Classic Córdoba

042

Córdoba is a beautiful city, marked by different cultures over the years and situated on the River Guadalquivir at a point where it is no longer navigable. It has the reputation for having the highest summer temperatures in Spain and is famous for its great monuments lincluding the Mesquita/Mosque, and a lovely old Jewish centre. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The city began as a small village in the Copper Age (3500-2300 BC). In 161 BC the Romans established a permanent camp on the banks of the river and two centuries later it competed in magnificence and importance with Rome itself. There was a large Forum, the usual walls and gateways, and a bridge, the Puente Romano across the river. It was during this time that the famous Córdoba Treasure was buried, and is now housed in the British Museum.

The following two pictures are from the wall in a Visitor Centre on the far side of the river. The first is a plan of the Roman town, the second shows the Forum.

053
Cordoba had at least 5 squares. The oldest, the Forum, existed around the mid 2nd century.
058
The Forum was the centre of administrative and civic activity.

The present main gateway – an 18th century replacement. Alongside it are remnants of the original, Roman wall:

066

Here are a couple of photos of the bridge and river today:

024

032

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Moors arrived in Spain in 711 and Córdoba became their headquarters. By the 10th century it had become the richest and most sumptuous city in the known world, with many libraries, medical schools and universities.

The previous picture also shows the islands downstream of the Roman Bridge. Today these are inhabited only by birds, but the remnants of flour mills can be seen on some of them. One larger mill, still with its wheel, is located close the the bank and is known as the Albolafia Water Wheel.

046

Built by Abd al-Rahman II ( (731–788) to pump water up to the Emir’s Alcazar/Palace, it lasted until the 15th century when it was dismantled on the orders of Queen Isabella (Isabel La Católica, wife of King Ferdinand). She claimed she didn’t like the sound of the noisy chains so close to the Palace.

One of the main, Moorish attractions in the town is the great Mezquita-Cathedral, or simply La Mesquita. This is a view of it taken from the Roman bridge.

047

The site on which the Mezquita stands has long been a sacred place. First a Roman temple then a Visigoth Christian church occupied the site, and after the Moorish occupation, the building was initially used by both Muslims and Christians. This arrangement stopped when Caliph Abd al-Rahman I purchased the Christian half. He had the entire building demolished in order to build the Great Mosque. Its construction lasted for over two centuries.

These photos inside the Mezquita show the wonderful Moorish design. The first two show the hypostyle hall (hypostyle meaning filled with columns).

021

022It was difficult to get close enough for a good photo at the next site, but besides the sparkling gold work are dark blues, reddish browns and yellows:

The Mihrab, the famous horseshoe-arched prayer niche. Mihrabs are used in a mosque to denote the wall that faces Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
The Mihrab, the famous horseshoe-arched prayer niche. Mihrabs are used in a mosque to denote the wall that faces Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

In 1236, Cordoba was taken by the Christians and, for a while, the building again served both Christains and Muslims. In the 16th century it officially became the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption. It is right in the centre of the mosque, and it seem odd going through one to the other. However, it’s undoubtedly a magnificent and ornate affair.

011

007

009
014

Today, Córdoba is a thriving modern city, the seat of one of the most powerful universities in Andalucía and the centre of communication between the higher and lower parts of the region. Unfortunately, this was not even an overnight stop for us, and we had only four hours here to see as much as possible and grab some lunch. We spent a while wandering around the tiny, narrow streets in the Jewish quarter, where most of the ‘eateries’ are but didn’t have time to visit the Alcazar (palace). I suppose there’s always a next time…

Stunning Sevilla

004

Seville (English spelling) is the capital of Andalucia and the third largest city in Spain. Greek mythology holds that it was founded by Hercules, but the truth is quite different. It was first settled in the 8th Century BC and later on by both Phoenicians and Carthaginians. Seville’s position on the Guadalquivir made it ideal for trade in inland Andalucia. The Romans called the city, Hispanis and founded the colony of Italica in the surrounding area. The Moors called it Ixibilia, from which the name of Sevilla is derived.

Moorish rule was a period of great splendour. Not only were there many magnificent buildings erected, it was a time of great cultural, political, social and economic significance. Yet, at the time in which my Vikings sail up the Guadalquivir in 871, Seville was of much less significance than Cordova (English: Cordoba) the Andalucian capital at that time. In 1248, the town was conquered by the Christian king, Fernando the Third.

The bougainvillea flower/bush can be seen in many places in Andalucía, and we saw a lot in Seville, especially in the gardens of the Alcazar – the Royal Palace. The flower has almost become  an emblem of the region. It is native to South America, so I can only imagine it was one of the things brought back by the Conquistadores in the 15th and 16th Centuries.071

Sevilla is a bustling city at any time of year, and over the weekend we were there, it wasn’t only full of foreign tourists. Friday, May 1st was May Day in Spain, and Spanish families were also enjoying a day out in Sevilla – many of them from other parts of the country. Queues to get into anywhere of interest were miles long, particularly into the Cathedral and the Alcazar (a royal palace). May and June are always manic in Spanish cities anyway, as this is the preferred time of year for weddings and confirmations into the Church. Everywhere, people in their best clothes were congregating on corners and close to churches.

On Saturday we visited the Plaza de España, one of the many additions to the city for the Expo (Iberian-American Exposition World’s Fair) of 1929. It is located in the beautiful Maria Luisa Park and today consists mostly of Government Buildings. The first picture here in not one of our photos, but it does show most of the width of this building. Either end curves round and ends in a tall tower. Our hilarious guide told us that these curved areas represented the arms of Spain, reaching out across the Atlantic to their conquered lands in Central and South America. Whether that was the architect’s intention or not, I’ve no idea.shutterstock_19797133

Here are a couple of our own photos, which show different parts of the building. They aren’t very good – some are too dark and others make the end towers look like the Leaning Tower of Pisa!

