April 23-24 Cordoba

The contrast and synergy of Christian and Islamic design in the Mezquta quite fascinated us until after noon. It had been a long morning and we wandered off into the warren of the Jeuderia (old Jewish quarter) looking for El Rincón de Carmen (a restaurant recommended in the Rough Guide).The area around the Mezquita is a mass of tourist shops, heladarias, coffee shops, and tapas/bar restaurants. Close to the Mesquita, restaurant seating, postcard stands, clothing racks, tiles, plates, fridge magnets, et cetera spill into the narrow streets. Despite the crowds and store displays, occasional cars would squeeze down the alley forcing pedestrians against the wall and barely navigating the obstacle course of postcard and souvenir T-shirt stands. Large groups of students and tours leant an air of festiveness but a short walk down a narrow alley, past bright red potted geraniums hanging from the walls and wrought iron window bars and balconies, could lead to quiet, seemingly deserted spaces. A little further brought us to neighbourhoods with shops, schools, and apartments.   We eventually found El Rincon del Carmen, and despite it being early for lunch 1:00 pm, and being the only customers, we ordered the daily menu (mediocre red wine, choice of starter, main, and coffee). Sheila had Salmorejo (a thick gespatcho like soup with ham and egg) (good) followed by fried pounded chicken breast in an oil garlic sauce (mediocre), I had the garlic soup (good) followed by the Flanequin, a regional specialty of rolled stuffed ham, breaded and deep fried (dry and mediocre). Upscale prices, diner quality. After lunch we wandered, passing the Mezquita to cross the old Roman bridge (actually rebuilt by the Moors on the old Roman piers) to the restored Calahorra tower. Originally built in the 12th century by the Moors as twin towered arched gate to protect the bridge, it was restored by Henry II of Castile and a third cylindrical tower joined the original square towers replacing the arch.  The floodplain of the Guadaliver River is confined by the city embankments but within this channel it is still active and perpetually young. It probably presents much like it would have in pre-Roman times. Ancient stone ruins sit incongruously amidst the changing channels and young vegetation of the active floodplain. An old water mill hugs the north bank, its old channel and wheel still visible. Walking along the south bank of the river the groves of trees and grassy meadows scattered across the sand and gravel bars gave the floodplain a timeless rural and pastoral feel. A herd of sheep and goats grazing on the floodplain grasses against the backdrop of ancient Cordoba, their shepherds drinking wine in the shade of some trees completed the tableau. We discovered a free, shaded parking area along the river, not a  5 minute walk from the Mezquita and decided that tomorrow, rather than take the bus, we would bring Brunhilde in early and park there. Fatigue setting in, we crossed back over the traffic bridge, walked the other bank, working our way back to the bus station where we caught the 6:00 pm bus back to Villafranca de Cordoba. Footsore and weary, the last kilometer walk back to camp seemed more like three.

