España en el Temprano 2011 — el Tercer Día, Parte Dos: Moros y Cristianos

If you thought this was going to be a write up of a tasty dish of black beans and white rice, I am sorry to disappoint you (but good on you for your knowledge of Spanish-language peasant food!). This post really is about Moors and Christians in Córdoba.

After arriving via the snazztastic Spanish rail system, we consulted our trusty Frommer’s book for how to get from Córdoba Central to the town’s main attraction: the Mezquita — a UNESCO World Heritage site which has flip-flopped over the last fifteen hundred years between various religions.

The book said to get on a number 3 (or was it 5?) bus from the main train station toward the old city. It doesn’t say where to get off, so we consulted the schematics and maps at the bus stop and picked a stop we thought would put us near the Jewish Quarter (where we planned to seek out an almuerzo and visit the church/mosque/church. But, future visitors to Córdoba and toters of Frommer’s books — please, please don’t take a bus from the main train station. It’s a waste of your time. Just walk it. We spent about an hour on the bus making a huge loop around and through the modern areas of the city, up and down river banks, and it was a colossal waste of time. We gave up eventually and got off the bus when we figured we were pretty close to the old city wall (we guessed correctly) and relied on our (in this case) much trustier Navigon GPS gadget instead. Within 5 minutes we were drooling over the options at Joe’s House in the Jewish Quarter. We found out later we could have skipped the hour bus ride and done a 15-20 minute amble instead.

So, what is the Mezquita? That’s not easy to answer. Paraphrasing Wikipedia here, it was a pagan place of worship, then a Visigoth church, then a mosque as the Moors took over Andalusia, and then a Cathedral again, thanks to the Reconquista. But apparently no one could bare to completely eradicate the craftsmanship and artistry of his predecessor, so there are a lot of elements going on here, sometimes layered on top of each other.

The most striking design aspect here was obviously the prominence of the arches. I was surprised to find that all manner of photography is apparently OK here. I used my flash and tripod, trying to get the best shots. Maybe they knew that it would be (mostly) fruitless.

But there was more to it than that. The Escher-esque reptition (or is Escher’s work rather Moorish instead?) and level of detail in every dimension was astounding.

And still, despite all the Moorish design, there was plenty of grandiose Catholicism, just like you want in your European cathedral. It was quite an experience, and one not to be missed if you’re in the area. Especially if you’ve got Euro-Church Burnout Syndrome (ECBOS), the Mezquita and Córdoba’s old walled city are a great side trip from Seville.