely couple from Chicago!).

Another night of good sleep.  :)  Really, it´s all about the sleeping (and the eating and the drinking and the loitering).



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The mezquita courtyard.
The mezquita courtyard.
Photos don´t do justice to how be…
Photos don´t do justice to how b…
Wandering the Jewish Quarter tryin…
Wandering the Jewish Quarter tryi…
The women´s section of the old sy…
The women´s section of the old s…
Jeff looking pensive (or tying his…
Jeff looking pensive (or tying hi…
The courtyard of the Moorish museu…
The courtyard of the Moorish muse…
International loitering, barefoot …
International loitering, barefoot…
photo by: Pearl510