A Glimpse of Cordoba

Spanish maps initially showing motorways between main towns and cities look a little daunting when you’re on a bike, but when you look closer you realise that usually there is a way of following the main route without riding the actual road. Sometimes there is a bike lane on the other side of the fence, sometimes it looks like the old road that preceded the motorway still exists, and often its a ‘service road’ that follows the same route but visits all the small villages along the way. In places, particularly where a motorway crosses a river, the service road may divert elsewhere for a while, but you can usually find a way through, whilst staying away from those lorries…

DSCF3091

DSCF3093

And so I roll into Cordoba along the back roads, a city often overlooked by the backpacker crowd who spend a couple of days in Seville, Granada, Valancia and Madrid and then think they’ve seen all that Spain has to offer. Its definitely smaller than its siblings, but no less interesting, as its World Heritage Site status suggests. The city tourism website gives a history lesson and tells us that its position by the river and the fertile farming land of the Campiña made it a perfect place for the first prehistoric settlements, although it was only in the late Bronze Age (8th/9th century B.C.) when the first proper settlement was established. After the arrival of the Phoenicians and Greeks on the peninsula, the city became known as an important mining and commercial centre, since the River Guadalquivir was then navigable as far as Cordoba. It has a Roman, Muslim and Christian history, which is born out in the architecture than you can see today.

A (restored) Roman bridge, around 250 metres long and originally built in the 1st Century, spans the River Guadalquivir…

DSCF3103

…and the remains of the Albolafia Water mill built under Abd al-Rahman II to carry river water up to the Emir’s palace by means of an ingenious aqueduct. The water wheel (now restored) was dismantled by order of Queen Isabel ‘La Católica’ who disliked the noise it produced. Since the 14th century, this water wheel has appeared on the city’s coat of arms.

DSCF3098

The former Jewish quarter is made up of little corners and winding alleyways…

DSCF3123

…with hidden courtyards appearing behind every gateway that you pass…

DSCF3208

DSCF3125

DSCF3130

…some housing elegant restaurants…

DSCF3129

… or tea rooms.

DSCF3133

DSCF3132

Noticable throughout the city is the use of small stones delicately set on their edge to form intricate paving…

DSCF3111

DSCF3113

…steps…

DSCF3109

DSCF3108

DSCF3114

…and even surrounds for normally mundane manhole covers…

DSCF3216

And there is the famous, huge Mezquita mosque, which has mammoth dimensions, stretching across 24,000 square meters and featuring as many as 856 columns made of fine materials such as marble, granite and jasper. The site has been used for the worship of different religions since ancient times. Under the rule of the Visigoths, the Basilica of San Vicente occupied the site, and later, after the Muslims bought part of the plot of land, a primitive mosque was built, in around the year 785. Overall, the construction of the mosque, which included several expansions, continued over 200 years. After Cordoba was recaptured by King Ferdinand III in 1236 and rejoined Christendom, the mosque became used as church, and in the very centre a Renaissance cathedral was built. Construction started in 1523 and lasted until the beginning of the 17th century. Even without being religious, the cathedral, mosque and the outer courtyard are all pretty impressive…

DSCF3137

DSCF3203

DSCF3205

DSCF3204

DSCF3121

DSCF3142

DSCF3141

DSCF3140

DSCF3146

DSCF3147

DSCF3153

DSCF3151

DSCF3164

DSCF3168

DSCF3170

DSCF3181

DSCF3183

DSCF3185

DSCF3186

DSCF3188

DSCF3191

DSCF3197

I stay at the Hostel Osio which is quiet and relaxed, and only minutes away from the Mezquita. The open courtyards that must be amazing in the summer aren’t quite so practical during the rain which seems to have appear for these few days, but its a lovely place to be based for a few days.

DSCF3211

DSCF3212

Whilst I’m away in Madrid for the weekend, Antonio, the owner of Duribaik Bicicletas helpfully stores my gear and sorts out a couple of things on the Ogre. He’s very knowledgable and is slowly trying to introduce the people of Cordoba to hub gears and electric city bikes, and deals with everything from run down commuter hacks to more specialist and up to date mountain biking stuff. Definitely recommended if you need a bike shop in Cordoba.

But, after a few days of city life, its time to continue heading west into the hills, firstly along GR48 and then picking up the TransAndalus once more, as things start to get a little chillier…

DSCF3557

Posted in Bikepacking London to Seville (2014) and tagged , , .

2 Comments

Comments are closed.