Wednesday, August 10, 2022

The Treasures of Cordoba

Due to its importance as the highest navigable point on the River Guadalquivir, Cordoba became a city of great importance. Founded by the Romans, the city boasts a rich historical and cultural heritage. It was the birthplace of three famous philosophers – the Roman Stoic Seneca, the Muslim Averroes, and the Jewish Maimonides – as well as the Roman poet Lucan and several modern flamenco artists including Paco Peña, Vicente Amigo and Joaquín Cortés.

The Muslims started constructing the World famous Mezquita over 1200 years ago, it was converted into a cathedral in the 14th century and today it is an active church and a major tourist attraction.To the west of the Mezquita’s towering walls, lies the old Jewish quarter, widely regarded as being the heart of Cordoba. A stroll around this area gives an impression of moving through history. With a little imagination, it wouldn’t be difficult to envisage yourself back in the 10th century, when Cordoba was one of the world’s greatest cities. Silversmiths still ply their trade in cobbled streets that are too narrow to allow access for cars. Once the capital of Spain, the city is now a World Heritage Site, as declared by UNESCO in 1984.

The Alcazar, built in 1328 by the Christians, is another one of the city’s riches. The gardens here are particularly impressive, and though originating from the rule of the Christian Kings, the ponds and fountains belie their Moorish influences. The Episcopal Palace sits on a site once occupied by a Muslim Alacazar. The building was reformed during the Baroque period, and was recently adopted as the home of the Diocesan Museum. Close to the museum, lies the Exhibition Palace, which once housed the Church of San Jacinto and the Hospital of San Sebastian. The impressive construction features a portico that glitters amongst Cordoba’s Gothic jewels.

The ruins of Medina-Azahara lie 8 kilometres from the city. Originally built by the caliph Abdul Rahman as a new residential town, this site was once the largest town in the region. It took 10,000 workers, 25 years to construct, using 4,300 columns from older buildings round the Mediterranean. The Alcazar Califal stood high above the administrative district, with parks and gardens. The town itself was positioned on flat land. History tells us of the extraordinary beauty of the Throne Hall and the Golden Salon, both rich with ebony, ivory, marble, gold and precious stones. In the centre was a bowl filled with mercury, designed to reflect the rays of the sun. Sadly, this monumental structure survived a mere 74 years, before it was conquered by the Berberes and stripped of its artwork, much of which reappeared in the palaces of Cordoba. The Medina-Azahara was almost forgotten, but in 1910, archaeologists began to excavate the site.

Over 2,000 years of history are held with in this city. Different cultures and religions – Jews, Muslims and Christians lived peacefully together, with many important philosophers, scientists and artists living in the city over the years. Cordoba’s cultural background provides  Okinawa Flat Belly Tonic  one of the most interesting destinations in Europe. Its great monuments, and of course the world-famous Mezquita, the Moorish mosque and museums are a delight to visit. In the 11th century Cordoba was the capital of the western world, it has been estimated that in the tenth century it had up to 500,000 inhabitants, making it the largest city in Europe and even in the world.

The city has occasionally had the highest maximum temperatures in Europe, exceeding 40 °C in the summer months. Rain is generated by storms from the west that occur more often in December through February, typical of Mediterranean climates.

Road links to the city are excellent, though parking can sometimes prove difficult as in any large city. The problem is exacerbated by the nature of the old city. The AVE high speed train connects the city to Madrid and Seville, making it a viable day trip destination. From Madrid the train ride is about one and one half hours (one way).

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