After Barcelona, we flew back to Madrid for the night. The next morning, we took the 9am bus to Córdoba, in the south of Spain. Córdoba is another city I’d been really looking forward to visiting, and I still can’t believe it took me so long to get there.
The bus took until about 2pm to get there. The AVE train only takes two hours, but was much more expensive than our 20 euro bus tickets.
Córdoba is famous for its patios full of flowers, which bloom the most and are celebrated in May. We were a little early for the celebration, but the city wasn’t lacking in flowers!
This was my first time visiting Andalusia. Each region of Spain has its own unique culture, heritage and accent. In both País Vasco and Catalonia, this is elevated by the fact that both regions would prefer to separate themselves from the rest of Spain due to huge cultural differences and it’s quite rare to see the Spanish flag flown there. Andalusia definitely has a unique culture, but without the separatist movement. Things here look a little similar to Madrid, but with their own southern feeling.
Also important to note in Andalusia is the history of Al-Andalus, or Muslim Spain. Between 711 and 1492, all of Spain except the north was part of the North African caliphate, with the capital in Córdoba. Toledo was also an important city during this time in Spain, which influenced dramatically its architecture. The same is quite evident in Córdoba, and there are little hints everywhere of this heritage, like these arches and fountains. Because of the hot weather in the south, this style of open patios and fountains is quite popular to help cool down.
Córdoba is definitely a city in which you need to pay a lot of attention. Not because it’s dangerous, but because it’s a very medieval city with windy roads that can take you perhaps not where you expect. There are also lots of hidden treasures- if I spotted anything interesting out of the corner of my eye I would try to steal a picture of whatever picturesque patio we had managed to find.
Right across from City Hall we found these huge impressive columns, and upon reading the sign learned they were part of the ruins of a Roman temple. Even though I’ve been living in Spain for a few months and have seen now quite a few Roman ruins, I’m still incredibly awed each time at what this empire managed to build and how well they’ve lasted through thousands of years.
It was pretty warm in Córdoba (nothing compared to Phoenix, of course) but thankfully the streets were designed very narrow so as to not let too much sunlight (and heat) in.
Córdoba is a pretty small city, and we saw a lot of it in just two days. It’s a beautiful place to relax a little, and to just explore. There are a few famous streets, like this one with flowers.
While we were there the city was preparing for Semana Santa (Holy Week), which involves processions down the street. They were setting up these lines for people to stand behind right at the entrance to the bridge.
In addition to patios, there is also a lot of beautiful stonework patterning on the ground. Definitely look down if you’re there, otherwise you’ll miss some interesting things for sure.
One thing that makes the south even greater is that it’s much cheaper than other parts of Spain, especially Madrid and Barcelona. We went to visit the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos, a fortress/castle, and only had to pay 2.25 euros to enter! It was especially nice after forking out so much money in pricey Barcelona to visit. The Alcázar’s gardens are quite famous, and I heard they have been ranked second only to those in Granada’s Alhambra, another place I’m dying to visit. It took us a while to find the entrance to the fortress but finally we did find it!
We climbed up the stairs of the Alcázar’s tower and were rewarded with this incredible view of the manicured gardens and huge fountains.
We continued at ground level exploring the gardens and due to the season, the orange trees were in blossom and it smelled so heavenly. There were beautiful flowers everywhere and smaller courtyards within the gardens.
After leaving the Alcázar, we continued exploring the city. We found this adorable side street that I think is cuter than the more famous Calleja de Las Flores!
My friend and I work with a teacher from Córdoba, and she so kindly showed us around on the second day. It was so nice to get a tour from her of her hometown, and she took us to a terrific restaurant for lunch called Casa Salinas. I wholeheartedly recommend it, and that you try the codfish-orange salad. It’s a Córdoban specialty and very refreshing.
Later that day, we went to the Mezquita-Catedral of Córdoba. I’ve been dying to visit here since learning about it in high school Spanish. It was first a Visigoth cathedral, before being turned into a mosque during the time of Al-Andalus, and then after the Reconquest by the Christian Monarchs was turned back into a cathedral, with a huge Baroque installation in the center. We read online that if you go early in the morning, you can save the 8 euro admission. However, when we showed up, we learned that because a special eucharist session was scheduled for later (after the free hours) there would be no free entry that day. While I still don’t quite understand the logistics of this at all, in the end I feel it was worth the 8 euro entrance fee.
The inside of the Mezquita-Catedral is huge, with almost a forest of these pillars and arches to find your way through. There are also small collections along the walls, such as of tiles with Arabic writing and former decorations of the Cathedral.
I was pretty sad to leave Córdoba! We were only there for a few days, but I definitely fell in love with the city. With its patios, flowers and interesting mix of architectural styles, I feel there was a lot more we didn’t get to see. However, we were heading next to Sevilla, another city I was really excited to see finally, which helped to alleviate my sadness.