La Puerta de Acala

La Puerta de Acala

Monday, February 20, 2012

Córdoba in a day!

So this weekend was really awesome! Me and two other girls in my program spent the day in Córdoba with our personal guide and it was a fantastic.

For those who don’t know, Córdoba is in the southern region of Spain called Andalucía. This means that the weather is automatically better than in Madrid. After suffering 40-degree (or worse at times) weather for 3 weeks, it was around 60 for most of the day in Córdoba. That’s normally cold for me, but I’ll take what I can get haha.

The best way to get to Córdoba is to take the AVE, Spain’s high-speed train. The AVE goes to Barcelona, Valencia and several big cities in Andalucía. The people that know me well are very aware that it is impossible for me to sit still for more than 10 minutes. For that reason, I love traveling by train because there’s plenty of room for me to walk around and when I feel like sitting, it’s very comfortable. Another great thing is that train stations are always in the center of town, so you don’t normally have to take a bus or taxi to your next destination. And of course the best thing is that the AVE goes approximately 175mph, so what would normally be a 4 or 5-hour bus trip takes less than 2 hours.

We got to Córdoba around 12:30 and after getting some breakfast and walking around the old city for a bit, we headed to the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos, or in English the Castle of the Christian Kings. This palace is one of the many examples of diverse the history of Córdoba is. It was first used by the Visigoths (who invaded Spain after the fall of the Roman empire), then by the Caliphate of Córdoba (the ruler of al-Andalus) and then finally one of Ferdinand and Isabel’s primary residences. One of the really cool parts of the Palace were the ruins of the Moorish baths. The Moors were fascinated by water and were very successful in using it for many different things. They created a ventilation system for the baths and even had cold, warm and hot rooms. Something I found out later is that those same baths were used as torture chambers when Ferdinand and Isabel made the Alcazar the headquarters of the Inquisition. However, my absolute favorite part of the Alcazar was the gardens. There were pools and fountains and orange groves and much, much more. It was truly amazing. 

After the Alcazar, we got lunch at a typical Cordobes tapas bar. Croquetas and patatas bravas did the job for me :) Our next stop was the Sinagoga de Córdoba (Córdoba Synagogue). After the expulsion of the Jews (and Moors) in 1492, just about every synagogue in Spain was repurposed for some Christian us. This is one of 3 synagogues left in Spain. Crazy to think about. But just like everything else we'd seen, this was another really beautiful building. The designs on the walls are extremely detailed and was actually the decoration of choice for the time because it was easy and cheap. 

Finally I got to see what I had been waiting for all day. La Gran Mezquita de Córdoba (the Great Mosque of Córdoba). In my Spanish class last semester we learned all about the history of Spain from the Romans to the 19th century, and we focused a lot on the architecture of each civilization. I had seen pictures of the Mezquita before but nothing could've prepared me for what I saw when we walked into the great hall. I really was speechless. Take a look at some of these of the inside while I think about how I'm going to start describing it.

That first picture is one of the many facades on the outside of the walls. Just like the synagogue, the decorations are just amazing. As you can see, the great hall has hundreds and hundreds of columns and archways. Its often referred to as el bosque de columnas (the forest of columns) because it seems like it goes on forever. The first architect of the Mezquita decided that he wanted the hall to appear much bigger than it actually was, since the ceiling was fairly low. This is why the double-arcs are used. But because the population of Córdoba kept increasing, the Mezquita was expanded several times by the different caliphates in power. However, when the Moors were expelled (also in 1492), the catholics decided they didn't need a mosque anymore and decided to put a big old cathedral in the middle. Our guide told us that when Carlos V (Roman emperor/Spanish king) saw the cathedral for the first time, he was extremely mad because they had ruined something so unique and special to put in something that could be seen in any Spanish city. I couldn't agree more with Carlos. Its such a shame that such amazing building was ruined by those dumb Catholics but hey, at least they didn't destroy it completely.

I really can't say enough how beautiful it was. Not only the Mezquita but all of Córdoba. It has such an interesting history. I loved every minute spent there and I would gladly come back to see it all again, especially since we were only able to take a day trip. If you get a chance to go, DO IT! Córdoba is definitely my favorite city in Spain so far. After Madrid, of course :) 

School has been good by the way! It's been 2 weeks and I've had...I think 3 homework assignments. So it's fair to say that I will be transferring here next semester, haha. This week should be awesome though! On Wednesday our wonderful guide Encarna is going to show us around Madrid's most famous art museum, El Prado, and then take us to El Mercado de San Miguel to get some tapas. I'm super excited because the last (and only) time I was in Madrid, my mom, sister and I tried to go but it was a Monday and they were closed. We also tried to go to the Royal Palace and the Reina Sofia art museum but they were both closed too. So all we saw the whole weekend was the Santiago Bernabeu and Madrid's version of Central Park called El Retiro. Hopefully I'll have better luck this week :)

Until next time!

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