Thursday, November 28, 2013


Cordoba is a three or maybe four-day stop.  There isn't enough to see to fill up a week, but that's okay.  One of the things I really like about the way I'm traveling is that I don't feel compelled to rush out and sightsee every day.  I like to think of myself as a traveler, not a tourist.  Some other time, I'll share my views about the difference.

I liked getting lost in Cordoba.  I walked around for about an hour, unable to find any street on my small map (forgot my reading glasses), thinking I was headed for the river which would provide me with an orientation point.  I finally asked someone which direction the river was, and he actually pointed me in the opposite direction!  I'm sure it wasn't intentional.  Another kind gentleman turned me around and I finally reached the place that centered me.  There is an old Roman bridge that leads to The Tower of La Calahorra, which was originally, in Cordoba's Islamic period, a defensive gate of the city.

At the opposite end of this bridge is one of the gates to the old city.

The old city of Cordoba is another World Heritage Site (I've lost count of how many of these I've visited so far), and I love wandering through its narrow streets, some of which are not wide enough for a car and people.  I had to step into a doorway when a car came up behind me on this one.

I walked a bit to find this street, Calle de Las Flores.  I'm sure it's much more beautiful when the flowers are in the bloom of spring or summer.

In the Jewish Quarter, I found a different version of this in greenery.

There is some beautiful architecture here, too.

All these buildings were bordering one of the larger placas in the city.

And it seems that a ride around town by horse and carriage is popular in many countries.

I would love to explore the city of one of these.  I saw them somewhere else--I think in southern France--and it seems like a safer way to get around than a motorcycle.

I did some windowshopping, which is all I do because there is no room for anything else in my suitcases.  I couldn't imagine wearing this, even in my youth.

I visited Cordoba's Museum of Fine Arts, and the very nice gentleman at the ticket booth waved me through.  The price of admission was only 1.5 euro, but I still appreciated the "freebie".  I didn't have the same luck when I crossed the courtyard to the adjoining museum which was totally devoted to the work of Julio Romero de Torres, a 19th century artist of Cordoba.  His work was actually quite interesting;  he was fascinated with the flamenco--the singers and the dancers--and his work often included scenes of Cordoba in the background of his paintings of people.  His daughter, Amelia, appears in a number of his works--here she is the young woman reclining on the floor.

I have seen some churches, but I haven't gone into any except the Mezquita.  I would have checked out this small one, but it was locked.

I passed by another original city portal, but this one was definitely not as attractive as the one by the river.

And, of course, I've eaten lots of tapas.  My favorites so far are salmorejos--a creamy, thick and cold tomato soup made of a puree of bread and tomatoes, flavored with olive oil, vinegar, and garlic, and typically garnished with bits of serrano ham and hard boiled eggs.  It's really delicious, and when I have access to a blender, I'm going to experiment.

Another favorite is Berenjenas Fritas con Miel de Cana--eggplant, lightly battered and fried and then drizzled with light molasses or honey.  Yum!   What a perfectly decadent way to enjoy a vegetable that I've never really liked.

There's a tapas competition going on this week in Cordoba, so I've been having a tapa here and there, sampling some of the entries from the 42 tapas bars who have entered the contest.  I had salmorejos at the tapas bar that won 1st place last year with this signature soup of Cordoba.  It was delicious and garnished a bit differently with matchstick pieces of apple, cubes of Amontillado (sherry) jelly and sesame seeds.  It was definitely a winner.  I tried one of their entries for this year's competition, sticks of deep fried cod with a dipping sauce of pureed asparagus layered over another puree of red pepper and spices.  It was delicious also.

Okay, now I'm hungry.  


Besides the fact that it's my favorite meal, Thanksgiving is also my favorite holiday.  There isn't the shopping frenzy that has turned Christmas into a commercial nightmare.  There isn't the guilt about not going to church associated with Easter and Christmas. There aren't the fireworks associated with Independence Day (which I actually like, but fighting the crowds in downtown Detroit to get a good viewing spot is not fun).  You just get to eat good food and enjoy the company of family and friends.  What's not to like about that?

Last year I spent Thanksgiving with Tina and Donato, my Italian friends in Puglia, and cooked a traditional holiday meal for them and some of their relatives. It was wonderful to share my favorite holiday with new friends.  This year, I am alone on Thanksgiving Day for the first time.  It's not been my good fortune to make friends with any native Spainards.  

Each year, one of the things I do is remind myself of all the blessings of my life.  So, in my solitude, I share them here so that I can feel some connection with my friends and family.

First, I'm grateful to be 67 and have a parent who is living.  And I'm grateful for my two dear sisters, who are both my good friends.  They have provided me with children to love, and I love all my nieces and nephews and their children as well.

