Day 22: Cordoba - Grampies Go Valencia to Paris: Spring 2024 - CycleBlaze

February 28, 2024

Day 22: Cordoba

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We reserved today for a walkaround the sights of Cordoba. Of course, our GPSmycity app lists 55 sights, and they all sound interesting. But we have limited strength and time, so obviously we are not going to hit them all. On the other hand there are things that interest us that GPSmycity does not really cover - like what do the streets look and feel like, can you spot any birds, and are there lineups for restaurants. So here are the sort of dozen things we looked at, sorted into some categories so my scattershot of photos does not make all of us dizzy.

Streets

Before we even stepped out into the street, we looked up in our guesthouse entryway and saw  our first bit of beauty for the day. It sure would not be the last!

Look up, before going out!
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The thing about our street that struck me, aside from just its  basic beauty, was its narrow, cobbled, car free calmness. We could walk here in total peace, just absorbing the ambiance, looking into our neighbours' entranceways, up at their weathervanes, and down side alleys, and we could take the sidewalk or the middle of the street ae chose.

Our street
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Angel and dog on the roof.
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Neighbour's door
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Neighbour's door mat.
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We headed off next into the warren of streets like ours, with the goal of reaching the mosque, on the way we passed many streets of great charm, and they generally look like this:

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We also passed a few churches or maybe church gates:

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Through the day, of course, we walked many streets. Lots are great, but unless you are really familiar, look much the same. And then, some street scenes have something special about them.  The captions below tell what was special that had us recording a street scene.

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This very narrow street is called the Alley of the Flowers. In season it will be lined with red flowers.
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Around the mosque, the streets filled with not only the general public, but also tour groups. I asked these guys what had brought them here. They are all employees of a large Spanish company, and since today is a holiday they are here on a presumably morale building outing.
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With the streets so narrow, and basically car free, and the whole old city accessible by foot for even us old timers, it hard to say what the use case is for this Hop On Hop Off, parked in a street near the mosque.
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Bar Santos is somehow very popular, causing these people to line up, and then eat their stuff in the street, opposite.
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Others will find a place in one of dozens of restaurants, with street seating. This is so terribly European, it's not even a topic. But of you come from Canada, you still notice it.
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The Mezquita Mosque-Cathedral

We arrived at the Mezquita Mosque-Cathedral, and despite the advice to buy tickets online in advance, we easily got tickets from a quite short line in front of a machine, and then went right in.

The building we were entering was started in 785 A.D. by the founder of the Umayyad Arab dynasty, someone who was fleeing the Abbasids, out of Syria. That is all I know about the Arab dynasties. In fact, it's more than I know, because I copied that bit from somewhere. But the key point is that this was a mosque, and one that was expanded several times by various rulers, up to the end of the 10th century. It eventually became the largest structure in the Islamic world. We could sure see this as we walked inside. The thing is about 6 acres in extent!

We spent a lot of time looking at and trying to capture with the camera, the forest of striped columns, which is the signature (postcard) feature of the place, but also the wild assortment of views that pop out at various angles, of arches. ribs, and other features.

But now here is a strange one - normally we visit cathedrals, for their (yes) arches, ribs, columns, and also iconic statues and paintings, crazy gold trim, and other artistic and architectural wonders.  But with the building we have here, after Cordoba fell to Ferdinand III of Castile in 1236, the mosque got converted to a cathedral. Or at least, Christian stuff got installed in side chapels and all over the place. To the Christians this was now a cathedral, but to us it looked like a desecration. We tried to ignore the Christian bits and to see the (perhaps greater) genius of the Arab designers.  (p.s. This is a reversal of the situation with the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, which was a cathedral converted to a mosque, then a museum, and recently back to a mosque, despite the feelings of the country's Christian minority.)

Outside the mosque/cathedral
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In the centre is a large courtyard of orange trees.
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It is possible to climb this bell tower. I think this used to be the mosque minaret.
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Inside the mosque is the forest of columns and striped arches, that goes on for (literally) acres. The columns are made variously of jasper, onyx, marble, granite, and granite-like porphyry.

