As soon as the sun slipped into the horizon, red tinge appeared on the sky. Its flaming colour blended perfectly with bone-like whiteness of Old Town buildings, while the green water of Guadalquivir refclected the light. Bewitched, we stand on the Roman Bridge with a dazzled look–enjoy the perfect moment and feel like never ever want to go home. Cordoba was showing its beautiful twilight to us, and that scenery was frozen forever in our memory…
Going to Cordoba was part of spiritual journey.
I still remember the day when I was in junior high school; sat in my class listening to my teacher’s lecture. He told us about magnificent Andalusia, Spanish region that was once conquered by Muslim rulers. Cordoba, the capital of Andalusian caliphate, became center of civilisation during Islamic golden age. It was the place where all greatest minds gathered, knowledge was developed and wisdom was reaped. It was the residence of famous Muslim scholars like Ibn Rusyd (Averroes), al Qurtubi and Ibn Arabi. It was, in short, the proof of glory of Muslim medieval civilisation.
At that time, my little mind was so fascinated by the story that it became a lifetime dream to visit Andalusia. However, when I actually reach the sacred city eleven years later, I knew that my mind has evolved. By the time I finish this journey, I no longer view Cordoba only as ‘the lost treasure’ of Muslim. It is, afterall, a living witness of how multiple civilisations clashed and tried to defeat each others.
Mezquita-Catedral de Cordoba is the prominent icon of this city. Originally built as Catholic church, it was turned into a mosque in 8th century when Muslim caliphate conquered the region. When Christian kingdom reconquested the city, the building changed back into cathedral. Thus, today it uniquely becomes a kind of ‘sandwich’ architecture; Christian decorations are stacked upon Muslims ornaments and so forth. In one side, you can still see a beautiful Mihrab that shows direction of Mecca where the Imam used to lead the pray, but on another side you can see a fully functional chapel with its mass preparation. Christ sculptures are everywhere but indeed you walk through the mosque pillars once used as praying rows. The church tower was once a mosque minaret but now is occupied with huge bell.
Seeing through those intertwined ornaments, it becomes clear that this building reflects how religion was used as a symbol of power. Still, isn’t it so beautiful to see how different cultures blend together?
Lely and I spent two nights in Cordoba. We stayed in a nice backpacker hostel where we met Gul Yoo, a funny Korean guy who lives in Russia and was in the middle of his one-year-travel-around-the-world. He was a keen fan of Renaissance art and told us bunch of interesting stories (and suggestions) about our next destination: Italy. Unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to walk around Cordoba together but still we manage to keep contact via Facebook. I think the best part of doing (semi) backpacking trip is that you always end up with new friends after 😉
Apart from Mezquita-Cathedral, another must-visit spot in Cordoba is of course the Old Town! It just feels amazing to stroll around those medieval buildings with its exotic corridors. Wander around. Get lost in the maze. For every entrance always lead you to another unexpected exit point. For every narrow street always surprise you with enchanting building in. And one typical charasteristic of this place is that that you can find ‘hanging flower pots’ arranged symmetrically on almost every wall of the buildings, especially the garden. Oh I really love the sensation of getting lost in Cordoba Old Town!
Another beautiful spot in Cordoba is Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos. It is basically a palace for Christian king who visit Cordoba. I like the wonderful gardens and flowers and ponds and how we can spend the day taking pictures from any angles here 😉
Also, do not forget to enjoy the Roman Bridge of Cordoba. The twilight (and night) scenery was just unforgettable! The bridge was always busy; it somehow connects the old town with the new city of Cordoba. From this point you can see Mezquita-Cathedral, Guadalquivir river, and Calahorra Tower all in one scene.
Not only church and mosque, Cordoba also has a Jewish synagogue, which is one of the only three synagogues left thorough Spain. Not many things left in this small synagogue but still it’s interesting to see that this city has a trace of three religions. At a glance it may look like a miniature of Jerussalem; a holy place for Abrahamic religions with their intertwined history.
Afterall, Cordoba might be the witness of some religious wars in the past, but still it maintains religious diversity in harmony. As written in the small handbook I got in Calahorra:
“Oh my Christ/ who welcomes Christian, Jew and Moor/ provided their faith/ is directed towards God”
“Let the Moors (Muslims) live among the Christians while preserving their own faith and not insulting ours.”
(Alfonso X, The Wise)
“My heart has become capable of every form/ It is a pasture for gazelles/ And a convent for Christian monks/ And a temple for idols and the pilgrim’s Kaaba/ And the tables of the Torah, and the book of the Koran/ I follow the religion of love/ Whatever way love’s camels take/ That is my religion and my faith”
*) This post is part of my Euro Trip series. Cordoba, 6-8 September 2015.