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Clare
Clare

Day 12: Córdoba

Today we had a full day to explore Córdoba. Before we got stuck into seeing the sights, however, we needed to plan tomorrow's excursion to Granada, which necessitated a visit to the train and bus stations. I had been investigating train timetables from Córdoba to Granada online the previous evening and had found details on the Bahn website of an early morning train which would get us there for 11am. Unfortunately, the Renfe website had no knowledge of this train and the ticket machine at the train station didn't either, so ultimately we had to resign ourselves to Plan B of travelling by bus instead. We seem to be destined to catch a lot of buses on this holiday! Bus tickets purchased, we returned to the apartment to book tickets for visiting the Alhambra. The Alhambra is one of the main sights in Granada but in order to protect the monument the number of tourists is strictly limited to around 6,000 per day. This means that you have to book tickets in advance and at busy times of the year they can sell out very fast. We were lucky that there were still some tickets left for an afternoon slot tomorrow. The slightly shaky wi-fi in the apartment held out long enough for us to purchase some, and then we headed out into the town centre in search of a branch of the Caixa bank, whose ATM's are specially set up to print prebooked Alhambra tickets upon insertion of a credit card.

It was all a bit complicated but we got it sorted in the end and were able to relax and explore Córdoba. Our first stop was the main square where we had sat and eaten lunch/dinner in the first establishment we found yesterday evening after our long and foodless bus journey! It had some interesting buildings and pretty fountains.

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From there we walked back in the direction of the train station towards a leafy park we had caught glimpses of and wanted to investigate further. It turned out to be a beautiful combination of statues, fountains and palm trees.

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There was even a duck house in the middle of a pond :)

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Walking through the park took us along the western edge of the town, towards the city walls in the south.

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There was an enormous crenellated gate into the old town.

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You can't walk along the walls themselves but we walked along the outside of them. It was nice and shady with the walls on one side and pools of water on the other.

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Towards the end of the walls we came across a statue of Ibn Rushd, an Islamic philosopher born in Córdoba in the twelfth century. Córdoba was captured by a Muslim army in 711 and eventually became the capital of the medieval Islamic state of Al-Andalus. It remained an Islamic city until it was recaptured by King Ferdinand III of Castile in 1236.

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Looming on the horizon we saw the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos, a medieval fortress which was one of the primary residences of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon.

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The fortress was built close to the river Guadalquivir, which is spanned by a Roman bridge, originally constructed in the first century BC and repaired extensively when Córdoba was under Islamic rule.

 

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To the side of the bridge you can still see one of the original Arab waterwheels, designed to raise water to the caliph's palace.

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At the near end of the bridge is the Puerta del Puente, a Renaissance gate into the city...

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...while from the far end we had a fantastic view back towards the city and in particular of the Mezquita.

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We stopped for lunch in a cafe which served something very similar to a Zagreb schnitzel(!) and then wandered through the colourful streets of the old town.

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We worked our way through the old town to the most famous building in Córdoba, the Mezquita. This is a medieval Islamic mosque that has been converted into a Catholic cathedral. At first glance from the outside it looks pretty much like a normal cathedral, with a large bell tower. This was built in the sixteenth century to help Christianise the cathedral by replacing an existing minaret.

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Entering a gate in the wall you find yourself in a beautiful courtyard called the Patio de los Naranjos. This was originally an ablutions court, with the fountains used for ritual purification before prayers.

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The courtyard is really pretty, filled with a mixture of orange trees and palm trees.

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It's free to walk around the courtyard but to enter the Mezquita itself you have to pay €8. Tim thought this was a bit expensive but bought me a ticket so that I could go in on my own. I was curious to see what a mosque-cathedral would be like inside.

First impressions were that it was extremely dark inside! My eyes adjusted to the twilight but my camera struggled a little.

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It was extremely striking, with a forest of stripy pillars...

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There are a total of 856 columns inside the building, many of which were made from pieces of a Roman temple which had occupied the site previously. This would have been the main prayer hall when it was still a mosque.

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Around the sides of the building are a series of ornate chapels, dedicated to different saints. One side retains its original Islamic decorations though.

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I can't imagine what it's like to have Mass in these surroundings, but seeing the cathedral was a really unique experience and definitely worth €8.

We had a very pleasant walk home through more parts of the old town and ended up purely by coincidence at the square right in front of out door. That seemed like a sensible place to stop :)

 




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