Just before coming to Spain, I was at party talking to a woman named Linda about my upcoming trip. When she heard we were coming to Cordoba, she put her hand on her heart. “Oh, we loved Cordoba,” she told me. Linda’s husband died a few years ago. I assumed that he was the other half of the “we” and that they’d had a romantic visit. I was right about the first and probably right about the second. Cordoba is a beautiful and charming city.
The beauty started as soon as we left Granada. The highway winds through hundred of thousands of acres of olive trees, planted in neat, symmetrical rows, up hillsides and down valleys. For 200 kms. The trip was breathtaking — and I can assure you that I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve said that about a bus trip.
Olive plantations between Granada and Cordoba
It also helped that our Airbnb in Cordoba was superb. It is located in La Juderia, the Jewish quarter. Right on the main tourist walking route and a few minutes from the most important sites, yet surprisingly quiet. Its only downside was its proximity to a tourron (nougat) store, with the resulting temptation.
La Juderia was only the Jewish Quarter for 200 years, between the 13th century and the beginning of the Spanish Inquisition in the 15th century. The Jews were first confined to the quarter then massacred on trumped-up charges of being anti-Christian, then imprisoned, tortured, and eventually expelled from Spain. Plus ca change, plus la meme chose (apologies for the absent accents).
Knowing this history, it is a poignant area in which to stay. And stunning first thing in the morning and at sunset, when the tourists disappear.
Early morning in La Juderia
The streets aren’t wet with rain. They’re sluiced with bleach and water a couple of times a day.
On our first full day in Cordoba, we visited the Archaeological Museum, which traces the history of the city from its pre-Roman origins through the Romans, Visigoths, Moors and Christians. The Moors controlled Granada until the 15th century, while Cordoba was taken by the Christians a few hundred years earlier, which makes the two cities feel very different. The Jews have been completely obliterated from this history. There is a single reference in the museum: a 10th century gravestone, which, a card explains, is the only archaeological evidence regarding their presence in the city.
Having spent an exhausting 90 minutes in the museum, we needed some refreshment. So we spent the next 90 minutes in this delightful plaza cafe, which is immediately outside the museum. It was a Sunday, which is a special day for Spaniards to get together with family for a meal.
Restored, we wandered past the Alcazar (Moorish fortress and palace).
Then into the San Basilio area, which is known for its “patios” or winding streets decorated with hanging baskets filled with flowers.
At this point, Dianne decided to move to Cordoba.
The following morning, we got up at the crack of dawn. We wanted to be first in line at La Mezquita, which is a mosque repurposed as a cathedral. Of the dozens of photos I took, these are my favourites because they show the melding of Moorish and Christian influences.
Dianne and I sat down in front of the pulpit just as the organist began to practice for the upcoming mass. Nothing says grandeur like the sound of music in a cathedral, so we lingered a while. I’m glad we did because otherwise we would have missed this:
A woman’s work is never done
When we got back to the Airbnb, Dianne got on her phone and googled apartments for sale.