In the dead heat of the Spanish summer, John Gallagher loses all sense of everything in the winding calles of Cordoba
With a population of 320,000, one might expect that Cordoba would become an anesthetised ghost town but this is certainly not the case. Rich in culture, with its religious structures and musical legacy, this hidden city thrives in the summer months.
The Spanish city’s architecture is famous throughout the world, safeguarded as an UNESCO world heritage site. Narrow alleys lead onto quiet plazas while colourful mosaic work and traditional patios enchant every strolling visitor. Even the rundown flats between the Mosque and the city walls seem to gleam with charm. At times it is as if you are walking around 1950s North Africa, and not the Spain we know today.
La Mezquita is unarguably Cordoba’s tour de force. First built around 600AD, the Great Mosque underwent several crises of identity, having first been constructed as a church before being changed to a mosque and back to a chapel before eventually resting as a place of Muslim worship. Today La Mezquita is exhibited to the public at a fee of €5 for adult. Its windowless interior provides a welcome cooling system while its fountains are ideal for bathing in the basking sun.
The city library is a convenient pit stop. With air conditioning and free internet access, it is the only place where an organised UCD student can register for the next academic year, provided an American is not hogging two computers so she can blog about how cheap all-you-can-eat buffets are in the Andalusian heartland.
Together with its architectural highlights, Cordoba is also famous for its music and in particular its flamenco guitar. In the new town you will find numerous luthier workshops where everything from traditional Spanish guitars and lutes to steel string electric guitars are built by request. Towards the end of July “the City of the Guitar” celebrates la Festival de la Guitarra. Musicians from all over the world, including artists such as Mark Knopfler, Paco de Lucia and BB King, come to play and pay homage to the birth place of the instrument.
Spain’s high speed railway system ensures that within two hours you can be in Barcelona or Madrid and in even less time to go further south to Seville or Malaga.
Cordoba seems to have emerged from hiding. It is certainly cheap, even compared to other Mediterranean destinations. Go now before the city becomes homogenised in 2016 when it is crowned European Capital of Culture.