I moved to Granada in September 2011 and I am wholeheartedly ashamed to admit that it took me a whopping six months to visit the neighbouring Moorish city of Cordóba. I attribute this to three reasons:
- The trip was just too easy to put off, considering it could be reached so easily via a 2-hour bus ride. Very bad excuse, I know.
- Granada isn’t a place you want to leave in a hurry, and I won’t deny that I may have got a little bit too caught up in the magic of it all.
- With a deep-seated snowboarding addiction like mine, the lure of the even closer Sierra Nevada was often too compelling, so almost all of my long Puente weekends during the winter months were spent here instead.
With spring in full swing, however, I eventually got my act together and booked myself onto that bus. I was going to Cordóba at last! Fortunately, I was lucky enough to have a friend to stay with for the weekend, thus, research carried out beforehand had been pretty minimal, based on the assumption that there would be a perfect itinerary waiting for me when I arrived (this was naïve and sloppy of me and I learnt my lesson). All I did know was that there was a massive mosque, a bloody great big bridge and that it was the climatic equivalent of a vat of boiling oil. Still relatively dazed by the sheer magnetism of Granada, I honestly hadn’t banked on seeing much else to write home about.
Well, I did, and I did actually write home about it. Now, I’m jazzing that letter up and writing to you about it, though after reading this smashing, beautifully photo-illustrated post on the city by Liz over at Young Adventuress I hardly feel I’ll be able to say it better, so I’ll try and keep it brief. (328 words and counting…)
For those of you unfamiliar with Cordóba’s most alluring tourist magnet, or indeed with the Spanish translation of the word, this is that massive mosque I alluded to earlier. We’ve all seen mosques before – there are at least three in every major city back in Britain – but this one’s an architectural cut above the rest.
The history of La Mezquita is a complex one. It began life as a Catholic Christian church around the year 600 but was converted into an Islamic temple of prayer in 784 after the Muslims sieged the city. A number of drastic, mosque-befitting modifications were made over the next 200 years or so before the ancient edifice was finally completed in 987. Years later, in 1236, Cordóba was liberated of Islamic rule by King Ferdinand III of Castile following La Reconquista (the recapturing) of the city, paving the way for another era of change. Three Catholic chapels were added, a new nave symbolic of the renaissance erected, and the minaret at the heart of the structure was transformed into a Bell Tower*.
So, La Mezquita is in fact a Catholic Christian Cathedral, where Muslims are not officially permitted to pray. In 2010, a group of young Austrian Muslims on an organized tour caused a stir by kneeling down to pray inside the tourist-packed Cathedral and then attacking and subsequently hospitalizing two security guards after they were asked to stop.
Anyway, take one look at La Mezquita and you’ll see what all the fuss is about. I said I’d keep it brief, and I’m not doing such a great job of that so far. Let’s move on.
The Alcázar Palace and Gardens
These Moorish grounds were built in 1328 by Alfonso XI following La Reconquista and have also undergone periods of radical change, though at no point has the untold beauty of them ever been affected. When Springtime comes, the contrast in colour is quite extraordinary; plush green trees and blossoming pink flowers combined with the sandstone palace walls and the deep blue sky backdrop is sure to have any photographer salivating behind their lens.
The palace was once home to Ferdinand, the aforementioned King, and his Queen, Isabella, who has her own effigy sitting pretty atop a marble fountain in the centre of Granada. A lazy walk through this multihued maze is a must on anybody’s itinerary.
In keeping with the Moorish theme, you may or may not want to spend half an hour or so huffing away on an ornate hookah pipe in one of Cordóba’s numerous Hookah Bars (or ‘Shisha Bars’ as we Brits say). Many of these foggy enterprises boast menus longer than a cut-price Chinese takeaway’s, and some of the tea and tobacco available when I visited were odd to say the least; ‘Dragonfly’, as I recall, was the most intriguing. Or perhaps it was ‘Dragonfruit’. Should have written it down. In any case I opted for the safe route, and went with the blueberry tobacco and a cup of vanilla tea. How bold of me.
Southern Spain has long been a hub for exquisite traditional eats and Cordóba is no exception. In fact, many will argue that Cordóba has produced a great deal of the region’s finest gastronomy. Churrasco Cordóbes (Grilled Iberian Pork fillet served with green and red Arabic sauces) and Estofado de Rabo de Toro (Bull’s tail stew) are two particularly noteworthy examples. I tried the latter during my visit and loved it. Chewy, but tasty and wholesome. Very wholesome.
My friend was also kind enough to take me to the alleged birthplace of tortilla, Bar Santos, by the cathedral. I was skeptical of this claim to say the least but birthplace or not, this tortilla, after a mere nibble, was on my life the best I’ve ever had- not to mention the largest. I’m no food critic but I’ll throw some words out there to give you an idea of what it was like: enormous, warm, buttery and flocculent yet sturdy… How’s that?
Cordóba is also where I first tried Churros and Chocolate- a gastronomical near orgasmic experience that I will never forget, though I believe this sweet-tooth indulging dish can be sampled just about anywhere in Spain.
At first I just didn’t believe the pamphlet. “What’s a zoo doing in Cordóba?” I asked my friend. She shrugged. She didn’t know there was one either. It did seem a little out of place all things considered, but after two and a half days of exploring nothing but ancient mosques and palaces, the thought of ogling a few swinging orangutans was rather appealing. And I love the zoo anyway! So off we went, and I have to say it was bloody great fun. There was a tiger and everything. Polar Bear didn’t look too happy though**.
There is, of course, a whole load of other things to see and do in this unique and gorgeous city, but I did say I would be brief. Fail. Perhaps you’d like to fill in the blanks. What else is worth seeing in Cordóba?
*All info was taken from Wikipedia at the time of publishing
**joking (as in there aren’t any Polar Bears, not that he/she was happy to be there)
10.00h – 19.00h Monday-Saturday
08.30h – 10.30h and 14.00h -19.00h Sundays and National Holidays
Children between 10 and 14 years- €4
Children under 10 years- Free
Best to visit as early as possible to beat the queues and get the best photos.
The Alcázar Palace and Gardens
May and June- 10.00h -14.00h & 17.30-18.30h
July and August- 08.30h -14.30h
September to 14th October- 10.00h – 14.00h & 17.30h -18.30h
15th Oct to 30th April: 10.00h – 14.00h and 16.30-18.30h
November – February: 10.00h – 18.00h
March, Sept, Oct: 10.00h – 19.00h
April – June: 10.00h – 20.00h
July – Aug: 09.00h – 14.00h
Children between 5 and 15 years: €2.00
Students & Seniors: €2.00
Children under 5 years: Free