Thankfully we got to sleep in a little this day, which was a blessing because after four full days of walking and a few late nights, we were quite worn out at this point. On our way out of Sevilla, we stopped at a little town called Santiponce. This town is the site of the ruins of Italica, an old Roman city. These ruins were pretty impressive. One of my favorite parts was the main amphitheater, which was built to seat 25,000 spectators (the third largest the Roman Empire). There were also some really cool mosaics spread throughout the ruins of different houses and buildings. It was raining when we arrived at Italica, so we were a smorgasbord of colorful umbrellas walking through the ruins.:)
Then we boarded the bus and headed for our final destination: Córdoba.
Huge ampitheater. El grupo. Umbrella+wind=fail. Pretty mosaics. Ruins of a Roman house.

This lovely city has a huge Muslim influence--it was a Roman city until Muslim invaders took over in 711, and then it became the Islamic capital on the Iberian Peninsula. Under the emir Abd ar-rahman Córdoba became the largest city in Western Europe, until in 1236 it was captured by Fernando. So, lots of historical significance here. Our entrance to the city was epic: the bus wasn’t allowed to drive into the old part of the city, so we were dropped off outside. In order to reach our hotel we had to walk across the old Roman bridge, which crosses Rio Guadalquivir. It was still raining, and it is quite difficult to cart luggage around while holding up an umbrella. Also, the bridge and streets are all cobblestone, so we sounded like a thundering herd rolling our luggage throughout the city, cold and wet, receiving many strange glances from the natives.
After settling in to our hotel, we ventured out in the rain to find the Jewish Synagogue (which is one of only three surviving medieval synagogues in Spain). It was a fairly small synagogue--basically one big room, with a little courtyard outside. There were really beautiful carvings and Hebrew inscriptions on the walls. Afterward, Landes set us loose to explore. We went into different shops, admiring the craftsmanship of different artisans. My friend Megan mentioned something she had read about this mansion that has been turned into a museum, which we then set out to find. However, the maze of streets was not very conducive to our map-reading skills. Eventually we arrived at our destination, but alas, it was closed. We headed back to our hotel, with only a few near-death experiences. The streets of Córdoba, besides being a maze, are literally 6 feet wide. Which leaves verrrry little room for one car and 11 girls. Each time a car came, we had to stand on this mini little ledge and flatten ourselves against the wall and pray for the moment to pass quickly.

Los calles pequiñitos.

Today was Meredith’s birthday, which definitely called for a celebration! All together there were about 17 of us, and we piled into this little restaurant nearby for some much needed comida. I ordered something called merluza, which is just a type of fish. (The next day at the market I actually saw a fresh one; add merluza to the list of scary-looking fish in the world). And no birthday celebration is complete without dessert, so afterward us girls set out to find a pastelería or something, to no avail (despite the help of a few locals). It was 11 PM after all, so I guess it makes sense...but we really wanted some dessert dang it! 
Birthday bash!
 On a mission for dessert...at 11 PM...in the rain. :)
Now we reach the fifth and last day of this marvelous journey. We began by going to the marketplace, which was mainly a fish market with a fruit stand and a pastry shop. It reminded me a little bit of Pike’s Place, but minus the men throwing fish around. We were kept both entertained and disgusted by a box of live clams, slurping themselves in and out of their shells.
The scary looking fish I ate-thankfully it was fried at the time, so I wasn't aware of how terrifying it actually looks. 
We keep ourselves highly entertained during our downtime.
Next we went to the jewel of Córdoba, the Mezquita-Cathedral. If this title didn’t confuse you, well, it should. A mezquita is a mosque, a place of worship for the followers of Islam. A cathedral is a place of worship for the followers of many different Christian religions. Hmmm. Obviously, this fascinating building embodies the many religious changes that have taken place in Córdoba over the centuries. It began as the site of a Roman temple, and next took shape as a Visigothic cathedral. Then in the 8th century, construction began on the mosque, and upon it’s completion was one of the biggest mosques in the world. At the zenith of it’s existence, it contained an original copy of the Koran and was a major Muslim pilgrimage site. Then in 1236, Córdoba was captured from the Moors, and it all went downhill from there. The Christians plunked one of their cathedrals smack in the middle of this beautiful mosque. Separately, the cathedral would have been very beautiful; but it just looked sooo out of place sitting in the middle of this incredible mosque. It was hard to appreciate it when I found myself being frustrated with the history of Christian conquest, and why on earth they thought it was a good idea to try to meld these two very different places of worship together. Anyway, the mosque part was absolutely marvelous.
 The minaret, the courtyard of the Mezquita, and our dear old director Landes.
It is most famous for the ‘candy-cane’ double arches that go on endlessly throughout. They are really funky and cool. These red and white arches and columns (856 of the original 1293 columns remain) are spread all throughout the center (around that blasted cathedral, of course. Just kidding...it really is pretty), and along the outside walls are these gorgeous rooms with the múdejar architecture and decoration (my favorite). Originally the doorways inside of the rooms used to be open to the outside, which would have flooded the building with light--but the doors were all permanently closed when the cathedral was put into place. And of course, the magnificent ceilings in the rooms...oh I love them so. One day, I will live in a Múdejar palace complete with breathtaking gardens and be blissfully happy forever.
Red and striped double-arches as far as the eye can see.
Absolutely beautiful Múdejar-style rooms all around the mosque.
This is the near center of the mosque, where you can start to see the difference in architecture and style where the cathedral begins. One positive thing about the cathedral: pretty stained glass windows.
After this we went to the Alcázar, which has the usual story of beginning as a palace and fort for some royal man (Alfonso X, in case you were interested). As a few of us were exploring along the castle walls, we had our second burst of illegal activity...which included hopping the chain fence and climbing the stairs to the off-limits tippity-top of the castle wall. Yeah...we are quite rebellious. Then we walked through the lovely gardens, complete with sparkling fountains and pools--I love love LOVE the gardens in Spain.
Sitting on the castle wall, and our illegal activity upon the off-limits castle stairs.
El grupo en los jardínes.
i LOVE these gardens. 
Then we got us some grub and repeated the same epic trek out of the city, across the Roman bridge, and onto our bus. Thank you bus driver Raúl for patiently awaiting our return. It was on this epic journey to the bus that all the wear and tear from the week caught up with me. I seriously felt like I had aged 30 years--my arthritic joints were creaking, feet aching, back hunched over...oiy. As you can see, we lasted about 2 seconds into the trip before we crashed into a deep slumber:
We survived the 6 hour bus ride and finally arrived on familiar territory. I have never been happier to see door 5C, with our beloved Blanca inside.
Andalucia was everything I dreamed it would be and more. I cannot wait to return someday, to see all the orange trees in bloom and the people dancing in the streets and finally gain VIP access to the closed doors and secret passageways in the castles.
Te amo, Andalucia. Algún día, regresaré.


Katie said...

Last day here let's just break in to one of those doors that looks particularly promising and then my curiosity will finally be satisfied!

Madison Bradshaw said...

love it meg!!! love the post and pictures!! you are amazing!