The Jewel of Córdoba

Mezquita Entrance

 

 

 

 

 

In the great city of Córdoba, Spain, there are many sites to enjoy. The Mezquita (Cathedral-Mosque) is named “The Jewel of Córdoba” and for good reason. Construction started in the 8th century over the Visigothic* Basilica and since then, there have been many renovations and expansions. In 1238,  after the Reconquista (Spain regained control), the Mezquita became a Christian Cathedral that merged with the old Islamic style columns and arches. Breathtaking to say the least, the columns seem to go on forever. The Islamic minarets have been changed to bell towers reflecting the Christian culture. The layering of Islamic and Christian architecture is a constant throughout the Andalusian region.

Islamic Arches

 

The last Islamic stronghold, Granada, home of the magnificent Alhambra, was finally reclaimed by the Spanish in 1492 and the Muslims were ousted. Their 700 year reign over Andalusia has left many remaining architectural wonders to be enjoyed by Spain’s growing tourist market. Incidentally, Spain just edged out the United States as the number two travel destination in the world. France remains the first.  If you plan to visit the Mezquita, it is open Mon-Sat 10:00-18:00/adults 10€. Budget tip — arrive Mon-Sat between 8:30-9:30 and you can enter for FREE! Not only do you save money, the place is less crowded!

The Alhambra

The Mezquita is located in the walled Jewish quarter of the historic district with its narrow cobblestoned streets laced with taverns, restaurants and hotels. If you plan to enjoy some breathtaking views over the Jewish quarter, you can go up to the old Laminar at the top of the bell tower (passes available every 30 minutes/ 2€). On your way to find the entrance of the Mezquita, much of the quarter is home to many residential areas with antient open foyers strewn with lush plants standing sentry to the wrought iron gateways. With an abundance of large potted plants and flowers, the residents open their foyers to the public for the “Festival of Patios” in May of every year. We’ve learned through several trips to the region to find the Jewish quarter for that authentic feel of  old world Spain.

Whether you find yourself in Seville, Córdoba or Granada, the Jewish quarter offers taverns, restaurants, performers, and architecture of an age gone by. Also the BnB’s are both plentiful and very affordable in the area. We found a lovely place at a very good price. It was only a 15 minute stroll from the flat to the majority of historic sites. We highly recommend this place – brand new, super clean, and a perfect hostess.

Patio

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/21024064.

 

Jewish Quarter

Although there are many places to get tapas and dinner, we found one to our liking close to our BnB which stays open during siesta. Morelis (at the corner of Antonio Maura and Marruecos) is a neighborhood bar with attached dining room. It draws its daily local crowd and offers a free tapa with a small caña of cerveza – 1. 20€. On our second visit to Moriles, we split a platter of fish bites, pork filets, salad and french fries for under 5€ and pretty much spoiled our dinner with the vast quantities of yummy eats. There are outside tables under a tent with flamed heaters for those cool evenings.

Moriles

As we continue to visit cities in the Andalusian region, Córdoba will be hard to beat and we only spent a couple days and explored one small neighborhood by foot. There is more work to do here and we expect to return soon. Seville is lovely but is truly a large city. Malaga, too, is a bustling metropolis with both gorgeous sites and big city ills. Granada is very high on our list of places to stay. Although the Alhambra draws many tourists, there is a Middle Eastern market strewn with tea rooms and hookah bars that we found enchanting.  We prefer the off season to avoid the droves of people. We will continue to return to the Andalusian region with it’s mild winters, warm people and affordable prices. As Arnold aptly said “I’ll be back!”

 

 

 

*The Visigoths were a nomadic tribe of the Eastern most region of the Germanic people. In the early 5th century, the Huns began to push them west. Alaric, a Visigoth warrior, had fought for the Roman Empire on its northern frontier. He was passed over for promotion in the Roman Legion and turned from friend to foe using what he learned about warfare to launch his own war of aggression. In 408, Alaric decides to strangle Rome by cutting off the supply lines due to the impenetrable walls of the city. In 410, Alaric finally attacks and sacks Rome. After sacking Rome, the Visigoths began to settle in Gaul, then eventually in Spain and Portugal maintaining a presence from the 5th to the 8th century. At this time, the Arabs moved up from Africa and held the area of southeastern Europe from the early 8th century through most of the 15th century until the Reconquista.

One Bus Two Trains Due

After two hours at the coffee shop in Bergamo, a rough draft of the “One Bus” sojourn is complete. We pack up and head to the train station. We find, if we hurry, we can hop on the train that leaves in ten minutes. Cheryl kicks into critical mode and we start to decipher the train schedule. I’ve got “Google Translator” pulled up on my phone and I support with translation. We finally approach the ticket window and eureka, the clerk speaks English validating our computations. We make the 2:15 and exhale.

I just realized I hadn’t mentioned the purpose of this multi-legged trip is to get to Montenegro and Croatia across the Adriatic for some sightseeing. These have been on Cheryl’s wish list and the opportunity to “make it happen” has presented itself. The next stop is in Treviglio where we have to change trains. The ticket we bought covers both legs (thank God) and we show the ticket to a uniformed agent who points out we must validate the ticket via a machine
mounted on the wall. Still it’s a little foggy which train to get on, but we finally see it come up on the departure screen. Second train boarded, we head to Gallarate where we must find our B&B that Cheryl rented online.

The host of the B&B had mentioned a restaurant, “Il Barbaresco“, when Cheryl booked the room, that serves free hors d’oeuvres with the purchase of a drink, so we head there with backpacks in tow. The birra list is massive and difficult to decipher, so I order a German Hefeweizen for 5€ and am relatively happy. Cheryl orders wine for 4€ and heads up to get some food. “Appetizers?” she asks, pointing at the collection of morsels. “Yes,” replies the waiter hearing English. She digs in and I follow after she relieves me from watching our stuff. Olives, mushrooms, pasta, assorted nuts are a few of the apps that fill my plate but only for a moment.

Somewhat nourished, we pack up and head on via GPS to locate our room. The  directions are probably good, but there are so many roundabouts and so few street signs that we get tripped up. We stop in a gas station to get clarification. One of two attendants speaks English. Cheryl has her handy phrase book out but doesn’t need it. “Pink church?” we ask. “Yes, dis way,” as he points to the left, “den little more and dis way,” he points to the right. “Grazie,” Cheryl smiles. “Prego,” he proudly exclaims having spoken his little used English. About a half mile later, we find our room and hit the buzzer. The gate opens and we venture in. Another door magically opens and we head up the stairs to meet Joanna, a Polish transplant, who married an Italian, Alessandro, while he was there as a student. Joanna is interested in our travels and we engage in conversation while petting her lovable Golden Retriever, Denya, who immediately rolls on her back and kicks her hind leg up. “How bout a scratch?” Cheryl and I both speak dog and I realize it’s universal sign language. After a good half hour of chit-chat, we point out we are hungry and head down to a pizza joint we passed earlier. As we look through the menu, again it’s difficult to decipher. We change our minds several times and then just order one for fear of holding up the flow. Pizza in box, we bring it back and Joanna produces a bottle of wine.  Cheryl unveils our prize which has no cheese. Just crust and sauce. We all laugh realizing we ordered the wrong one.“Cheers,” as the glasses tink and we drink to travel.

We have an early flight to Podgorica, Montenegro in the morning and Alessandro has agreed to give us a lift to the airport. We decide to head off to bed, so we are fresh for another demanding day.