A Moorish City Strong as Leather
At the heart of Spain's Andalucia region, Corboda delights travelers with its old Arab and Jewish quarters; the narrow, cobblestone streets lined with homes boasting flower-filled patios and balconies. Today's Cordoba has over 300,000 people, but is ancient architecture and historic buildings housed a whole lot more nearly one thousand years earlier. This was Europe's most populous city and a cultural and intellectual center. Cordoba's most celebrated sage, the Jewish philosopher Maimonides, was born here in the 12th century although the Almohads, a Berber dynasty drove him out.
You can see religious history on display at the miraculous Mezquita. Dating back to the 10th century when Cordoba reached its zenith as the most prosperous city in Europe, outshining Byzantium and Baghdad in science, culture and the arts. The development of the great mosque paralleled these achievements.
Taking over 200 years to complete, the Mosque's construction started in 784 AD. With the capture of Cordoba by Fernando III in 1236 AD the mosque was converted to a cathedral and almost all the outer doors were sealed. During Moorish times, all nineteen naves were open to the courtyard allowing the rows of interior columns to shine as the sunlight filtered through.
The most notable architectural design is its giant candy-cane arches and its forest of over 850 columns. These were taken from the Roman temple, which had previously occupied the site and other destroyed Roman buildings. Outside, the Courtyard of the Orange Trees (Patio de los Naranjos) is perfumed with orange blossoms and has a beautiful fountain. There's a photo op around every corner.
For more blossoms, head to the Flower Alley. This passageway gives shady relief from the hot Andalucian sun. Glance backward and see the cathedral tower framed up above the street, and plenty of flowers trailing down from whitewashed walls. Cordoba actually holds a festival each May to honor its famed patios. Over 40 are open to the public: at convents, museums, palaces and popular patios that are shared by several families.
This is just the start of your journey into central Spain. You can arrive via high-speed AVE train from Madrid in less than two hours. From Cordoba, get to Granada, home of another Moorish masterpiece – the Alhambra – in just over 2.5 hours. Sultry Seville is only 45 minutes away. Want a taste of "liquid gold?" The town of Jaén, just 90 minutes away, is known as the World Capital of Olive Oil.
Ever look at the bottom of your Spanish made shoe and seen the words, "Genuine Cordovan Leather?" Here's the back story. Most leathers come from cows. This leather, which originated in Cordoba, comes from the posterior of…horses. Distinguished by a lustrous waxy finish, superior durability and suppleness, no wonder the NFL and MLB use it to cover footballs and baseballs.
Cordovan leather is known for taking on a rich patina that improves over time. One can say the same for the city it has come from. See Cordoba and more with a Eurail Spain Pass.
Contributed by: Duncan, Chief Commercial Officer, a European who has traveled on trains in 19 countries in Europe.