April 24 Cordoba

For us, the streets and alleys of an unexplored town are magnetic, their attraction stronger than ruins, monuments, cathedrals, galleries, or museums. Cordoba is known for its courtyards and gardens so we parked near the old Roman bridge, walked passed the Mezquita and wandered in the general direction of Palacio de Viana, a private home renowned for its series of courtyards surrounding the residence. Along the way we chanced upon intriguing churches, monuments, ruins, squares, and people. We peeked into courtyards and patios; commercial courtyards surrounded by shops, private courtyards in hotels and apartment blocks, and the courtyards of private homes. Streets, lanes, and stepped alleys paved in geometric and abstract patterns of smooth, black and white river stones led to public squares and gardens or just connected streets; lovely to the eye but not, I think, friendly to spike heals. While exploring a lovely a courtyard with tiled floor and fountain, by potted plants and climbing vines, and red and white geraniums hanging from the second floor windows, we stumbled upon a small leather shop. The work was quite exceptional but other than an amazing homage to Picasso's Guernica that forced me to rethink leather as an artistic medium and was priced well beyond what we could afford, we did not find anything that both suited and was within our price range. Our progress towards the Palacio de Viana was interrupted by helpful locals directing us to one or another local attraction, some worthwhile, others not so much, but we eventually found the Palacio. It was a labyrinth of immaculate gardens and courtyards, each with its own character and style of moasic patio and walkway in light and dark cobbles and stones. Each with a secluded fountain and/or water garden, statues, and citrus gardens. A young girl in her white communion dress posed while a photographer decked out much like me tried to capture the ambiguity of her of innocence and emerging womanhood. We explored nooks and crannies, cul-de-sacs, and courtyards stopping to rest and top up on caffeine and carbohydrates until around 2:00 pm when we stopped for a relatively expensive lunch at Taberna el Pisto San Miguel, a highly rated restaurant in the Jeuderia. A half bottle of house red (good) with deep fried anchovies (tasty but uninspired), cured pork loin slices (excellent), Rabo de Toro (braised bull's tail in wine sauce) good and roast suckling pig (tasty by dry). After lunch we made an unsuccessful attempt to visit the only surviving synagogue (it was closed when got there) and then Sheila went on a disappointing shopping excursion while I just sat and dozed in the shade near the Mezquita. Sheila did find the brightly painted, wooden boxes with ceramic drawers that she had been admiring and was about to purchase one when she discovered that they were made in India. She settled instead for a genuine, Islam inspired, imitation tile, fridge magnet, and I eventually had to leave the shade for the warmth of the sun and went to admire shop windows. Linking up again we wandered to explore an as yet unexplored quarter, stopped for an orange sorbet and coffee, and returned to Brunhilde around 6:00, In keeping with her mischievous/malicious character, Kate tried to take us home through the maze of narrow streets and alleys in the Juederia but we did not fall for it and found our own way back. Aside from the Mesquita, Cordoba did not offer any "block buster" sights, but the streets, alleys, small remnants of Roman, Moorish, Gothic, and Renaissance buildings, the intimate courtyards and courtyard restaurants, less intimate streetside restaurants and tourist shops, soaking up the atmosphere, and just being there provided a great experience.
Calle Cardenal Hererro, Cordoba Geranium lined lane, Cordoba Mezquita from the south bank of the river Guadalquivir Water mill on the Guadaliver, Cordoba North across the Guadaliver floodplain, old Cordoba Patterned pavement, Cordoba Palacio de Viana Taberna el Pisto San Miguel, Cordoba Courtyard, Cordoba Courtyard, Cordoba Window displays made for interesting still-life studies on my walk.
A Sense of Place:  Travel, Photography, and Photo-art
by David E. Moon
© David E. Moon, 2014  All rights reserved
Slideshow Slideshow Route Map Route Map

April 23-24 Cordoba

The contrast and synergy of Christian and Islamic design in the Mezquta quite fascinated us until after noon. It had been a long morning and we wandered off into the warren of the Jeuderia (old Jewish quarter) looking for El Rincón de Carmen (a restaurant recommended in the Rough Guide).The area around the Mezquita is a mass of tourist shops, heladarias, coffee shops, and tapas/bar restaurants. Close to the Mesquita, restaurant seating, postcard stands, clothing racks, tiles, plates, fridge magnets, et cetera spill into the narrow streets. Despite the crowds and store displays, occasional cars would squeeze down the alley forcing pedestrians against the wall and barely navigating the obstacle course of postcard and souvenir T-shirt stands. Large groups of students and tours leant an air of festiveness but a short walk down a narrow alley, past bright red potted geraniums hanging from the walls and wrought iron window bars and balconies, could lead to quiet, seemingly deserted spaces. A little further brought us to neighbourhoods with shops, schools, and apartments.   We eventually found El Rincon del Carmen, and despite it being early for lunch 1:00 pm, and being the only customers, we ordered the daily menu (mediocre red wine, choice of starter, main, and coffee). Sheila had Salmorejo (a thick gespatcho like soup with ham and egg) (good) followed by fried pounded chicken breast in an oil garlic sauce (mediocre), I had the garlic soup (good) followed by the Flanequin, a regional specialty of rolled stuffed ham, breaded and deep fried (dry and mediocre). Upscale prices, diner quality. After lunch we wandered, passing the Mezquita to cross the old Roman bridge (actually rebuilt by the Moors on the old Roman piers) to the restored Calahorra tower. Originally built in the 12th century by the Moors as twin towered arched gate to protect the bridge, it was restored by Henry II of Castile and a third cylindrical tower joined the original square towers replacing the arch.  The floodplain of the Guadaliver River is confined by the city embankments but within this channel it is still active and perpetually young. It probably presents much like it would have in pre-Roman times. Ancient stone ruins sit incongruously amidst the changing channels and young vegetation of the active floodplain. An old water mill hugs the north bank, its old channel and wheel still visible. Walking along the south bank of the river the groves of trees and grassy meadows scattered across the sand and gravel bars gave the floodplain a timeless rural and pastoral feel. A herd of sheep and goats grazing on the floodplain grasses against the backdrop of ancient Cordoba, their shepherds drinking wine in the shade of some trees completed the tableau. We discovered a free, shaded parking area along the river, not a  5 minute walk from the Mezquita and decided that tomorrow, rather than take the bus, we would bring Brunhilde in early and park there. Fatigue setting in, we crossed back over the traffic bridge, walked the other bank, working our way back to the bus station where we caught the 6:00 pm bus back to Villafranca de Cordoba. Footsore and weary, the last kilometer walk back to camp seemed more like three.

