A day in Cordoba
As I mentioned in my Marbella post, December isn’t really tour season. So despite my desperation to get out of the resort, it was quite tricky to find a day trip that had been pre-planned.
Luckily we were able to organise transport to Cordoba ourselves, and it was probably also a lot more cost efficient than booking a tour where someone else dictates where you go, eat and at what times.
We caught the bus from Marbella to Malaga, and from there caught the train to Cordoba (€45 return – 1 hour train journey). This high speed train was very comfortable and the time sped by as quickly as the passing scenery.
Once in the centre of Cordoba, we booked a walking tour with the local tourist office. This cost €25 per person and lasted for approximately two hours. I would recommend this over wandering around by yourself, especially if you are only in Cordoba for the day.
The Lover’s Monument
We met the tour group at the Lover’s Monument. This monument was made in honour of the Princess Wallada and her lover, the poet Ibn Zaydun. 11th Century Andalusia had no main religion and so society was very modern and sexually liberated. Wallada was a bad ass bitch who didn’t conform to the norm’s of Medieval society, and when people tried to slut shame her she responded in the classiest way you can imagine; by embroidering her own poetry on to her clothes, standing up for her right to love who she pleased.
The princess had many lovers, but had a very strong connection with Ibn Zaydun. Their open relationship was sort of fine, until the princess found out that one of her boyfriend’s lovers was … A MAN! Shock, horror. Man on man action was apparently quite common amongst the Moors but even in her liberated society, the princess could not handle the thought of her lover with another guy.
The romantic and passionate poetry they had once written to one another…
“Your passion has made me famous among high and low your face devours my feelings and thoughts. When you are absent, I cannot be consoled, but when you appear, my all my cares and troubles fly away.”
… quickly became harsh and homophobic…
“The nickname they give you is Number Six and it will stick to you until you die because you are a pansy, a bugger a fornicator a cuckold, a swine and a thief. If a phallus could become a palm tree, you would turn into a woodpecker.”
You can read more about their dramatic tale here. I think it sounds like an amazing story for a movie, no?
We then walked to the Jewish Quarter of Cordoba and learned about how this religion impacted relations and the culture of the time. While the Jews were able to live quite peacefully among the Christians and the Muslims for the most part, unfortunately ignorance overtook at points and they were driven out in a number of pogroms after being blamed for things such as the black plague.
We visited one of the synagogues that had been papered over with Christianity after the expulsion of the Jews in 1492. Excavation had revealed the Jewish temple that lay beneath, but at the time, architecture was Islamic no matter what the building was for. Moorish carvers were called upon to make panels for both Synagogues and Churches, in what is known as Mujedar style.
The most famous landmark in Cordoba however is definitely the Mezquita-Catedrale (Mosque-Cathedral). This was the most detailed part of the tour and our guide told us all about how the building was divided into Muslim and Christian halves, when the Muslims conquered Spain in 711. The ‘sharing is caring’ attitude did not last very long and eventually the whole cathedral was converted into a mosque. This lasted until the 13th century when it was converted to Roman Catholicism, after the ‘Reconquista’. In the present day, Muslims have lobbied for many years to be permitted to pray in the Mezquita, but unfortunately their requests have been denied by Spanish authorities and the Vatican.
The Mezquita seems to be most famous for the columns and pillars pictured above. The poet Muhammad Iqbal, who visited Cordoba in 1931, described the architecture as “countless pillars like rows of palm trees in the oases of Syria”. He felt so inspired by what he had seen that he wrote one of his most famous poems based on his experience.
Indeed, there’s something about religious buildings which instils you with a sense of peace as soon as you enter.Walking through the Mezquita-Catedrale was like taking a walk through history. It’s very rare to find a building where despite changes in time, religion and architectural style, everything has been left to exist as a juxtaposition.
Our final stop for the day was the Roman Bridge. I think this is the most beautiful bridge I’ve seen; from the length, to the expanse of space and the striking simplicity of its design. Catching it at sunset probably made it all the more spectacular!
As the name suggests, it was built by the Romans in 1 BC but was reconstructed and restored multiple times during the Medieval period. It’s hard to explain in words and pictures how stunning this bridge is. Something that may put it in perspective is the fact that it was used as a location in Game of Thrones season 5!
All in all, for a truly cultural experience which will take you beyond the Spain you already think you know and on a journey through time, visit Cordoba. You won’t regret it 🙂
Thanks for reading,