Viva Espana! – Andalusia, Southern Spain – October 2016

Sunday, October 16th, 2016 – Puerto de la Duquesa – Cordoba

Although not really aided by its location, so near the highway, the hotel was a pleasant one – and the breakfast, although simple, was excellent.

The sun was shining brightly and we set off for our destination of the day, the ancient city of Cordoba.

At that point, we were still a little concerned by the somewhat eccentric nature of our Harley’s navigation. We just hoped that it would be able to find our hotel for the night in the maze of streets of Cordoba’s Old Town. According to a number of comments on TripAdvisor, large parts of the city were being dug up and one particular correspondent had been obliged to pay a taxi driver 6 Euros and follow him to the required address. Lucie downloaded a street map of Cordoba into her iPad and we prepared for a navigational adventure upon arrival.

The journey to Cordoba was unexpectedly beautiful. The scenery was open and expansive. There were groves of olive trees as far as the eye could see – and in some places that might well have been more than 50 kilometres! Behind and, in some cases, amongst the rows of olive trees, there was the occasional huge boulder, standing alone as if scattered by some giant hand. It was starkly beautiful.

As we approached Cordoba, the Harley’s navigation started to play games ! It repeatedly tried to get us to turn off of the highway in what was patently the wrong place. But then, just to confound us even more, it took us infallibly through scores of twists and turns, directly to the front door of our hotel, the Carpe Diem. When I tried to look at how we had got there on the street map, I realised we had got to the hotel by a route we would never have found.

Cordoba is another truly beautiful city and the weather was the hottest we had so far encountered. We parked the Harley and set off to explore.

The streets twisted in all directions, dotted with Roman excavations, gothic churches, baroque balconies. There were scores of shady patios and courtyards, decorated with flowers, which seems to be a local specialty.

There were plenty of tourists there, most of them seemingly wandering down the small streets without a clear goal. We were a bit lost, so I suppose they may have been too. It was certainly easy to lose direction in the maze of tiny streets and alleyways.

Cordoba’s principal monument, the Mezquita, was easy to find. Even so, I somehow managed to spend about fifteen minutes in a completely wrong line for tickets. Luckily one of us spoke some Spanish. We found the right queue, bought tickets and went inside. It was originally a mosque, which was initially left in its original state after being converted to be a Catholic cathedral (Mezquita even means Mosque in Spanish). In the 16th century, King Carlos I allowed substantial internal remodelling which involved some demolition and the building of the grandiose main altar and nave. It is something to see.

It is said that, when he saw the result, King Carlos said that it scared him and he believed he had destroyed a unique gem of the world …

Ah well, that happens ……

Next to Mezquita is the Alcázar, a fortress of “Christian kings“. That is where King Fernando and Queen Isabela met Christopher Columbus for the first time.

We also visited the Puente Romano de Cordoba, the Roman Bridge. Although it has been substantially rebuilt and remodelled over the years, this imposing structure has 16 arches and is over a quarter of a kilometre long. It is unwittingly famous. A lot of people who do not know where it is – or what it is called, would know it at once. That is because it was used as “The Long Bridge of Volantis“ in the “Game of Thrones“ epic tv series based upon the books by George R.R. Martin.

The whole city is steeped in history, both old and new.

It was time for siesta and the bells of countless churches began to summon the faithful for the Sunday evening mass as we wandered back towards our hotel

Later on, we wandered through the darkened streets of Cordoba and dined at two different places offering tapas. It was quite a strange experience because, in the first bar we had no idea what we had ordered or how much it would be. Luckily it was a varied and flavoursome selection of tapas and it was not exorbitantly priced. In the second bar we thought we did know what we had ordered – but we were wrong and so it was a bit of a surprise anyway. It turned out to be raw cod with oranges. A strange combination, but tasty, nonetheless.