Travels in España II: Cordoba (2014)

From Roman ruins to buildings from the Caliphate era, from the structures dating back to the reconquista times to the more recent part of the town, a tour of Cordoba is a must for any one wanting to explore the rich cultural history of Spain. Settled by the Carthaginians, the city passed into Romans hands, then to the Visigoths, before the Caliphate took over and finally it fell back into the hands of the successors to the old Visigothic kingdom.

I took an early morning train from Madrid to Cordoba, the plan was a little open ended in that I would decide in the evening whether to stay over or high tail it back to Madrid. My hope was to visit the main points of interest over the course of the day if possible or stay over for another day as a backup.

One of the most iconic buildings in Cordoba is the Mosque Cathedral. Initially built as a Cathedral by the Visigoths it was converted into a mosque by the Umayyad ruler of Spain Abdur Rahman I (who purchased the church and the land) and back into a Cathedral after the reconquista. The most notable and recognizable feature of the building is the great hall with its more than 800 marble and onyx columns and the alternating red and white arches. Structures were added up to the 18th century and reflect the combined muslim and christian heritage of the building.

Another iconic sight is Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos (the castle of the christian monarchs). Originally a Visigoth fortress it became the seat of the caliphate during the Umayyad rule who expanded it by adding baths and gardens. The present structure was built on part of the old castle complex after the reconquista. The river Guadalquivir flows by the castle; two interesting sites nearby are the Puente Romano (a bridge form the Roman times) and the Calahorra Gate guarding the access to the city via the bridge built by the Caliphate. A statue of the archangel Raphael adorns the bridge. There are many statues of archangel Rafael in Cordoba, including El Triunfo de San Rafael de la Puerta del Puente. Rafael has been considered the protector of the city, dating back to the 17th century plague.

The city as I mentioned reflects its rich multicultural history, remains of a Roman Temple are a reflection of its Roman past, the ruins were discovered in the mid 20th century. The church of San Lorenzo was commissioned early in the reconquista and the synagogue dates back to the 14th century. Torre de la Malmuerta is a defensive tower built by the Almohads , it was also used as a prison in later times. The Puerta del Puente was one of the main gates to the city in the middle ages. I visited these sites and then spent some time just wandering around in the alleys and streets of the old town. Had a leisurely meal at El Rincon de Carmen, before heading to the train station.

These were some snapshots from the city of Cordova, I decided to go back to Madrid in the evening being a little short on time. I would love to come back and explore the city which in retrospect deserves at least 4-5 days to explore. But for now it was back to Madrid and then on to Toledo…

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