Rich in history, a substantial city in Roman times, becoming for a while the centre of the Muslim world from the beginning of the ninth century, Cordoba retained its unique character through the Christian ‘reconquest’ and subsequent religious and political upheavals. In its heyday in the 10th Century Cordoba was the largest city in Europe with about half a million inhabitants, 700 mosques and 300 public baths, paved and lit streets and indoor plumbing. Paper, an unknown material to the West, was everywhere – there were bookshops and more than 70 libraries, and in the great library of Cordoba, at that time the largest in the world, there were some 600,000 manuscripts.
The rich and sophisticated society took a tolerant view towards other faiths, and there was a period of intellectual and economic prosperity until the year of 1013 when Cordoba was sacked. Now the city now rests quietly beside the timeless waters of the great Guadalquivir River.
We can take our time to cross the magnificent Roman bridge and wander through the narrow streets, see the storks’ nests built high up in the church belfries, and soak up the atmosphere in the cool shaded Jewish Quarter. With many places to sit and sketch or just rest, enjoy a coffee or a cool ice cream and watch the people go by before taking in the breathtaking Mezquita – a 11th Century place of worship so large and beautiful that the Christians, after the ‘reconquest’ built a cathedral inside the complex rather than tear it down. Local churchgoers going there to Mass still say they are ‘going to the Mosque’.
Narrow streets in the old quarters have balconies filled with blossoms. May is the Festival de Flores – the festival of flowers, and we can see the results of this all the year round, with balconies just overflowing with colourful displays. The narrow cobblestone streets wind round here and there, every corner opening up a new vista. It’s not a bad idea to just sit at one of the cafes with outside tables along the way with a cool drink and just watch the people passing by.
We generally finish up our day out with a fine evening at one of Cordoba’s many excellent restaurants. Then we walk to El Cardinal to see a wonderful performance of flamenco dancing in their lovely courtyard. Cordoba is such a memorable city and a place we return to time and time again.