Córdoba and its famous old town
Córdoba, today a city of more than 300.000 inhabitants, is still very marked in its appearance by the time of the Moorish influence and at the same time, it is the city where also a Jewish culture lived. From these periods the Mezquita Cathedral still remains, the very impressive and former mosque as also the Juderia, the Jewish quarter. The old town centre, one of the biggest Spanish cities, is simply enchanting and one has to have walked through the narrow alleyways with a vivid life.
If one can influence the travel route, one should try not to be on a Monday in Córdoba. From Sunday afternoon up to Tuesday morning, many of the sightseeings of Córdoba are closed.
Impressive cathedral Mezquita Catedral
If somebody asked us what is the most impressive sightseeing of Andalusia, we would have doubts if we should name the Alhambra of Granada or the Mezquita Catedral of Córdoba. Both buildings are of a kind that inevitably cast a spell over the visitor and where the visitor can only gaze at the performance of the builders; What these builders achieved approximately 1230 years ago, cannot be appreciated sufficiently.
The Moors, who also created numerous other significant buildings in Andalusia, began in the year 785 to build the Mezquita on the foundation walls of a Visigothic church that developed to the third biggest mosque of the world and the biggest of Europe. Over many centuries it has been continuously expanded and beautified. This building seems to have also impressed the christians, as after the conquer of Córdoba, they left the building in its original state. Only some slight modifications were allowed.
Then, in the year 1523, the bishop Alonso Manrique decided to found a cathedral amidst the Islamic prayer hall. With the consent of the Emperor Charles V., the rebuilding began against the veto of the city council of Córdoba. But it is also said that Charles V. regret his approval for this project when he saw the result of these works. Also the minaret of the former mosque was rebuilt to a bell tower in baroque style.
With a base area of approximately 179m and a width of 134m, today, the Mezquita Catedral is one of the biggest sacred buildings on earth that attracts countless tourists every year.
Those who step from the sun-drenched court into the twilight of the dim building will find themselves in a fairytale world that many times reminds on The Arabian Nights. Specially the Muslime prayer hall with 793 columns carrying the archs made of red and white arch bricks are an unforgettable experience for the viewer who will admire this splendor for a long time; Amidst this Arabian world, one suddenly stands in the christian world that is the cathedral with its style mix of Gothic and Renaissance.
If this modification is to be considered as a break in style and a foreign object or if these different arrangements within a building are perceived as an interesting experience, is up to the viewer. We found it a pitty that "a gap was made" in such a massive hall with its unique column-scape, but on the other hand, it also was vey educational to find the symbols and styles of two religions in one building.
A further highlight of the Mezquita Catedral is the Mihrab, a gorgeous praying niche of the 10th century. It is a arquitectural masterpiece in which the craftsmen of that time could proove their high artistic skills. A gorgeous blossom-shaped cupola and adornments in the form of mosaics and inscriptions make the Mihrab to a unique piece of art. It is located in front of the entrance, is turned against the mecca and accommodated the Koran.
Numerous smaller chapels and prayer rooms round the impressive appearance. Those who want to view the Mezquita Catedral should not forget to plan enough time, as once one is immersed in this enchanting world it is hard to tear oneself from it. By standing again outside the building, one is really amazed of the glory that is kept inside. From the exterior, the Mezquita Catedral appears much simplier. It is in any case an impressive building, but the real "treasures" are inside.
The first thing that catches ones eye is already the 60 m heighted bell tower from a distance that was originated by the former minaret. It is crowned by the statue of the archangel that is the patron saint of Córdoba. The whole building complex is surrounded by a massive wall heighted 9-20 m that is crowned by some battlements. All this is loosened by some Arabian decoration elements, ornaments and inscriptions as also some red and white horseshoe archs. The courtyard with water basins and shady trees is surrounded by arcades.
Alcázar de los Reyes Chistianos
The Alcázar of Córdoba, or better said, the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos, is one of the most significant buildings of the city. But it is also one of the few buildings of which the biggest part has not been taken by the moorish but was built to a large degree by the King Alfons XI. Only a small section is orginated by the moorish era.
From the year 1328, the extension of the fortification with the massive walls and towers began. The background story of this was that during the times of war against Granada, the Alcázar that was the last Moorish bastion in Andalusia, served the royals as residence. Therefore, a fortified complex was of course needed. Thereby, the Moorish buildings and complexes were not treated with kid gloves. By this way, a moorish bucket-wheel that was positioned in front of the gates of the Alcázar was demolished because it disturbed the sleep of the Catholic Queen Isabel.
After the conquest of Granada and the definite expulsion of the Moors from Andalusia, the Alcázar of Córdoba los its status as a residence and for some centuries, it became the seat of the catholic inquisition. From the year 1821, its rooms behind the massive walls served as a prison. Today, these times are over and the Alcázar serves for more peaceful purposes as a visitors' magnet and sightseeing for the tourists.
Three of the towers still exist today, Torre del Rio, Torre del Homenaje and Torre de los Leones. What is also interesting is the Campo de los Mártires, the place of the martyrs. Supposedely, here, in front of the main building of the Alcázar there was a place of execution for christians. At the same time, the Alcázar also serves as a museum where numerous archeologic findings are exhibited, under which there are also some of the Roman times.
But the most beautiful and interesting of the complex are surely the gardens that in July and August are opened up to 08.00 p.m., independently of the rest of the complex. Those who need some rest and love the nature will perfectly relax amidst the garden complexes and water basins. I would also like to mention the monument of the philosoph Averroes that is standing in front of the Moorish walls of the Alcázar.
