Classic Córdoba

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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.

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Cordoba had at least 5 squares. The oldest, the Forum, existed around the mid 2nd century.
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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:

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

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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…

A Trip to Spain, Writing . . . and Books I’ve Reviewed

shutterstock_160717460This is what I call a ‘multi-purpose’ post, and it’s likely to be the last post I do for a couple of weeks. The reason might be obvious from the first part of my title. Yes, I’m off to Sunny Spain.

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I’ve read a few books over the last couple of months, but I’d like to mention four I really liked here. I’ll just add a link to my full reviews on Goodreads and write a shortened version here, otherwise this would become a bit of a marathon. So here they are:

  1. The Mystery of the Death: Book One of the Runevision Series.

Author:  Jack R. Cotner.

Genre: historical fiction

As a lover of both historical fiction and murder mysteries, I really enjoyed this book.  It’s set in the 5th Century AD in the Celtic lands of north-western, mainland Europe, an area which presents strong resistance to Roman control.

The murder mystery is extremely well crafted, with many twists and turns as the plot unfolds. We follow the footsteps of the young Celtic magistrate, Weylyn, who is tasked by his superiors in the Elder Faith with finding those responsible for the theft of a Roman treasure, including the magnificent Great Cross, and capture the perpetrator of the murder which occurred at the same time.

Throughout the chase, Weylyn must also adhere to the demands of the Roman Enforcement officers, whose agendas seldom tally with his own, as well as sorting out his own future with a woman whose beliefs are contrary to his own, and evading the deadly assassin who is always hot on his heels.

This book is a great read for anyone who enjoys an intriguing murder mystery with well-rounded characters and an historical setting. The writing style suits the period well and there are some lovely descriptive phrases and poems.  Jack is currently writing Book Two of the series, which I look forward to reading.

You can read the full review on  Goodreads.

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2.  Matchmaker of Magics: Book One of The Bleaken Series.

Author: Mara Fields

Genre: YA fantasy

It’s some time since I read a YA novel, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I decided to read this book. I soon found that the style and content would suit both YA and adult readers. It’s an exciting story in which Mara blends magical powers with human emotion and endeavour extremely well. It is set partly in the tiny village of Bleaken and the capital city of the realm, Verdigreen.

Sacha Bleaken is a young woman whose ancestors founded the village.  Though expected to become one of the village leaders, Sacha knows she was born for far more than that. Her magical skills are already considerable. The sudden appearance of the monstrous Coldwights – not seen in Bleaken for many years – and the kidnapping of her beloved tutor, change her life completely.  Blamed for the Coldwights’ appearance, Sacha is banished from the village for a year. Whilst in Verdigreen she hones her powers under the guidance of some of the realm’s most talented mages, thus preparing herself for the tasks of finding her tutor and saving her people from the evil Coldwights.

I really enjoyed reading this book. Mara has a flowing writing style and there is a cast of intriguing characters. The magical element is fascinating. I am already half way through Book Two of this series and really enjoying it.

My full review can be seen on Goodreads.

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3. and 4. Mission Rome and Mission Paris: ( Scavenger Hunt Adventure Series)

Author: Catherine Aragon

Genre: Travel, Discovery and Adventure books for children

There are already several other books in this excellent series but Mission Paris and Mission Rome are the two I’ve read so far. They are aimed at children in the 8-12 age range, but would equally suit older chilren and even adults could make use of them as travel guides.

The books aim to give children on holiday with their family something interesting and exciting to focus on – in order to counteract boredom.  The missions are presented in such a fun way that few children could resist, especially with the added incentive of becoming a Secret International Agency special agent on completion of the tasks. Most of the major sites of each city are visited, with extra information given as introduction – much of this as amusing little snippets. They are extremely well written and beautifully and colourfully presented, with great covers and the maps and ‘missions’/investigations are clearly and interestingly listed inside. I just wish these books had been around when my own children were young. I haven’t visited Paris yet, but when I do, I’ll certainly make use of ‘Mission Paris’!

The books published so far include missions to Paris, Rome, Barcelona and Washington D.C. My reviews of the two books I have read can be found on Goodreads:

Mission Paris and Mission Rome

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On Thursday I head off to Andalusia (Andalucia) in Spanish. It’s not only somewhere I’ve wanted to visit for a while, but an area in which a section of Book 3 of my Sons of Kings trilogy takes place. So the trip is really for research into the old Moorish settlements, particularly Cordoba (Cordova in Spanish) which was the Moorish capital in the 9th century. There are also many ruins of Romans structures, which, of course, would have been there at that time. My ‘header’ image for this post shows the old Roman bridge in Cordoba. I intend to take lots of photos and visit as many sites and museums as we can manage.

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Map of Andalucia from Wikimedia Commons. Author: SantiagoFrancoRamos

So, until I get back I’m unlikely to post again, unless I find time for the odd photo. I’ll have to pick up on my blog where I left off . . .