Córdoba – Culture Cocktail and Game of Thrones 

The Blablacar that we got from Seville to Córdoba dropped us right outside our Airbnb and before long we were marvelling at Kike’s apartment. All the walls were artistically covered in photos, quotes, and music or Star Wars related memorabilia. The bathroom looked like something straight out of a home renovations show – the high-tech shower had a pebbled floor and there was a basket of colour-coded hand towels next to the sink. If you thought it couldn’t get any better, we then found out that he’d auditioned for Spanish Masterchef two years in a row and both times got through to the 4th of 5 qualifying rounds. On our last night there he cooked us dinner. My first time using Airbnb was definitely a positive experience.

The garden of arches in the Mosque-Cathedral.

Our first morning in Córdoba was an early start. One of the main attractions is the Mosque-Cathedral which costs about €8 to enter after 10am, but it’s free between 8.30 and 9.30am. The only drawback to taking the free session, besides the early start, is you get kicked out at 9.30 because that’s when they have mass until 10. If you arrive exactly when it opens at 8.30, however, an hour is just enough time to see everything thoroughly without feeling rushed. And it’s definitely worth the visit.

Muslim and Christian architecture right next to each other.

The original mosque was built by the Muslims who conquered the Iberian peninsula in the 700s. It was, and still is, considered to be one of the most sophisticated structures of Moorish architecture. The Christians eventually overthrew the Muslims in Córdoba in 1236 and from then on the mosque was used as a cathedral. It remained virtually unchanged for 300 years until King Charles V gave permission to the Cathedral’s Bishop to build inside the Mosque in 1523. When he saw the finished product, right in the centre, Charles is said to have been very unhappy with the outcome, lamenting that something so beautiful and unique in this world had been destroyed in order to build something that you can see in any city in Europe.

The great lump of Cathedral sticking out of the middle of the Mosque.

After we were kicked out of the mosque at 9.30 we went to have breakfast across the street and then came back to climb the bell tower (€2) and walk around the orange trees in the garden. From the top of the bell tower, the original structure of which was of course the mosque’s minaret, you get not only a great view of the city but you can also gain a full understanding of how the centre of the mosque was literally ripped out in order to build the cathedral.

The garden of orange trees with the bell tower (ex-minaret) in the background.

From the Mosque-Cathedral we went to walk across the Puente Romana, the bridge that was used in the filming of Game of Thrones season 6 as a location in Volantis. We enjoyed pretending to be Tyrion and Varys, and Arielle danced to a busker’s accordion.

The bridge of Volantis.

After the bridge we went to the tourist information centre just behind the Mosque-Cathedral. We actually just wanted to use the toilet but downstairs near the toilets in the information centre we found this really interesting map of what the city had looked like about 1000 years ago. It’s definitely worth a look if you have time, it’s right behind the Mosque-Cathedral, and who doesn’t love easily accessible free toilets?

Arielle’s new friend the accordion man.

The next thing on the list was to get lost in the narrow streets of the Jewish Quarter, which we did rather successfully, and then we had ice cream and headed back to the flat for siesta.

Another scene from inside the Mosque-Cathedral. It’s so surreal looking at this and then turning around to see the statue of Jesus’ crucifixion right behind you.

The next morning we took the bus from the centre of town to the archaeological site of Madinat al-Zahra (sometimes written Medina Azahara, sometimes a combination of the two). The bus cost a bit over €10 return but it seems to be very difficult to get out to the site and this was the best option. We got our bus tickets from the train station, you can get them on the bus itself but it is subject to availability and there are a limited number of buses each day.

For some reason large groups of tourists always seem to include multiple broad brim hats. That’s the main way we knew we had the right bus stop.

At the site there is a museum with information in English about the palace-city of Madinat al-Zahra, the political capital of al-Andalus, or Muslim Spain, for less than 100 years the site was abandoned. After the museum you can take the shuttle bus up to the site itself and wander around through the remains of the old palace and residential areas.

So many arches! These ones were reconstructed from the ruins of Madinat al-Zahra.

After we’d had our fill of ruined Moorish architecture we headed back to Córdoba, got more ice cream, and then returned to the flat to get ready to meet our next Blablacar drivers, I was going to Granada and Liz and Arielle to Ronda after my recommendation.

Struggling with the wind in front of the Madinat al-Zahra gardens.


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