Day 39 Cordoba

Today, for me, started with an adventure. Having been on the move since the beginning of January, I decided that my hair was starting to take on a slightly wild look. Howard agreed! Also, for those of you who know me well, know that I am a person of habit, and as such, have gone to the same hairdresser for the past twenty years. It’s much easier that way – you don’t have to say anything, you just turn up and Wendy does it. So the thought of having my hair cut by someone new was scary – but even more scary in a different country. Howard duly dropped me off at the hairdressers we had been recommended. I asked the girl if she spoke English, and she replied no. Good start. Forearmed though, on advice from my brother-in-law who had suggested we use Google translate for our tapas dilemma, I had prepared a few sentences on my phone. She looked, and seemed to understand. It all started well, she seemed to understand the bit about getting rid of my grey bits (!) and the wash and cut seemed straight forward enough. Then, right at the end, in a flash, she seemed to do something extraordinary with the styling. I had a strange Harry Styles type sweep over, and curly bits at the back. She finished just as Howard arrived to pick me up. He smiled. He smiled the same smile that I had smiled at him when he bought that ridiculous cork hat.
Trying to make me feel better, Howard took me off for a coffee in the sunshine. It was then that I knew something was amiss. I went to open my iPhone, and it didn’t recognise me! That is correct – my face recognition no longer worked. I silently screamed inside, as Howard continued to pretend it looked OK. So that was my start to the day – I’ve had better.
The rest of the day improved considerably. We set off for the star of Cordoba, the Mezquita. This extraordinary building is a fusion of different religions over the centuries, and is testament to their co-existence. Today, it is the cathedral of Cordoba. But it was originally built more than a millennium ago as a mosque, when Cordoba was the capital of Muslim Spain. As such, it is one of the world’s greatest Muslim buildings, and it’s beauty is outstanding. The whole complex sits behind huge red sandstone walls, and outside the main Mosque complex lies a labyrinth of narrow streets and passageways, interspersed with patios, or courtyards, each decorated with verdant plants and brightly coloured pots. As you enter the main most area, you walk into the most spectacularly beautiful Patio De Los Naranjos – a stunning courtyard with orange, palm and cypress trees. It was formerly the site of the ritual ablutions when the building functioned as a mosque.
The first thing we did was climb the Bell Tower, formerly the Minaret of the Mosque. It is a 54 metre bell tower that now dominates the surrounding area, and was originally built in 951, and walking up the 107 steps you can see evidence of the original Muslim elements. From the top the views over the Mezquita and old town are wonderful.
By now we were getting thirsty and peckish, so we decided on a break for lunch. At lunch we played the ‘pot-luck’ tapas game again, this time much more sucessfully. Howard ended up with the Cordoban speciality, a sort of cold soup called Salmorejo made from blended tomatoes, garlic, bread, lemon, vinegar and olive oil, garnished with hard-boiled egg and ham. Also appearing were a sort of aubergine chips – very tasty, something resembling ratatouille, and a potato tortilla. We deemed it a success.
After lunch, we returned to the Mesquita, and this time looked around the cathedral itself. Words cannot express the stunning interior of this building. For the main part it maintains it’s mosque-like structure with it’s impressive double arches repeated throughout, striped in red brick and white stone, and the typical simplicity of geometric Islamic patterns. From the ceiling hang lanterns, and the smell of incense pervades the building. The scale is awesome. The whole place has an atomsphere that makes you catch your breath in wonder. But then, there’s the twist. Dotted in various places around the periphery, and taking centre stage in the middle of the structure, sits the gaudy, elaborate, over-stated symbolism of Roman Catholicism, with it’s ornately carved choir stalls, religious statues and central altar, which to my mind, jarred dramatically with the simple beauty of the mosque. I read that, even after the building changed from mosque to cathedral, the structure had remained unaltered for three centuries. Then King Carlos 1 gave permission for the centre of the Mezquita to be ripped out for the alter and choir stalls. However, when he saw the result he apparently declared. ‘You have destroyed something that was unique in the world’. And I must say that I agree with him. But that said, it is still the most incredible building, and I would encourage anyone to take the time to appreciate it.
After our dose of culture, we returned to the hotel, and I duly washed my hair, so removing my strange quiff that had afflicted me all day. Result – my iPhone now speaks to me again!
Tomorrow we are planning on heading towards Granada, but for now, a night out in Cordoba beckons.

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