“Olé!”, came the cry behind me, just audible above the loud rhythmic stamping of the Flamenco dancers on stage. Friday night saw us sitting enjoying some superb Flamenco performances in the old town of Cordoba. Spain is a huge country with so much diversity, yet for me the passion, soul history and identity of the nation has always been best evoked in Andalucía – the land of Flamenco, bull fights, tapas and olive oil.
Friday was the first day of a long weekend, to be spent exploring more of Andalucía. We took the snaking, narrow motorway from Málaga up to Antequera and later on to Cordoba.
Having set off early in the bright morning sunshine, we made it to the noble city of Antequera mid-morning. Perfect timing to find a bar and sit down and enjoy a simple Andaluz breakfast. Strong, sweet coffee and toasted home made bread, smothered with local olive oil and topped with dry-cured Serrano ham, freshly sliced in font of us.
The place is a fascinating city, really worth a visit. The area surrounding the Cathedral and Moorish Castle is a great place to take a walk and enjoy the amazing views across the city and to the bizarre mountain in the distance, said to look like a reclined women head’s in profile.
There is nothing better for me that a day defined by eating! After exploring the narrow alleys and streets of old town Antequera, we took the new motorway Cordoba.
Initially, Cordoba seems to hide its treasures from visitors arriving from the motorway. As you descend into the river valley, you see ugly housing blocks and industrial units, yet just as in Granada, once you turn towards the old town, you enter a magical area.
Arriving in time for a late lunch, we luckily found our small hotel in the historic centre without a problem. Opposite us was the Mosque – this stunning structure that has made Cordoba so famous. Well, before I could go there, some vino tinto, tapas and a strong coffee had to be consumed!
The sky was clear and the bright sun warmed the narrow streets, designed in Moorish times to prevent the warmth of the summer sun from penetrating too far. The Mosque is said to me one of the finest examples of Western Islamic architecture.
Even now is early Spring tourist parties fills the narrow streets – towards the end of the day I saw some more innovative visitors rent those "Segway" human transporters – I managed to snap them right next to the more traditional choice of tourists – the horse and carriage.
The Mosque is breath-taking. I don’t know why, but part of the allure of Andalucía for me is its Moorish flavour. Walking the narrow streets, discovering old Islamic doorways or towers – its just captivates me. Yet the Mosque was something I had never expected. One enters the enclosed Orange Square through huge 5 metre high, highly decorative doors. That, having passed through the square you enter the Mosque which is absolutely huge. The spaced, defined my hundreds of columns and arches is simple yet beautiful Arabic symmetrical decorations.
The greatest surprise is not the size of the Mosque or its long history, but the fact that right in the centre of this mammoth Mosque has been built the most extravagant Catholic Basilica! The conflicting architectures and cultural and religious values seemed perfectly melded in this structure where each brick and stone has been carefully combined to bring the western extravagance of the church directly inside the simplicity of the Islamatic building.
We ended our day of Andaluz culture with tapas, some Rioja and late night Flamenco show.