Mass in a mosque on a Monday. So that was why I wanted to come to Córdoba. I had completely forgotten. The main attraction in the city, once home to the largest library in the world, is the Mezquita – the mosque. And it’s not just any mosque but one with a Catholic Cathedral inside.
The hundreds of pillars were pilfered from various Roman temples in the vicinity and none of them are the same height – an architectural nightmare. Nineteen aisles run north to south and 29 more run east to west covering two-thirds of the 130×180 m space. It’s massive. Absolutely huge. So big, in fact, that it was a little difficult to find the Cathedral in the middle.
The mosque opens on weekdays from 10am with an admission fee of €10 but each morning from 8.30 am to 9.30 am, you can visit for free. Then at 9.30, everyone but the mass-goers is turfed out. We stayed and prayed – for the experience. Mass in a mosque. Surreal.
Flower pots and patios
Next on the list of the city’s claims to fame are the flower pots and the patios. Turn a corner and prepare to be blindsided by colourful plants in colourful planters set against a backdrop of whitewashed walls. Flowering courtyards and patios offer a bright contrast to the basic white and, like Jerez, religious pictures abound. Looking up, too, the skyline makes for interesting shapes with church spires, bell towers, and roolines all vying for space, working together in a way no one intended.
Sights to be seen
The Muslims left their mark with the Mezquita. And the Romans bequeathed the city a bridge, some arches, and a few water wheels. I’m not big on ruins – unless they’re churches or castles – but I do like a good build. That these have survived centuries is something I simply can’t get my head around. Where have we gone wrong?
Eating and sleeping
I’m just about tapas-ed out, but had to try the Bodegas Mezquita and the famous 50/50. It was worth it. But after that it was to the deli counter at the local shop for cured meats and cheeses with fresh bread and olives. We lucked out by getting an upgrade from Hostal Maestre to Hotel Maestre. The former was full, even though I’d booked months ago and the latter, the big sister, had a subterranean apartment and on-site available. I love my space and having a living/dining room and a kitchen in addition to a bed and bath was perfect. It’s very central – a couple of blocks from the Roman Bridge and a short walk to the Mezquita. That it has parking is a plus. If you’re planning on driving around Spain, factor in a least €10-€15 a night for parking and be sure to book in advance along with your hotel.
Wandering around Córdoba
If I had to choose between Ronda, Cádiz, Jerez, and Córdoba, I’d take Córdoba. It’s so much quieter than Cádiz. It’s less touristy than Ronda, and more colourful that Jerez. My one complaint is that the synagogue is under renovation and not open to the public. And if someone could do something about the heat, it’d be near perfect. Often overlooked when taking the lower route from Malaga to the Algarve because being north-east of Seville , it requires a detour, it really is a gem of city. The Patio Festival in May sounds promising and the Guitar Festival in June also sounds interesting. It’s only failing is the heat in the summer. Because it’s so late in cooling down, everything else is late, too. Restaurants, concerts, nothing much kicks off till about 10 pm and that takes some getting used to.