October 2, 2014.
We arrived in Cordoba yesterday after driving from Seville. We retrieved our car from the super expensive car park attached to our hotel, got Marlene rolling and headed out of town — that part is quite easy, roads to main cities are well signposted and we can figure it out well with just our map most of the time. I have grown to love Marlene’s exhortations though (Doug not so much) so we use her for reassurance.
We stopped at Carmona after about 40 minutes to walk around the pleasant small town, and climb up into their Alcazar. Every city has one of these castle/fortress constructions, parts of which date to Roman times with successive waves of conquerors making their own alterations through the centuries. It is really interesting to see how the various lines of defence against ravaging hordes were constructed. We clambered around on top of this one, the rolling farm land with olive groves and huge orange orchards interspersed with fields of cotton and newly ploughed land waiting to be planted presenting a very restful vista from that vantage point. We then walked out of town a short way to a Roman necropolis with adjacent amphitheatre. Lunch in the main square was a fraction of Seville prices. That place hit our wallets hard and my waistline is suffering badly. Doug may have gained a pound or two on his trim, hyperthyroid frame.
Back in the car we took a smaller highway towards Cordoba passing a most imposing medieval style castle high on a hill about midway. Didn’t go up but it was an impressive sight.
Entering Cordoba I was extremely apprehensive as our hotel again was in the Juderia, or former Jewish ghetto as had been the one in Seville. This time though Marlene held on to her composure, and never lost her satellites until we were right at the door of the tiny hotel in a narrow lane. Never in a million years would we have found it without her, as even the detailed instructions sent by the hotel were useless as these tiny lanes have the calle or street name painted on the walls of the buildings, but not consistently at every corner, and since they twist and turn so much and change names with every twist….well you can imagine.
This hotel includes parking in their tiny adjacent garage (despite being our cheapest hotel of the trip!) and the young man had to come out and coach Doug on how to get the car turned around in the lane and eased into the garage, I was outside watching the sides of the car as Alejandro beckoned him into the garage, Doug was horrified because he had to go uphill into it and couldn’t see what he was coming to at all until he was on the downward side! I couldn’t figure out why he was being so slow.
We love this old city area, just so charming and we are steps from the Mezquita which is the hybrid mosque/cathedral everyone comes here to see. Our room has lovely windows that open onto an interior patio, and with them open we can hear the cathedral bells bonging the hours and quarter hours, and once a day, the muezzin in the mosque calls the prayers. Quite an atmosphere.
We went to the Mezquita at door opening which is 10 am (everything starts so late here as it is dark and cool until 9) but it was a special religious day and all the town dignitaries including legions of military all in very correct uniforms with odd little shiny hats and white gloves were the only ones allowed in for the morning. We went to the Alcazar instead and clambered all over its towers and battlements which we found enchanting, some lovely mosaics like the ones we saw in Madaba which were discovered when they were excavating for a building elsewhere in town and brought there, huge and very well preserved, also a sparkling alabaster Roman sarcophagus which was found in someone’s garden. The gardens are gorgeous, with water fountains and many pools, very well kept up in contrast to the larger Alcatraz we visited in Seville which had distinctly scruffy gardens. We were impressed with the topiary and plan to make a topiary figure our next garden project. I even managed to ask a passing gardener about an extremely vivid and unknown to me bed of flowers — he told me in Spanish and in Latin, I figured when I caught the word “gallo” that it must mean cock’s comb as it resembled that, and sure enough when you google that, up comes a picture of them. Quite weird, rather beautiful in red, but quite grotesque in yellow when they resemble brains. The orange groves were weighted down with ripe oranges, and also the pomegranate trees.
Later we walked to the site of the old synagogue, near a statue of Maiomedes (spelling) a brilliant scholar of the 15th century, one of those vastly erudite figures whose published works covered everything from philosophy to religion to medicine. He along with most of the Jews in the area were subject to the ravages of the Inquisition and set off in quest of safety through North Africa. There is a fascinating and very well done small museum of Sephardic history (Sephardic Jews are those of Spanish origin), truly the world has learned nothing from historical lessons like the Spanish Inquisition. They have small, very serious concerts there and so we are going to see more flamenco tomorrow night. Since the one we went to in Seville represented the “root” of the tree that is Flamenco, we are interested to see this one too, also serious in intention. There are other versions put on in restaurants and so on, but you know us, we always hope we will experience the real thing….
We are very comfortable here in this little hotel, and have 2 more days. Try again for the Mezquita tomorrow and then there is a lovely palace with 12 patio gardens that has been much recommended. And since we so enjoyed the Museum of Beaux Artes in Seville with all its wonderful old masters, which were ALL concerned with Biblical themes due to the fact that they were commissioned for a convent, we have decided to go to the one here too. I loved the rooms of 19th and 20th c painters in Seville and hope this one may be more secular in theme. So lots to do.
We do far too much eating and drinking, but it is all so tempting. The only weak link is breakfast as it is all white bread and croissants, all the time, which to us is so unhealthy, but what can you do? When in Rome….all the rest of the food is unbelievably well prepared, just not cheap.