Al Andalus Luxury Train Tour Day 6: Cordoba

November 11, 2015

Al Andalus itinerary for Day 6 of the tour

Al Andalus itinerary for Day 6 of the tour

We spent our final day of the Al Andalus tour in Cordoba before one last lunch on board while we returned to Seville, where we started our Andalusian interlude.

Cordoba long the banks of the Guadalquivir River

Cordoba long the banks of the Guadalquivir River

“The [Guadalquivir] river flowed tortuously through the fertile plain, broad and shallow, and in it the blue sky and white houses of the city were brightly mirrored.  In the distance, like a vapour of amethyst, rose the mountains, while at my feet, in mid-stream, there were two mills which might have been untouched since Moorish days.”
— William Somerset Maugham, The Land of the Blessed Virgin: Sketches and Impressions in Andalusia

” . . . Cordova offers immediately the full sensation of Andalusia.  It is absolutely a Moorish city, white and taciturn, so that you are astonished to meet people in European dress rather than Arabs, in shuffling yellow slippers.”
— William Somerset Maugham, The Land of the Blessed Virgin: Sketches and Impressions in Andalusia

View of Cordoba's Mezquita from the old Roam Bridge across the Guadalquivir River

View of Cordoba’s Mezquita from the old Roman Bridge across the Guadalquivir River

“The bridge that the Moors built over the Guadalquivir straggles across the water with easy arches.  Somewhat dilapidated and very beautiful, it has not the strenuous look of such things in England, and the mere sigh of it fills you with comfort.  The clustered houses, with an added softness from the light burning mellow on their roofs and on their white walls, increase the happy-impression that the world is not necessarily hurried and toilful.  And the town, separated from the river by no formal embankment, lounges at the water’s edge like a giant, prone on the grass and lazy, stretching his limbs after the mid-day sleep.”
— William Somerset Maugham, The Land of the Blessed Virgin: Sketches and Impressions in Andalusia

Our multi-lingual guide, Maria, in Cordoba

Our multi-lingual guide, Maria, in Cordoba

Old Jewish quarter

Old Jewish quarter

The Jewish quarter was characterized by patios and private courtyards, for which Cordoba is famous.

The Jewish quarter was characterized by patios and private courtyards, for which Cordoba is famous.

We began our guided tour of Cordoba in the old Jewish quarter.  After the reconquest of Spain by the Catholic kings, the Jews of Cordoba had to convert or leave.  Most went into exile, and our guide said that even today there is no Jewish community in Cordoba.

Cordoba's Mezquita, formerly a mosque, now converted into a cathedral

Cordoba’s Mezquita, formerly a mosque, now converted into a cathedral

Exterior, the Mezuita

Exterior, the Mezquita

The highlight of our Cordoba tour was the Great Mosque, the Mezquita.  It was rather imposing, but stark, from the outside.  But inside was a marvel.

Interior, Cordoba's Mezquita

Interior, Cordoba’s Mezquita

“Of all the buildings in the Islamic world this is to me the most fantastic. . . . It reminded me of an immense forest full of zebras.  The striped red and white arches stretch away in innumerable vistas, and whichever way you look you see the same view.  It is like a trick with mirrors, yet the feeling it roused in me was one of delight. . . . There is something primitive about the arrangement, yet the effect is, oddly enough, sophisticated.”
— H. V. Morton, A Stranger in Spain

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“I know of nothing that can give a more poignant emotion than the interior of the mosque at Cordova. . . . The mosque of Cordova is oriental and barbaric too; but I had never seen nor imagined anything in the least resembling it; there were no disillusionment possible, as too often in Italy, for the accounts I had read prepared me not at all for that overwhelming impression.  It was weird and strange, I felt myself transported suddenly to another world.”
— William Somerset Maugham, The Land of the Blessed Virgin: Sketches and Impressions in Andalusia

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“I then entered the mosque by an unprepossessing door and decided to look with unprejudiced eye at this so-called miracle; and as I stood in the darkness and began slowly to adjust to the shadows, I found myself in an architectural fairy tale, surrounded by so many pillars and arches that I could not believe they were real.  I suppose that from where I stood I was seeing something like four hundred separate marble columns, each handsomely polished and with its own capital of Corinthian foliage.  The arches that rose above these columns formed a maze which attracted the eye this way and that, for they were striped with alternate bands of yellow and red, and they were extra impressive in that in certain parts of the mosque they were double, that is, from the top of a capital one arch was slung across to the facing capital, and then three feet above that a second arch was thrown across in the same plane, producing a wild confusion of line and weight.

My first impression was of this wilderness of columns and arches; my second impression was expressed in an involuntary cry ‘It’s so big!’  I think no words could prepare one for the magnitude of this immense building.  Its columns stretch away to darkness in all directions, so vast are the distances, and the fact that light enters at unexpected places adds to the bewilderment.  Also, those vibrating bands of yellow and red increase the confusion, so that one cannot focus on a specific spot in the distance, for his eye is constantly drawn to another.  The men who built this mosque, over the remains of a Visigoth church, had a vision of permanence and magnitude that still stuns the imagination.”
— James Michner, Iberia

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“The mosque was dimly lit, the air heavy with incense; and I saw this forest of pillars, extending every way, as far as the eye could reach.  It was mysterious and awe-inspiring as those enchanted forests of one’s childhood in which huge trees grew in serried masses and where in cavernous darkness goblins and giants of the fairy-tales, wild beasts and monstrous shapes, lay in wait for the terrified traveller who had lost his way.”
— William Somerset Maugham, The Land of the Blessed Virgin: Sketches and Impressions in Andalusia

Mihrab, Mezquita

Mihrab, Mezquita

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“At length I came to the Mihrab, which is the Holy of Holies, the most exquisite as well as the most sacred part of the mosque.  It is approached by a vestibule of which the roof is a miracle of grace, with mosaics that glow like precious stones, ultramarine, scarlet, emerald, and gold.  The arch between the chambers is ornamented with four pillars of coloured marble, and again with mosaic, the gold letters of an Arabic inscription forming on the deep sapphire of the background in a decorative pattern.  The Mihrab itself, which contained the famous Koran of Othman, has seven sides of white marble, and the roof is a huge shell cut from a single block.”
— William Somerset Maugham, The Land of the Blessed Virgin: Sketches and Impressions in Andalusia

Cathedral inside the mosque

Cathedral inside the mosque

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Reflections of stained glass on the floor

Reflections of stained glass on the floor

“Here, lost in this wilderness of columns, hid a full-sized Catholic cathedral, one of colossal ugliness.”
— James Michner, Iberia

“Nothing could be more emblematic of Andalusia, perhaps even of Spain, than to see this Christian jewel in its unlikely Moslem setting.”
— H. V. Morton, A Stranger in Spain

The awesome beauty of Cordoba’s Great Mosque and cathedral left me speechless.  I cannot think of a more impressive way to end our Al Andalus train tour.

 

 

 

 

 

One Response to “Al Andalus Luxury Train Tour Day 6: Cordoba”

  1. mzuritam Says:

    Great photos, and I particularly like the bridge the Moors built and the colorful photo of Maria the guide!


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