A Day In Córdoba

The Roman bridge of Córdoba on a gloomy winter day. As its name suggests, the bridge was originally built by the Romans. 

I wish I were a happy traveler. You know, someone who doesn’t sweat the small stuff and thus manages to enjoy himself no matter what. Psychologically speaking, I’m nowhere near that zen state of mind yet, but the good news is I have been actively working on it. Whenever plans go awry, I try to remind myself that I’m actually very, very lucky to be in that place at that moment.

Practicing gratitude allowed me to enjoy my visit to Cordoba a lot more than I could have otherwise.

Cordoba is one of the medium-sized cities in the Andalusia region in the south of Spain. It’s now the capital of the province of Cordoba, but going back thousands of years it was the capital of a Roman province, the capital of an Arab State (Al-Andalus) and a Caliphate. Coupled the fascinating history with the fact that it lies between Granada, where I had been spending the first two days of my time in the region, and Seville- my last destination in Spain, I asked myself why not a quick jaunt. The day I left Granada for Cordoba was exactly how it had been on my arrival, cold and drizzling and depressing. Oh Granada and your climatic sense of humor.

The bus trip from Granada to Cordoba was quick and uneventful, but the one from the bus station to my hostel was a different story. What should have been a 15-minute ride ended up taking almost an hour because I told the bus driver to inform me when we got to the very last stop instead of the seventh stop. It wasn’t until I no longer saw any hotel or restaurant but barren, leafless trees, run-down apartment buildings and highways that I began to sense something was not right. After a brief exchange with the bus driver who barely spoke any English but was very good at giving scolding looks that screamed “I knew it. Why in the hell would this Asian kid go to that area of town?”, I learned that I’d stay on the bus until the last stop and wait for it to turn around. My heart sank a little.

It must have been starvation rather than carelessness that led me to that transportation misadventure. I’d be lying to you if I said that the “oh I hate Cordoba” thought didn’t pop up in my mind because it really did. But I quickly calmed down and convinced myself that few if any visitor would get to do this “free tour” and see the real and raw Cordoba. The one that doesn’t include magnificent churches, vivid walls, flower-filled patios and inviting bars and restaurants.

Starvation had to be cured quickly before my brain continued to malfunction, so I went straight to Bar Rafalete after checking in. “Excellent” was how the hostel receptionist described the restaurant, but my lunch turned out to leave a lot to be desired. The real problem, however, was the way I was served shoved the food. No smile, no “thank you” back. I really didn’t want to believe that the waiter hated me so later that evening I googled restaurant services in Spain (yes, that’s who I am) and learned that bad services are not that unusual in Spain. Waiters there don’t live on tips like their counterparts in the States do. The knowledge surely made me feel better.

Ensalada Col al Ajillo or cabbage salad. 2.5 euros and too salty.  

Gambas al Ajillo or shrimp in some kind of sauce. 8 euros and eerily similar in look and taste to a dish we have here in Vietnam. 

The brightest spot of my short 24-hour stay in town was without a doubt the visit to the Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba, also known as Mezquita. It was originally built as a mosque in the 8th century, but was turned into a Christian cathedral later. The moment I stepped inside this impressive structure, all my doubts about whether I had made the wrong choice of squeezing Cordoba in my itinerary was dispelled. It also didn’t hurt that visitors were sparse, which allowed me to absorb every corner and detail undisturbed.

The intricate outside wall of the Mezquita. 

Some of the 856 columns inside the Mezquita. 

The excruciatingly stunning Prayer Hall.

The artificial light adds such a lovely warmness to the hall. 

A close-up of the terracotta and white-striped arches.

It isn’t an European church without some insanely intricate vaulted ceiling. 

…and spectacular dome.

Stained glass window is pretty essential too. 

In terms of general architecture, Cordoba pales in comparison to that of Granada and Seville at least in vibrancy. Or you might say I just picked the wrong time of the year to visit Cordoba.

But the city itself has no shortage of oranges. Ours for the taking or not, I’m not quite sure. 

Personally, I really love this photo because it perfectly epitomizes what capturing a moment is all about. What if I had been one second earlier or later?

 I should have gone for oranges as afternoon snack, but I couldn’t because this empanadas was too tempting.  [Read more…]