Google has to be loved.! I know s/he/it knows everything about me, so it should not have been a surprise this morning when Google’s opening page showed me Spain’s greatest Baroque painter Bartolomé Esteban Murillo. I looked at a mass of Murillo’s work in the Prado Museum – just never mentioned them in my blog post. Probably because they didn’t move me a couple of days ago when I visited. The explanation for this inclusion can be read here – so it has nothing to do with my travels. Or does it?
Today started sombrely in mean, sombre, cold, dog-shitted Madrid after a night when the hotel thought it was reasonable to have a floor resurfacing worker ‘clean’ the marble floors with a grinder from ground level up during sleeping time (and they had removed the phone from the room!!!!). Once on the train, and with daylight showing the world, I left that past behind. This was a slower train only maxxing out around 248km/hr; we stopped at two small cities along the way which added interest. I was aware of hundreds of acres of olive trees for most of the way, some plantation pine forests, unimaginable ‘chimneys’ emitting smoke from ground level, soft landscape obliterating fog in the early parts, frost sparkling across the ground (was 2 degrees when I left Madrid) and I imagine it was still zero degrees outside, much flatter and wider landscape undulations than seen in the Barcelona to Madrid train trip, what I would call ‘proper’ hills which had tunnels bored through them for us to pass, brown cows, and white cows (I fantasized that they contrasted beautifully against the green of Andorra’s slopes in summer). I did a double take at one stage when I saw a massive statue on a hill high above an agricultural town– in the frosty hard sunlight the very large Virgin Mary was stoic. Later I saw an even larger man seemingly a soldier of some sort – on a hill. The engineering required to get such beasts standing would have puzzled an ancient Easter Islander, I feel sure.
The sun was shining most of the way and blue skies welcomed me into Cordoba. I quickly found the information office at the small railway station and – would you believe it – the woman smiled. Actually smiled. I realised no-one in Madrid smiled. She supplied me with maps and additional information to make my time here easy. The hotel was almost ‘over the road’ and I enjoyed the amble. It was mighty chilly, but I didn’t wear the possum beanie. I arrived at the hotel hours before check in time, but the wonderful receptionist had a room ready for me on the top floor with magnificent views. And she smiled a lot as well.I am a little concerned about my direction-finding skills which used to be close to impeccable. They were bad in Barcelona, and today I walked for half an hour in the wrong direction (got to enjoy the sun, smell the roses, see grandfathers wheel babies in their prams, and generally appreciate relaxed locals). Found a memorial to the Cordoba men who were rounded up by the Nazis and exterminated in camps during World War II.Then I had the half hour walk back. Then I had the walk of more than half an hour in the direction I was meant to go in. One step at a time, I reminded myself. Breakfast time came and went. Lunch time passed. These avenues are grand walkways with no cafes. Trees and parks. Orange trees everywhere. I mean everywhere. Beautiful.
Fell in love with the laying of stones in walkways. Oh yes – there are Christmas decorations everywhere.
I reached the Puerto de Sevilla (I am not in Seville rather in Cordoba).
Eventually I was outside a medieval wall and I followed it and followed it until I came to an end – the choice was either jump into the empty moat or retrace my steps. Here I am typing this post without broken legs – so clearly, I didn’t jump. I kept finding unorthodox ways around the wall and my endeavours paid off. I came across a goat-herder (talking non-stop on his mobile phone) with a collection of healthy goats wandering along the banks of the Guadalquivir river. I found some stone steps in the wall and made my way up into the old town.
Many historic buildings from different eras edged the road that edged the river. I continued to the Puente Romano and plodded across.
I watched the birds; ducks, blue pigeons, cormorants and two wonderful surprises. A very large white heron and an even larger -mighty large – grey heron. When s/he flew, the wing-span was very wide.
I walked to the other side of the river, to a medieval tower – the Calahorra Tower. The sounds, the music, the carpets, the history, the views all appealed to me. I was startled to learn that in the 900sAD approximately 1 million people lived in Cordoba. I was pleased and fascinated to learn that the Christian King and the Muslim leader at the time both preached working together and supporting each other’s religion. It was very very very impressive.
On the other side is the Mosque Cathedral which I have specially come to Cordoba to see.
Back over the bridge and faced with Puerte del Puente (the bridge gate).I plodded on thinking I had to have food and that I didn’t have the feet to explore the Mosque-Cathedral (the whole reason I came here in the first place). Passed a number of buildings showing Moorish influence on the architecture.I headed in the directions of the Royal Stables because apparently there is a big equestrian event including dressage currently on.But it was closed for the afternoon break when I arrived.
I meandered along cute, clean, pretty, old town streets and found a café. Marvellous.
A bowl of broken green olives arrived with my glass of wine (these had been marinated differently than those I had eaten in Madrid; these were superb). I had to lift pieces from the basket of bread because the waiter brought me a bottle of Granada fresh pressed extra virgin olive oil. I had to try the oil on the finely aerated bread. Its green fresh flavour was brilliant.Enjoyed a cold almond milk soup with raisins and apples and more in it. Extraordinary and I loved it.Then had a piece of impeccably cooked sword fish with a wonderful courgette and tomato sauce and a couple of boiled potatoes. A simple tasty dish of good clean food.I was persuaded to try a typical local postre (dessert); it was a sort of bread that had been dipped in milk and egg and deep fried and soaked in honey and cinnamon. Incredibly soft and melt-in-the-mouth delicious.
With each of these dishes I left most on the plate – either my stomach has shrunk, or the food is too rich. But I was very pleased to have tried them. As a gift they brought a glass of sweet wine for me to drink at the end. You could sense the alcohol evaporating from the glass. It seemed to me to be a type of sherry. Very classy. If you are wondering – no I did not drink it all.
Out into the last of the afternoon sun and back to the Royal Stables. I could look at the museum straight away. I could wait 5 minutes until 5pm then watch the horses being trained, and/or I could return this evening at 8pm for a big show with the horses and music. I told them I’d be back this evening.
With overworked feet and hips, I almost stumbled along the river edge looking for the bus stop that my railway information officer had mentioned. There in the distance was number 3 and people were getting on. I couldn’t run, could just look like I might be trying to run – that was the best I could do. Waving and gesticulating to the driver that I wanted him to wait and let me on. Which he did with a smile (well more a genuine grin – how many times have I had to wait for a middle age woman who doesn’t speak much Spanish hailing my bus, he probably thought with resignation). I must have looked old or haggard or hassled (everyone on the bus looked older to me) because one woman insisted on getting up and giving me her seat. It was great to see more of the town from the comfort of the bus. It stopped within metres of my hotel. I now need to learn which bus to choose to take me back to that old city part of town.
I came back and slept. Woke too late for the equestrian spectacle. Maybe tomorrow night.
That’s it for today from glorious Cordoba!