Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Cordoba: Pillars and Arches and Allies of Flowers

Cordoba, with its mosque cathedral with a thousand pillars and arches, greeted me with orange trees. Making my first visit to the South of Spain, the bright, round fruit lined the streets and rolled off pave ways. Along with the famous mosque-cathedral, I also visited the Alcazar, and saw the flower patios famous to the area.

The train from Madrid to Cordoba took just about two hours, and train rides have always been quite comfortable for me. I find the Renfe trains punctual, and clean. You get a pair of ear phones and you can watch the movie played on the little screen shared by several people, the movie is in Spanish. I loved the view out the window, again, because it was of climate and terrain I am not familiar with, and you can see the landscape change as you move South. I had with me a yummy sandwich and I nibbled on it while enjoying the view.

Cordoba Cathedral Mosque

Adults: 8 Euros
10 to 14-year-children: 4 Euros
Below 10 years old: free
From Monday to Saturday, from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., it could be possible to visit the Cathedral free, but individually and in silence. In this period of time group visit isnnt permitted.

The first place I visit is the famous mosque-cathedral. I usually don’t get an audio guide while visiting places, just because it’s extra money and sometimes I get impatient with the explanations, eager to see the next part. But since my travel companion suggested we did, we got an audio guide and shared it. There were parts that were boring, but with the audio we also learned quite some interesting new information. To put the history very simply, it starts as a mosque, then the next heir adds more pillars to it, then bigger. Then the Christians take over and make it a Cathedral and add cathedral elements, the back, then fourth; people add things to the Cathedral every time they take over and the Cathedral-Mosque has an interesting mix of styles and is very, very big. The bell tower you see is also something you want to pay attention to, too; it’s the minaret of the mosque.  A minaret is the tower which calls people to prayer.
The minaret.

From the audio guide I learned that the next heir to the Moorish ruler who built the mosque extended the Mosque, but cheaply. Instead of using real bricks to make the arches, he had them painted. You can see several different kinds of pillars and different colors of marble and they mark different extensions of the architecture.

Fake painted bricks on arches.

Because this place has been a mosque then cathedral then back and fourth, every ruler added a little something. So as you browse all the Moorish styled, suddenly, BAM, cathedral element. The change happens very suddenly and I don't think the two mix at all, but the Cathedral elements are beautiful as well.
Cathedral elements...
The audio guide helped me learn more about the architecture, but some parts of it were pretty boring, especially the parts about the chapels. Basically it listed all the facts that you already see yourself, and names you do not know. After listening to the repeating pattern of the audio guide, I left the cathedral-mosque mocking what I had heard in my best audio guide voice--this is chapel of St. Catherine, in the center is Lady Catherine in a flowy white dress, to her two sides are roses and lilies. The windows of this chapel are big, creating a light-filled atmosphere. The sculpture is by Bocanicci of Milan, the paintings by Fettucinne of Rome....that wasn't very interesting, and I can tell the light filled environment is created by the big windows.

Mosque elements

I found the court yard outside quite interesting, orange trees everywhere, and the adorable orange tree waterways! I later realize there orange tree water ways are pretty common in the area, but there are these neat little ditches connect all the orange trees to one another. I am not entirely sure what function they have though.

Courtyard of the mosque-cathedral.

After the Cathedral-Mosque, we walked around in the twisting allies that sometimes look very similar to look at the pretty patios and the Calleja de las Flores. The residents take great pride in their beautiful patios and you see they have taken good care of it. Since it was March, it isn’t the season when flowers bloom the greatest. At Calleja de las flores, or Alley of the Flowers, I was slightly disappointed with how short it was. It’s listed on tourist sites, books, and you see tour groups there as well, but I don’t see anything that sets it apart from other beautiful flora and fauna of the Cordoba residents. It’s a narrow street, quite short, with some potted plants along the side. I believe I exclaimed, “that’s it?”
That's it, the famous Calleja de las Flores

Walking in the allies, we tried to look for Casa de Andalusi because I liked the look of it from the tour book.  I thought it would be nice to step in an old house to see what it’s like inside because I enjoy periodical architecture. It cost 2 Euros to go in, but I thought it was a little plain and being on a tight budget I wouldn’t spend 2 Euros for that if I knew what it was like inside. Basically it’s a small house with a slightly exotic atmosphere with a few things to see about paper making, and a creepy basement that was interesting to see.  I say slightly exotic because there are some decorations, but overall it felt like an old house that has been renovated to new, then decorated with old things. And the things on exhibit about paper making was not that rich or well explained.  If it were free I would say go in the Casa and take a look, but if you are on a tight budget, I would say save it for food.

Creepy well in the Casa.

Inside is the small exhibition of paper making items, and some items for sale.

Next is the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos, a palace built in the 13th Century and until the 15th century was the royal resident of Kings. The inside of the Alcazar does not have a lot of interior or fancy furniture you could look at, most of it is gone so there’s a lot of empty space, some exhibitions of some old items, some tapestries, and it’s also a party/event space now because as we left the Alcazar people dressed up fancy were lining up to get in. I would love to participate in an event there! I've always loved the idea of events held at historical or cultural sites. The reason the palace is not nice and fancy on the inside is because it was used as a garrison by Napoleon, and later it was a jail. The garden outside was quite pretty though.
The garden of the Alcazar.

View outside the Alcazar.

There are some ruins in the Alcazar.

There's also the famous Roman Bridge, or Puento Romano, which was bulit by the Romans in 1st century BC. I walked to the other end, and walked back and viewed the setting sun. The bridge was full of tourists, some street entertainers, and I don't think there's much on the other side.
Horse riding police on the Roman Bridge.

Before I took the train to Seville, I passed by these beautiful roman pillars, a reminder of the glory of the city in the Roman times. With the setting sun and pastel multi-color skies, it was beautiful. Now off to Seville I go.

See the cat?

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