Our next destination in Spain was the city of Córdoba in Andalusia. Located in Southern Spain, Cordoba has a very warm climate. It was founded in ancient Roman days, and has thrived throughout the centuries. We arrived after a couple hours in the train, and then took a walk from the train station to the city. This picture shows me and Alex walking through the historic center of the city, towards our destination.
We walked to the River Guadalquivir and continued along the riverfront. On the way we passed the famous Roman Bridge. Unfortunately, very little of the original structure remains. (You can see which blocks are old and which are the work of restoration crews.) The triangular-shaped abutments still make a pretty picture though.
The bridge led in ancient times to the triumphal arch entering the city. Also heavily restored, it gives us a glimpse of what it must have been like to arrive in the ancient city of "Corduba" as it was termed by the Romans.
Our first stop was the Alcazar of the Kings of Spain. The Alcazar palace was built in the 13th century by King Alfonso XI. It is here that Bobadil was imprisoned, and here that the Spanish Inquisition had its seat. The Alcazar sits on the river, overlooking the bridge. Obviously this site had important strategical significance in its day. Here's Alex approaching the entrance. Because of Córdoba's climate, all manner of palm trees flourish.
Once inside the Alcazar, we began looking around. This room was the old chapel. Adorning the wall is a mosaic dating from the 2nd century AD, made by the Romans.
This room of state is where the King would receive diplomats and visitors. Although most of its grandeur is gone, the Roman wall mosaic in the background and the carved wooden furnishings indicate what it must have been like 800 years ago.
Because the Alcazar was ruled by the Moors during the Damascus Caliphate, it retains many Islamic architectural elements. Chief among these are the spectacular Moorish baths, parts of which survive to this day. This is a section of the baths, which opened up onto a courtyard.
And here's the courtyard. There was a pool at the end complete with original plumbing. The gardens in the courtyard were made up of various trees and plants, including jasmine and orange trees.
Moving along, we continued to the main gardens of the Alcazar. Famed all over Spain, they certainly were quite a show. They provided much-appreciated shade for us, as we walked among the trees and ponds.
It was at the Alcazar that King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel heard Columbus' idea for a trip to the Indies by traveling East - the voyage that was to discover the New World. Here is a statue commemorating the event. It depicts Columbus pleading with the Monarchs for funds.
Stretching the length of the gardens are several rectangular ponds, filled with carp and koi, surrounded by flowers, and all fed by gravity from a spring at the head of the garden.
Water was distributed during Moorish days by these canals, which crisscrossed the entire garden.
A view looking towards the statue, across the pond.
The famous Roman philosopher Seneca was born in Córdoba, which was then in the Roman province of Hispania. Many statues of him stand throughout the city.
Córdoba has a rich and long Jewish heritage. This is the Jewish section of town, stylishly whitewashed, and home to many artisans' shops.
Our next stop was the Mezquita. The Mezquita was a mosque built in Córdoba during the Umayyad dynasty. It was the second largest mosque in the world at the time and reflected the grandeur in which the Moors lived. After the fall of Córdoba to the Catholics during the Reconquista, it was transformed into a cathedral, which it is to this day.
This is a picture of the dome in the mihrab, or prayer niche which faces Mecca. It is covered with illuminated Arabic calligraphy.
Here is the mihrab itself. Again, you can see the stylized Arabic script covering the lintel, walls, and arch.
A shot of some of the Islamic architecture within the Mezquita.
Of course now that it is a cathedral, it is only fitting to have this picture, representing the surrender of Córdoba to Ferdinand III in 1236.
This photo shows one of the rooms of the museum which houses sacred vessels and artifacts from the 10th century onwards.
These are plaster casts of Islamic prayer inscriptions which were scratched onto the walls of the Mosque.
The Mezquita is most famous for its arches - more than 1000 in all. They are painted red and white, and supported by columns of jasper, onxy, marble and granite. The interior of the Mezquita is a forest of them - there is no other architectural element so omnipresent.
From Spain's rich history of painted ceramic tiles we get this painted ceramic tile altar.
Another shot of some of the arches.
The Mosque was left largely intact, and was not architecturally altered much. Side chapels were added when possible, but the building does not have the traditional architectural feel of a cathedral. This is a side chapel dedicated to St. John the Baptist.
More of the beautiful Moorish architecture. Notice the crucifix. How fitting.
One major change was the addition of a dome. Here's a picture looking upwards.
And here is a stained glass window of Our Lady.
A carved statue of St. James the Moorslayer doing just that.
Our visit to Córdoba concluded, we set back for Madrid in the evening, watching the sun set on Andalusia as we rode in the train.