Then, I'm grateful for the many friends in my life, some of whom connect me to my childhood, others to my early adulthood, and still others who mark the years between then and now.  Some are very new friends...those I've met on this sojourn of mine...and having these friends from other countries has enriched my life in ways I never imagined.  And having friends who connect me to my past is a blessing to be treasured and attended.  They remind me who I was and who I have become.

I'm grateful that I had the means and the courage to undertake this adventure.  It has transformed me in ways I never imagined, and I expect I will continue to be affected by living in cultures so different from my own and listening the world views of others.  Not many people can or would do what I'm doing, for lots of reasons--family ties, resources, etc.--but I'm happy that I figured out how to realize this long-time dream of mine with resources much more limited than I expected to have at this time of my life.  

This is my Thanksgiving dinner....scallops of turkey with lemon, lumpy buttered mashed potatoes (all I had for whipping was a fork) and a salad.  I don't usually have hardboilled eggs on hand, but guess what?  In Spain, you can buy eggs that are already boiled for you.  That wasn't my intention.  I would never think to check whether the eggs at the grocery store are cooked or not.  You can imagine my surprise when I tried to crack and fry the first one!  

I'm grateful to have found some turkey in Cordoba, Spain.  My Thanksgiving dinner might not look as appetizing as yours, but just having turkey and mashed potatoes connected me to warm memories of Thanksgivings past--to family and friends who I especially miss on this, my favorite holiday of the year.



It was a Visigoth fortress; it was the palace of the ruling emirs and the hub of the caliphate when Cordoba was the center of the world; it was the home of Christian monarchs, including Queen 
Isabella I and King Ferdinand II who met Christopher Columbus here when he was preparing for his voyage to the Americas.

It is the Alcazar (Fortress) of Cordoba which sits on the banks of the Guadalquivir River.  As you walk through the manicured gardens resplendent with fountains and water pools, it's hard to imagine that this was the location of one of the first permanent tribunals of the Spanish Inquistion, which was maintained here for three centuries.  Napolean's troops were garrisoned here in the early 1800's, and then it became a prison until it was restored to a national monument by the Spanish government in the 1950's.  One wonders--a monument to what?

The gardens are surely much more beautiful in the spring and summer, but their cool lushness was soothing and there was still a touch of color here and there.

There wasn't much statuary, which suprised me, but there were a couple of pieces that were interesting.

I can find no references but I'm guessing this could be Columbus with Isabella and Ferdinand.

The gardeners must spend hours keeping these trees in such immaculate shape.  There were dozens of them throughout these gardens.

And I don't think these trees are so perfectly shaped like mushroom caps without a little help.

I think these trees are left to shape themselves.  Anyone know what kind of tree they might be?  My Australian friend Diane answered my last question about trees.  The funny looking tree in the park at Cadiz is called a bottle tree.

There is nothing inside the fortress that reminds you it was once a palace. The years it served as a center of torture and imprisonment erased any signs of regal splendor.  One of the courtyards looked like an excavation site.

The opposite courtyard was a bit more attractive.

One of the few rooms that had anything in it, but I don't know what it was because there was no signage in English and my Spanish isn't advanced enough to read complicated explanations.

There were two towers, and I climbed up one of them to this rooftop where you could easily imagine its service as a fortress.

Back in the day, there were waterwheels like this that supplied the fortress gardens with water from the river for the multitude of fountains and pools.

Although it is my belief that America was already discovered long before Christopher Columbus sailed, there is a small thrill associated with visiting a place here that is part of the history of my country.  

Monday, November 25, 2013


I've seen churches, temples, cathedrals, and bapstries in my several months of travel, but today I saw a most unusual and remarkable place of worship--the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba, Spain, or the Mezquita, as it's called here.  Andalusia was once an emirate, al-Andalus, from the late 8th until the early 13th century.  The construction of the mosque began in the late 8th century and is the work of three successive Muslim rulers.  After King Ferdinand III of Castille conquered al-Andalus, he converted the mosque into a Catholic Church.  

The combination of Moorish and Christian religious architecture is a sight to behold.  I've never seen anything like it.  These double arches were an innovation in their time, and there seems to be no end to them.  In fact, there are 856 columns in this mosque-cathedral.

There are Christian chapels lining three sides of this vast space, all but a couple of which were locked behind iron gates.

The High Chapel was open to the public.

The seats for the choir are carved mahogany.

This is one of the two organs looming above the choir area.

The shape of the ceiling above the choir area reminded me of the Sistene Chapel.

The mihrab, or apse, of the mosque is still in tact.  The dome is incredibly beautiful.

The mihrab traditionally faces east toward Mecca, but this richly gilded one faces south.  


While Muslim and Christian religious architecture co-exist beautifully in this place of worship, Muslims are prohibited from praying here.  What a pity.

I wandered around this amazing place for an hour and a half, until my fingers started to get numb from the cold.  I leave you with a few more images of my visit.

The courtyard is paved with these little stones--very hard on the sole.

And there were lots of orange trees there.