Sunday, 8 December 2013

Córdoba (& Madrid Part III), Spain: Andalusia

After my third visit to Vigo I was on a 6 hour drive to Madrid in a mini van with Carlos, a Colombian, and being followed by Miguel, a well dressed Spanish guy in a BMW. I was wondering what we were carrying in the mini van and what I could get in trouble for but I didn't voice my attempt at a joke in case it was true. I arrived in Madrid after midnight, again with no accommodation. I walked to my old hostel, grabbed a room, found a morning ride to Córdoba and squeezed in a few hours sleep. After a car ride with a crazy driving young Spanish couple I was 1000km away from Vigo in the very famous city of Córdoba.

Córdoba is a city with a massive history. In the early stages of Roman Spain (Hispania) it was one of 2 capital cities, the other being Mérida (visited in a previous blog post). Córdoba remained an important city during Visgothic Spain and became the capital of Muslim Spain (Al-Andalus). During the peak of Muslim rule Córdoba was believed to be the most populated city and one of the most advanced cities in the world. Córdoba lost its prominence after the death of a Muslim ruler lead to different Muslim factions from other cities battling for power. This in-fighting resulted in the continued decline of Córdoba and the beginning of the end for Muslim Spain.

I also had no accommodation lined up in Córdoba. I walked into a pension that also had dorms that were fully booked and only had private rooms left. I picked up my bags and began to walk out when I heard "I will give it to you for 15 Euro", a private room with ensuite for 15 Euro... Done Deal! After settling into my room I was off to experience the real Spanish tapas of Andalusia (South of Spain, the origin of tapas). Most bars will charge 1.50-2.00 Euro for a beer and a tapa.

The next day (Friday) was a Spanish national holiday and the whole city was booked out so I dumped my gear in a luggage locker and hoped my accommodation problem would once again sort itself out while I spent a day exploring the city. Almost everyone I had met or stayed with in Spain told me that Córdoba was a must see city so for the first time on my trip I actually had expectations. It really is a city packed with historic monuments, however, it is also packed with tourists.

One of the still intact city walls

Entrance to the square in front of the Cathedral inside a Mosque. 

Plaza Mayor

Roman Ruins

Interesting Statue

I actually didn't take a photo of the most famous view of the city, the Roman Bridge with the Mosque/Cathedral in the background... If the Mosque wasn't converted into a Cathedral hundreds of years ago it would currently be the third biggest mosque in the world and the largest in the western world. Impressive considering it is over 1000 years old.

My accommodation problem didn't sort itself out. I collected my luggage and just started walking into pensions and hostels. It gave me a chance to practice my Spanish and I hoped I would get lucky with a cancellation. After 2 hours walking passed many places with signs saying no availability and and walking into about 10 to be told the same I finally found a room for 40 Euro... It was a nice room!

The next day I decided to leave Córdoba for Granada via Bla Bla Car with 3 young Spanish guys off to a Pendulum concert. So the first city I had expectations of was the first city I really wanted to leave and probably not coincidentally the first city in 5 months of travelling where I didn't properly meet anyone (except for the 3 locals I shared a ride to Granada with)... It is a very beautiful city and I think if I visited during the week, away from public holidays I would have really enjoyed it.

Lessons Learnt:
Plan ahead around major holidays and festivals.
I prefer nature over man made monuments.
People can make or break an experience.
When hundreds of people are taking the exact same photo I prefer to keep my camera in its bag.

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