Juderia, the Jewish quarter
The old town of Córdoba is clear and it is posible to explore it on foot. A big part of the old town takes the Juderia, the old Jewish quarter; Right at the north side of the Mezquita Catedral, this maze consisting on small and white painted houses with their patios standing at some extremely narrow and labyrinthine alleyways. Every now and then, these alleyways expand to a small plaza.
We walked enthusiastically through the alleyways, as there is repeatedely something interesting to see and the flair of this city district cannot be overtopped. One is not alone here, the bustling of the alleyways reminds on the crowds of a big event; Everywhere where a small corner is free, there is a restaurant or a coffee bar and the souvenir shops are also not missing. The cleanliness of this place is impresssive.
In the west, the Juderia is concluded by the remainings of an old city wall that surrounded the Jewish ghetto. There is also the synagoge. This medieval building is one of the total of three conserved synagoges in Spain from these times. The two other ones are located in Toledo. Those who are interested in the Jewish religion will find here some outstanding details as for example hewbrew scrolls with the Jewish calendar. But this building is also worthwhile seeing for those less interested in religion.
At the southern part of the wall, at the Plaza Maimónides that is named after an important Jewish scholar, the Museo Taurino is standing. In this museum, one can get an idea of the bullfighting. It is not the only bullfighting museum of Spain and specially in Andalusia, but it is also quite interesting for those who normaly are not fans of such events.
The rests of the old city walls are also a good place to have a liitle rest. A small complex with water basins at the wall invite to this. An interesting detail is also the monument of Seneca. Lucius Annaeus Seneca, the philosoph and poet born in Córdoba, was the educator of the Roman King Nero.
Further sightseeings of Córdoba
Very close to the Mezquita Catedral and the Alcázar, an impressive bridge leads over the river Guadalquivir, the Puente Romano. As the name already makes one guess, this bridge is left from the times of the Roman Kingdom and meanwhile, it is of a respectable age of almost 2000 years. It was built in the year 48 BC in the Roman civil war by Julius Caesar after his victory over the consul of Pompei.
But in order to be correct there is to say that the fundaments are from the Roman times on which then the Moors built the 223 m long bridge. The building that is sustained on 16 archs, is still today a visual example of the admirable arquitecture of that time. We can only recommend everybody to get to this bridge while visitng Córdoba, as from here, one has very beautiful views to the Mezquita Catedral and the historical old town.
The bridge was recently restored and thereby, it appears double as interesting with its bright stones. A very special sigh is the bridge that is illuminated at night. We were again there at the "Blue hour" when the lamps were already on and the impressive and illuminated building outstood from the blue evening sky.
At the other end of the Puente Romano at the front shore, there is another restored building, the Torre de la Calahorra. This imposing fortification tower was built in the year 1369 by Heinrich II. It is already very outstanding from the exterior, but it can be also viewed from the interior, as in the tower, the Museo vivo de Al-Andalus is accommodated. It is a very small but vivid museum, in which one can learn a lot of the Moorish Andalusia. That ranges from the knowledge and the arts of the Moorish concerning the medicine, astronomy, irrigation techniques and geography to music and arquitecture up to significant personalities. The roof of the tower is a special treat that provides an impressive panoramic view.
More recommendable museums are the Museo Arqueológico, the arqueologic museum and the Museo Provincial de Bellas Artes. Also the rest of the old town that does not belong to the Juderia is worthwhile to visit. Small plazas, interesting buildings and a series of beautiful palaces offer continuously new impressions to the eye, and of course, here are also churches everywhere that are gorgeously arranged.
Staying over night in the Hotel Palacete de Mirador
Translated, the meaning of the Hotel Palacete Mirador is "the small castle with a view". It is a true name, as the hotel is located on a mountain at a distance of approximately 5 km outside the city centre of Córdoba and one has a very good view to the city. The Palacete Mirador really reminds on a small castle. A main and an adjoining building, built in the year 1850, offer an accommodation in a total of 57 rooms. Therefrom, 45 are double rooms and 12 single rooms.
If arriving to the hotel by car, the first outstanding thing are the generous parking places. Two wide extended places offer the parking of the car for free. Thus, nobody should have any problem with the parking here. A big lobby provides the first positive impression of the hotel. This first impression is not deceiving, as a friendly and helpful personnel and good service was the general standard during our stay.
We were really happy with our room. It was pleasantly spacious, simply but well and functionally furnished and the view to the surroundings was enchanting. It certainly did not have any air conditioning but we did not miss it at least during our visit in October. The room was equipped with a radio/TV, telephone, heating and a safe. The bathroom with a bath tube was also very spacious, there was hot water (a thing that not everywhere a matter of course) and we found some soap, towels and bath robes as also toothbrush glasses.
The hotel has a large swimming pool with deck chairs and parasols. Those who want can also make use of the sauna, visit the bar or the discotheque. The restaurant of the hotel is generus, with a nice atmosphere and a dream view to the city through the panoramic window. On middays, one can choose here ones menue, dine a la carte in the evenings and in the mornings it is the breakfast room for the breakfast that is included in the price that is very good and abundant. At the buffet, one can get ones desired food and get as much coffee, tea, milk or hot chocolate at the machine as wanted.
A a distance of approximately 350 m from the hotel there is a bus stop of the public transport. Up to the historical city centre it is a little much too far to walk. But in this case we did use our rented car, as one does not have to drive through this maze of alleyways of the old town as it was the case in other cities. On relatively comfortable main roads, one gets to a large central plaza that is bordered by the boulevards Avenida República Argentina and Paseo de la Victoria. There, one finds some public places to park the car that are certainly at costs but within the usual price ranges.
Conclusion: We consider the Hotel Palacete Mirador as one of the best of our journey and we can recommend it confidentially.
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Author: Michael Nitzschke; Copyright: Patrick Wagner, www.tourist-guide.biz