April 24 Cordoba

For us, the streets and alleys of an unexplored town are magnetic, their attraction stronger than ruins, monuments, cathedrals, galleries, or museums. Cordoba is known for its courtyards and gardens so we parked near the old Roman bridge, walked passed the Mezquita and wandered in the general direction of Palacio de Viana, a private home renowned for its series of courtyards surrounding the residence. Along the way we chanced upon intriguing churches, monuments, ruins, squares, and people. We peeked into courtyards and patios; commercial courtyards surrounded by shops, private courtyards in hotels and apartment blocks, and the courtyards of private homes. Streets, lanes, and stepped alleys paved in geometric and abstract patterns of smooth, black and white river stones led to public squares and gardens or just connected streets; lovely to the eye but not, I think, friendly to spike heals. While exploring a lovely a courtyard with tiled floor and fountain, by potted plants and climbing vines, and red and white geraniums hanging from the second floor windows, we stumbled upon a small leather shop. The work was quite exceptional but other than an amazing homage to Picasso's Guernica that forced me to rethink leather as an artistic medium and was priced well beyond what we could afford, we did not find anything that both suited and was within our price range. Our progress towards the Palacio de Viana was interrupted by helpful locals directing us to one or another local attraction, some worthwhile, others not so much, but we eventually found the Palacio. It was a labyrinth of immaculate gardens and courtyards, each with its own character and style of moasic patio and walkway in light and dark cobbles and stones. Each with a secluded fountain and/or water garden, statues, and citrus gardens. A young girl in her white communion dress posed while a photographer decked out much like me tried to capture the ambiguity of her of innocence and emerging womanhood. We explored nooks and crannies, cul-de-sacs, and courtyards stopping to rest and top up on caffeine and carbohydrates until around 2:00 pm when we stopped for a relatively expensive lunch at Taberna el Pisto San Miguel, a highly rated restaurant in the Jeuderia. A half bottle of house red (good) with deep fried anchovies (tasty but uninspired), cured pork loin slices (excellent), Rabo de Toro (braised bull's tail in wine sauce) good and roast suckling pig (tasty by dry). After lunch we made an unsuccessful attempt to visit the only surviving synagogue (it was closed when got there) and then Sheila went on a disappointing shopping excursion while I just sat and dozed in the shade near the Mezquita. Sheila did find the brightly painted, wooden boxes with ceramic drawers that she had been admiring and was about to purchase one when she discovered that they were made in India. She settled instead for a genuine, Islam inspired, imitation tile, fridge magnet, and I eventually had to leave the shade for the warmth of the sun and went to admire shop windows. Linking up again we wandered to explore an as yet unexplored quarter, stopped for an orange sorbet and coffee, and returned to Brunhilde around 6:00, In keeping with her mischievous/malicious character, Kate tried to take us home through the maze of narrow streets and alleys in the Juederia but we did not fall for it and found our own way back. Aside from the Mesquita, Cordoba did not offer any "block buster" sights, but the streets, alleys, small remnants of Roman, Moorish, Gothic, and Renaissance buildings, the intimate courtyards and courtyard restaurants, less intimate streetside restaurants and tourist shops, soaking up the atmosphere, and just being there provided a great experience.
Calle Cardenal Hererro, Cordoba Geranium lined lane, Cordoba Mezquita from the south bank of the river Guadalquivir Water mill on the Guadaliver, Cordoba North across the Guadaliver floodplain, old Cordoba Patterned pavement, Cordoba Palacio de Viana Taberna el Pisto San Miguel, Cordoba Courtyard, Cordoba Courtyard, Cordoba Window displays made for interesting still-life studies on my walk.
A Sense of Place:  Travel, Photography, and Photo-art
by David E. Moon
© David E. Moon, 2014  All rights reserved
Slideshow Slideshow Route Map Route Map