Sunday, October 7, 2007


I uploaded the pictures from Córdoba, and you can see them at

The first site we visited (after 2 hours on the bus) was the ruins of Madinat al-Zahra, which were rediscovered near Córdoba less than a hundred years ago. The city was built in the tenth century under the direction of the new independent Umayyad Caliphate in the west. The Caliph ordered the construction of this, the largest city built from scratch in Western Europe, to demonstrate his power and wealth. Unfortunately for successor, he forgot to demonstrate his piety, and made some enemies that ended up razing his city less than a hundred years after its construction. It was deserted, picked apart by people in search of building materials, and eventually covered by earth for some thousand years.

We got back on the bus and headed to Córdoba. We walked through the streets a bit and took a look into one two synagogues remaining from ancient times in all of Spain. It was an awesome enough accomplishment, but the structure itself was entirely underwhelming (that's probably how it managed to survive). I didn't take any pictures. It was just a square room.

Then we went to the cathedral, which my guide claims is far more architecturally and historically important than the Alhambra in Granada, though it is less famous. If you haven't already, you should really look at the pictures; they show more than words can how obvious it is that the structure was originally intended as a mosque. There are only parts that have been changed to reflect the Catholic aesthetic of the time (i.e. high ceilings, gold-gilded virgin Mary's, etc.). It's really quite beautiful, much more attractive to me than the cathedral in Sevilla. They still hold Mass.

We stopped for a time at the royal palace (no longer in use). One nifty thing I learned is that the Caliph had a special subterranean tunnel to travel between the palace and the mosque, because he thought himself to holy to be seen by commoners. I went there with an eye for the gardens, but just ended up taking like eighty pictures of cats. It's funny that I can see cats anywhere in the world, but I still find them more interesting than architecture. What can you do? They were cute.

So for my birthday last night nine of us went out to this Mexican place that turned out to be freakin' delicious. I was so happy to be eating a burrito it was not even funny. I ate myself sick and drank tasty strawberry margarita. I did not go out afterward, because I went out until 5am on Thursday and once every two weeks is about as much as I can take. It was a good birthday.