A EUROPEAN Union rule that requires English to be the official language between pilots and air-traffic controllers has come into force – and, curiously, even applies where both parties share a native tongue that is...
Cordoba: City by the river
The city of Córdoba, capital of the province of the same name, dates back to Roman times, although there are traces of even older settlements in the area.
Moors, Christians and Jews fought over the site but also lived in harmony, each civilisation helping to shape this ancient city, where history still lives in its buildings, churches, mosques and bridges.
The name Cordoba has been said to derive from the Hebrew kortz or the Phoenician kord meaning ‘the place of gold’. Others say the name comes from car or cor meaning height or a river. The name then means ‘the high place by the river’, a fitting name for this city on the banks of the Guadalquivir.
When you arrive you will find yourself faced with a number of bridges, which you may find yourself crossing several times in an attempt to find a parking space near the centrepiece of the city - its mosque or mezquita.
This famous mosque-cathedral is unique in the world, and if you are interested in history and want to take more away with you than mental snapshots then a guided tour is a must. Building was begun in 756 AD, but continued through the centuries and covers four separate architectural periods. Approach the mosque down any of the spotlessly clean, gently sloping side streets from the centre of the city. After passing though an enormous courtyard, full of decorative trees and fountains you will find yourself in a twilight world that many a tourist has remarked resembles a forest of stone trees. In the warm half light you will start to make out the juxtaposition of Christian and Arab symbolism, the never ending corridors of arches, carved and painted with Arab script and designs, face to face with the tortured faces of Christian saints and virgins in the naves around the building.
After the city was captured from the Moors by Fernando II in 1236 the mosque was converted into a cathedral and dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The conversion was carried out with great care and sensitivity, resulting in the seemingly impossible architectural transition from Arab mosque to Christian cathedral. The sumptuous carved choir and transept of the Cathedral could not be more disparate in style from the surrounding mosque. There is even a Jewish synagogue inside the building and much treasure to be admired.
Beyond the mosque
Outside the mosque, life goes on in the busy streets of Córdoba. The city was already surrounded by ramparts at the time of the Romans, but later the Arabs built new walls and incorporated many palaces. Still standing is the Alcazar – the palace fortess of the Catholic monarchs. Standing in a beautiful garden that stretches in a green sweep right down to the banks of the Guadalquivir, the palace has watch-towers at each corner. Guided visits are available.
Although there are many other historical buildings and museums open to the public such as a synagogue dating back to 1314, the Julio Romero de Torres museum and many beautiful churches, the main attraction for many is the Jewish quarter.
If you enter through the Puerta de Almodóvar, the ancient gate of the Jews, you will find yourself in the Street of the Jews, a main artery that zig-zags its way through tiny secret courtyards with tinkling fountains, a labyrinth of lanes and passageways which form a long narrow rectangular area, most of them leading into an unusual little square. Making your way through this exciting maze, it is dificult to resist peering through the doorways to enjoy the beautiful patios characteristic of the city and the whole of Andalucía.
One street you must not miss is the Callejón de las Flores, also known as ‘the handkerchief street’, as it is so narrow you can touch both sides if you stretch a handkerchief out in front of you. The whitewashed walls are covered with pots of geraniums, daisies and climbing plants. The scent of flowers fills the a
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