027

015

The fountain was in the middle of the plaza, but here we must have caught the bright sunlight wrongly:014

Later on, we had a boat ride along the Guadalquivir and had lots of interesting areas and buildings pointed out. It would have been so much better if the temperature had not been 36°C.037

042On Sunday we managed to get into the Royal Alcazar of Seville – the oldest Royal Palace still in use in Europe. It was built in 11th Century AD. We queued for 45 minutes to get in, but it was worth the wait. The building and rooms inside are spectacular and the many gardens truly magnificent. 068

108

113

091098

118

We didn’t manage to go inside Seville Cathedral, which was used for Church Services (Mass) until almost mid-afternoon on Sunday. All we managed was a quick snap of the outside, which really doesn’t do it justice. It is thought by many to be oddly situated, right in the middle of so many Moorish buildings. It is a very ornate structure (built between 1402 and 1506) and would need several photos to show it from different angles.125

Seville also has a bullring, of course, and is the birthplace of the wonderful Flamenco dancing. It is also the town in which Carmen lived (as in Carmen, the Opera) where she worked in a tobacco factory. We spent Saturday evening watching the Flamenco dancers, who were absolutely brilliant – so colourful and full of energy! We were treated to swirling cloaks and shawls, whirling fans, castanets, superb guitar playing and singing and of course, the stamping of heels, flicking of hips and roses held between teeth! 127

Amazing Andalucia

002

It’s now Sunday, and I’ve been in Andalucia since late morning on Thursday. The two main observations I’ve made so far are that it’s very beautiful and that it’s flippin’ hot for the first week of May!

325px-Ríos_de_Andalucía
Rivers of Andalucia. Author Te y Kriptinita: Creative Commons

This map shows just how many rivers there are in Andalucía. The one that features in Book 3 of my Sons of Kings trilogy is the Guadalquivir – the longest river in Andalucia, with innumerable tributaries. It flows right across northern regions of Andalucía and out through its delta into the Atlantic Ocean. Of course, rivers were very important to my intrepid Vikings, who were heading for Cordoba, on the Guadalquivir.

Since Friday we’ve been in Seville and both today and yesterday it’s been well over 30°C. Now, that may not sound hot for this time of year to all you people who are treated to weather like this every spring. But to someone from the north of England, it’s like walking into an oven every time I step out of the hotel door!

I’ll probably do a post about Seville later on, but today I just want to post a few photos of two smaller towns we passed through after landing at Malaga.

The first was just a visit and overnight stop in the tiny village of Mijas, situated twenty one miles to the south-west of Malaga.  It’s a lovely, typical old, white-washed Andalucian village, nestling high on a hillside with wonderful views over the Mediterranean coast.

003

One of the things that Mijas is known for is its use of donkeys around the town, which has caused many complaints to be made by tourists regarding their misuse. Complaints have included the animals being left standing in the hot sun for hours on end. I won’t go into this issue here as I’m sure there’ll be plenty online about it. Of course, the donkey taxi service is regarded as a big tourist attraction, as seen in the statue we saw:

005

The following day we continued on to Ronda, just thirty one miles from Mijas. Ronda is of the most ancient cities in Spain, and is quite a stunning place, cut into two by the deep gorge of the River Guadalevin. On one side is new Ronda and the other, the ancient city. Both sides are joined by the Puente Nuevo bridge, (New Bridge) built between 1751 and 1793.

Here are a couple of photos of the gorge and bridge that we took.

023

010

018

016Ronda’s main claim to fame is that it has the oldest bullring in Spain, and even the world. The first fight took place in 1785.

On Monday we head for Cordoba for a few hours, before moving on to Granada for our last two days.

Andalusien_Karte
Map of Andalucía. German author Manfred Werner. Creative Commons

Here is a map of Andalucía to show the location of towns. It’s the  only one I could find whilst away from home:

Word of the Week (WOW) – Nefarious

wow Word of the Week (WOW) is a weekly challenge created by Heena Rathore P. It’s a fun way to improve vocabulary by learning new words every week. To participate, simply do a post with your word and leave the link as a comment on Heena’s WOW post for this week (above link). It’s a nice post to do and will give you some practice with a dictionary, of which there are several online. Illustrations are not necessary, but it’s up to you.

Next week I’ll be looking for a word beginning with o.

Here is my WOW for this week: nefarious

 Word: Nefarious

Pronunciation:  ne·far·i·ous  [ni-fair-ee-uh s] (nə-fâr′ē-əs)

Audio link for pronunciation http://www.thefreedictionary.com/nefarious

Part of Speech: Adjective Adverb: nefariously Noun: nefariousness  

Meaning: extremely wicked or villainous; iniquitous stealing-294489_640  Synonyms:

flagitious, heinous, infamous, vile, atrocious, execrable, sinful, base, shameful, depraved, unethical, impious

Antonyms: good, honest, just, noble, upright, honourable, decent, ethical, virtuous

Word Origin: C 17 from Latin nefarious from nefās unlawful deed, from not + fās divine law

Use in a Sentence:

1. Martha scrutinised her husband’s new colleague, convinced there was something nefarious about him.

2. Police had been alerted to the fact that the nefarious casino boss had been recently released from prison and had returned to the town.

shutterstock_122170489

3. It is a great pity that such a wonderful tool as the Internet can be used for so many nefarious purposes.

shutterstock_261571940

If you’d like to check out more interesting words then visit Heena’s page:

Word Treasure