Absence on this blog means I have travelled. And that’s what I exactly did! The puente or sandwich day of 30 April, falling on a Monday, is already a holiday for back-to-school people like me – ahh the perks of being a student 😉 – and the Friday before this, there weren’t any class scheduled. Those four straight days plus the actual holiday of 1 May made a total of five days vacation! Woohoo!
From North-east Spain, we travelled to the South, in the region of Andalucía. First stop: Córdoba. We took the 1am bus leaving for Madrid and from Madrid we took the train for Córdoba. We were in our destination by 11am of 27 April. I was with Ritchel, one of my classmates from Oz.
One of the highlights of this trip is, of course, the famed Mezquita de Córdoba. Here I am outside its walls.
And here it is from the inside.
Four years ago I could only see this photo from my Spanish books in Instituto Cervantes. It was enchanting to have finally seen for real its horseshoe arches in red and white stripes! The stream of golden sunlight on its high walls give the interiors an ethereal glow emanating that feeling that you are in sacred grounds as much as an architectural wonder.
Mezquita is the Spanish term for mosque. During the Reconquista of Córdoba, the Christians expulsed the Muslims and converted their place of worship into a Cathedral, thus becoming known as Mezquita-Catedral (Mosque-Cathedral).
Altars served as breaks from the uniformity of the arches. Figures from the Catholic faith were hung in the walls.
Outside, the streets of Córdoba in itself is a pretty sight. Flowers are not only found in the tourist gardens we have visited but everywhere normally adorning the windows of houses.
There’s even a street aptly named Calle de las flores, a very narrow road with hanging pots of red and pink flowers.
My angle is actually bad in this photo. Had I positioned myself more towards the left and have not gotten preoccupied in including the street name, I would have been able to take a shot where the tower of the Mezquita is seen at the end of the street. Instead that view is covered by the flower pots on the right. Well, this is what happens when you’ve walked street after street and not getting to where you wanted to go. When we happened to pass by Calle de las flores, we were actually in search of the Sinagoga (Synagogue).
We found it after going round the area five times. Nothing really majestic about it, it’s really small. At least I have satisfied my curiosity of what it looks like.
Another pleasant surprise in our search for the Sinagoga was the Casa Patio.
I don’t know but I think the flowers in Córdoba seem to be brighter, the color more intense. Couldn’t help taking lots of photos of me with them on the background. 🙂
During medieval times, the Spanish kings love to build fortresses. Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos is one of them and also served as the residence of Queen Isabel I of Castille and King Ferdinand II of Aragón – the Catholic Kings, when they are in Córdoba.
We climbed one of the torres. The wind was blowing stronger than usual so my hair was always in my face (which I don’t really mind except when I’m having my picture taken). Going down, we went to walk about the grounds and discovered its huge (and when I say huge it means you can fit 60 houses inside it) garden.
I felt I was inside Secret Garden! I was really thrilled to see the ponds together with the beautiful landscape of the trees and flowers. It was also a delight seeing lemon and orange trees. There were so many of them.
What did I tell you about the flowers in Córdoba? They’re very much part of the culture.
We came to the part of the day when I like to do strolling best. Don’t you love night time strolls? Strolling started at Puerta del Puente Rómano.
Along with souvenir shops, another shop vying for the attention of tourists are the various heladerías or ice cream parlors. We have finally succumbed to its calling and Ritchel and I each bought us a cone. There are 2 scoops per cone for €2. I couldn’t remember anymore which flavors I chose.
On the way back to our hostel, I saw the Alcázar all lit up. That, my friends, demand another photo-taking.
Back in the hostel, a seven-minute walk from the city center where we did all these sightseeing, is where I started feeling an ache in my legs but I was really happy that we had a full day of fun. Next day, we had to be at the bus stop at 9:30am leaving for the guided tour of Medina Azahara.
Aboard the bus the following day, we had an introduction of what Medina Azahara is. I was impressed. Sort of warming us up of what is to come.
The bus took us to what looks like a deserted place with plain white walls. We went in along with the other tourists into a pathway slightly going down and veering to the right. We reached a dead end along the walls and went back the way we came in. Then a lady guard told us that that place is not the Medina Azahara but the museum. She said the museum will open in a few minutes and told us where the entrance is.
Once inside the museum (thank God cos it was drizzling outside with blowing cool wind) we were ushered in an auditorium where we will be watching a documentary about Medina Azahara. We were told by the museum guide that the documentary has won some awards. I was excited to see the documentary and it didn’t disappoint. It described how the Medina came to be, how it was governed by Abd al-Rahman III, the emir (prince) who built the the city outside Córdoba. He fled Damascus and decided to build his own empire to show his power to his enemies. He chose the location by the mountains for various reasons of which one is to provide good irrigation all year round.
It is actually a complex consisting of aristocratic residences, gardens, the palace of Abd al-Rahman III, a mosque, arab baths and palace guard quarters. Real high-end aristocratic living.
Here are some photos of the ruins of Medina Azahara.
In the docu, it was mentioned that the oven used in those days could still be found today but we weren’t able to see where it was. Instead we came across a bath tub.
And another batch of tourists arrives.
I thoroughly enjoyed Medina Azahara. More than the ruins, it was an experience! From the tourist bus showing a short intro to the educational museum tour to the actual site.
I am so enamored of Islamic architecture of this period when it was at its peak. And indeed, the learned men at that time were the Muslims with great contributions in the fields of mathematics (geometry in particular as can be seen in their textiles), engineering, scientific knowledge, cultural arts and architecture.
So you see one learns so much from travelling. This particular trip was a good learning experience about the architecture, arts, religion, and civilisation of 10th Century Córdoba.