Prior to my first visit to Andalusia, I must admit that I had no expectations on what I would find in this part of the world. When I first visited Alejandro in Sevilla back in 2004, I noticed that there is a quite distinct national identity. When I returned in 2007, I wanted to take in more of Andalusia’s rich history by visiting as much as I could in two weeks. Once you get there, you will realize this is easier said than done.
Cordoba was among the first cities in my “to do” list. Honestly, I knew nothing of its history before arriving, which in many ways adds to the surprise or disappointment in other cases. Say for example, not preparing to visit inner cities in Detroit can be an adventure, but you may not survive to tell the story. Cordoba is a name that is ever-present in Latin America with streets and cities named after this settlement. In Argentina, Cordoba is the second largest city after Buenos Aires.
When driving into town on the A-4 highway, you feel as if you took a wrong turn on the road and ended up somewhere in the Middle East or Northern Africa. The countryside definitely contributes to this sense of having a broken compass. The city seems to struggle with an identity crisis much like a third culture kid, having gone from being part of the Roman Empire, succumbing to the Moorish invasion becoming the Caliphate of Cordoba and eventually falling under new administration when the Spanish reconquered the Iberian Peninsula.
The predominant building in the skyline is the gargantuan cathedral of Cordoba, which has preserved its Moorish / Arabic architecture. It is truly stunning. The King of Spain was in awe of the perfectionism demonstrated by its previous tenants in erecting and decorating the building. He then decreed that the Catholic Church and the Spanish occupants leave everything exactly as it was when they found it – a little too late as there had already been figurines and portraits of Saints plastered on the wall. The gardens and fountains really make your thoughts travel to distant times.
This city provides even to a novice visitor and history enthusiast, a chance to discover three worlds. Italic ruins and bridges stand as proof that the Romans once settled the foundation of this town. Old constructions, building layouts and arches remind us of the glory of the Moorish empire and their advances in architecture. The Spanish have preserved much of the architecture, adding special touches of their own including a floating statue on the Guadalquivir, adding significant confusion when trying to crunch Spain into a national stereotype. Enjoy the visit!