One positive thing came out of the nearly 7 hours we spent in the Renfe train station in Barcelona trying to get someone, anyone, to know what to do with the discounted train passes we had purchased online before our trip. That one positive thing was that once we finally reached a manager, and rudely interrupted him planning a vacation for himself in Malta, he became very invested in our journey in Spain.
As with nearly all Spaniards he spoke with great passion and love for his home city, Cordoba, and insisted that we see it. We explained that we didn’t have a schedule that would accommodate a night in Cordoba. No problem! He said that when we went from Seville to Madrid we could stop at Cordoba, tour it for several hours and then get onto another train to finish our trip to Madrid.
We worried that we would not have anywhere to leave our luggage in the rail station in Cordoba. No problem! Our new trip planner called his counterpart in Cordoba and arranged for us to leave our luggage in the man’s office while we went to town. He even wrote a letter authorizing this and put a very official looking stamp on it. OK, we were exhausted and ready to agree to anything and it sounded feasible.
You could easily do this as a day trip on a train from Seville or from Madrid and it’s really worth it. Why? Because it has history that you can enjoy without actually having to learn anything, beautiful places to see, some interesting shopping and a good restaurant where you can have lunch.
We took a cab from the train station to the historic center of Cordoba which is itself a Unesco World Heritage site. Regardless of your religious beliefs (or lack thereof ) the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba should not be missed. This place has had more reinventions than Joan Rivers has had cosmetic surgery procedures! It was first a pagan temple, then a Visigothic Christian church in the year 600, then a mosque and finally a Roman Catholic church since 1236. Although they appear to have settled with the Catholic decision the architecture is very Islamic. The most striking feature of it is the 856 columns of jasper, onyx, marble, and granite.
We easily acquired tickets (8 euros apiece) at the sales window near the cathedral. To see prices, hours, etc. click here.
After getting our fill of architecture and often confounding (to us anyway) religious displays we returned our audio guides (which weren’t all that great, you may want to skip renting them). We asked the woman who rented the guides for a lunch suggestion and she and a colleague enthusiastically mentioned the Bodegas Mezquita. It turned out to be an excellent and very affordable place for lunch as well as having free wi-fi which is by no means common in Spain. When we looked it up later on TripAdvisor we saw that it was rated #8 out of 358 restaurants in Cordoba. (How there could possibly be that many restaurants in that town is astounding.)
Once fueled and rehydrated (it was 97F the day we were there in early August) we set out for the Roman Bridge. It was built in the early 1st century BC and crosses the Guadalquivir river. The bridge has been restored many times, most recently in 2006. You can walk across it – for free!! – and if you do it on the kind of day we did, well you’re an idiot too!
An important part of the continuing confusion of Cordoba’s religious history is the Alcazar Fortress of the Christian Monarchs. Why is this confusing? Well for one thing the architecture is Arabic, including a Gothic mosque. Umm …….. what was that part about “Christian” monarchs? Apparently there’s been a change of ownership somewhere along the way. We couldn’t get the condo documents so, per a crumpled brochure, it was “an Arab fortress, then a home for Christian royalty, then Holy Offices, then a civil prison then a military prison”. Wow – talk about plummeting property values! Who let the dogs out?
Despite its sketchy past it’s in remarkable condition (somewhat like Blonde) and either has beautiful gardens or our impending heat strokes made them look good. We’re like Fox News and their slogan “We report. You decide”.
By the time we left the gardens Blonde had a bizarrely red face and was disoriented (no alcohol had been involved or this would have been ordinary) and Brunette was feeling parched and oddly not sweaty. (Not that she’s usually sweaty. This medical reporting is really beyond our skill levels.)
So we went to the nearby tourism office to find out where we could seek some hydration and shade but, as was true in the vast majority of our efforts to use tourism agencies in Spain, they were closed for siesta!
We bumbled up to the one awake and entrepreneurial chap in Cordoba and bought out his supply of water. Here is our (free of charge) instruction manual on ways to combat heat stroke.
Once cooled down(ish) we bravely persevered to go back and buy some Arabic column mirrors in a shop in town. There were several nice shops (and lots of junky ones too) and this place had gotten its tentacles in us earlier in the day.
We tried to go see the often mentioned “secret patios” in the Jewish Quarter but were told they are closed. We left unsure as to whether they’re closed as in forever or as in for the summer. We were disappointed but wandered a few of the pretty streets in the area anyway.
That was enough of Cordoba for us, given the temperatures, so we got a cab back to the train station. We had hoped to get something to eat and look in a cute shop in the station before we went to Madrid – but – here it comes! – they were closed for siesta!
We retrieved our luggage from the manager’s office, switched to an earlier train (a transaction conducted by the slowest moving, most resentful, eye-contact-avoiding government employee in existence) and were soon at our next destination, Madrid.
And then another adventure began – one that involved setting off alarms, farting turtles (Editor’s note: Blonde and Brunette did not themselves fart turtles, they were in close contact with a turtle who was farting) and (unrequited) pool-boy-lust so stay tuned to this channel!