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There is one section where the Christians painted all the arches and columns. You can tell who did it, because the Muslims would not put representations of people into paintings. In this case, we think the Christian work is gorgeous.

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Back to plain stripes...
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But the Muslims can also do elaborate arch decoration.
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Fancy ceiling.
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Some of the Christian iconography is pretty nice:

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There was a sort of museum area with bits of unlabelled architecture.

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Salvaged carved ceiling ribs.
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The Roman Bridge

A Roman bridge crosses the Guadalquivir River near the mosque. This was constructed in the 1st century B.C., and got rebuilt by the Umayyad dynasty, and by others too. Only two of the arches are original. Like the Charles Bridge in Prague, this one is very popular with walkers. At the far end is the Calahorra Tower, which houses a very intriguing Al-Andalus Museum, with models and diaramas of life here in the 9-13th century.

The bridge, viewed from atop the Calahorra Tower
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The Raphael statue, on the mosque side of the river.
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One view of the mosque, from the tower across the river.
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This water wheel is very large, and was used for irrigation.
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The three views below are from the roof of the Calahorra Tower, looking at Cordoba in various directions. In the last shot, see the red cycle path!

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The Calahorra Museum

Here is another view of the bridge, from inside the tower.
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The museum featured a lot of miniature models and diaramas. Here is their take on the mosque's arches.

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A painting depicting, I think, the mosque in operation.
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I really liked this Koran quote.
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One of the more powerful displays had four life-size figures that were illuminated in turn. When illuminated, writings of the person represented by the figure were read out in a very articulate way. The writings themselves were very erudite. 

Maimonides, the famous Jewish thinker, born here in 1138.
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This was a king (Alfonso X - The Wise) from about the Maimonides era (born 1221), talking about respecting the jews, muslims, and christians, and mantaining the arabic and latin languages. He mentioned being deposed for his policies.
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Two of the many miniature diaramas:

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Birds from the Bridge

Gray Heron - way down the river.
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Great Cormorant
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24152 Common Sandpiper
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Little Egret
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Alcazar Garden

In the 8th century the Alcazar palace was built. It was used, for example, by Ferdinand and Isabella, for stuff like the tribunal of the Spanish Inquisition. In 1486 they met with Christopher Columbus there to discuss possible expeditions. We seemed to miss the actual Alcazar and only found the gardens.

The gardens have lots of carefully pruned trees, plus pools full of carp.
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Columbus makes his pitch. (Note the pruned cedars in the background).
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Jewish Quarter, Pastries, and Souvenirs

After giving the Jews the boot in 1492, and then running the Inquisition (1478-1834) to root out any false Christian converts, Cordoba has resdicovered its Jewish heritage. You can see this in the well advertised Jewish quarter, Jewish museums, and Star of David souvenirs. We did not however particularly see any actual Jews, just as we only saw one apparent Moor.

Cordoba souvenir in Hebrew
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The statue of Maimonides in the Jewish quarter
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850th Maimonides anniversary plaque
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A plaque in a wall, mentioning a network about Sefardic Jews of Spain. Sefardic Jews are the Iberian ones, expelled in the 15th century. Recently the Spanish government allowed those who could prove their ancestry to apply for citizenship.
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Inside the Cordoba synagogue, disused as such, I think, since 1492.
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The women's gallery
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An ancient Hebrew inscription in the wall.
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More Jewish oriented souvenirs. We see the menorah (candleabra) the word for Life, the Star of David, and also words for God and Mohammed in Arabic.

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Let's end with some goodies. The shop where this photo ws taken had many more varieties of empanadas.

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They came from this great oven.
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This was a unique pastry, with a kind of caramelized sugar on top, moist cake surround and firm custard within.
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Today's ride: 12 km (7 miles)
Total: 919 km (571 miles)

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Andrea BrownWhat a beautiful and interesting city.
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1 month ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Andrea BrownIt really is. We feel like we still have much to see and explore on a future visit, and will hopefully get a chance to do so.
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1 month ago
Janice BranhamWhat a treat to follow you through Cordoba's narrow pretty streets and see it all again. Thanks for the tour.
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1 month ago