December 1, 2011 Cadiz, Spain
After a day at sea on Tuesday cruising south along the coastline of Spain, we sailed into the sunny port city of Malaga. Though a few of us stayed in Malaga for the day, most took one of the ship’s excursions either to Grenada, to see the famed Alhambra, or to the historic city of Cordoba.
We’ve often felt that the Alhambra remains one of Europe’s most beautiful palaces. Perched in the hills overlooking Grenada, the Moors constructed the palace in classic North African style, with tranquil fountains and graceful reflecting pools. The palace’s Courtyard of the Lions remains one of the most beautiful spots in the country.
Thanks to Spain’s high-speed trains, another destination has recently been opened to cruise visitors, Cordoba. Early Wednesday morning we boarded a sleek new train that raced between Malaga and Seville at speeds approaching 250 km/hour (about 150 mph). Settled into comfortable seats we traveled quietly through the olive-tree covered countryside for about 70 minutes. The only indication of our speed was the occasional swaying of the car and, of course, watching automobiles creep (relatively speaking) along the highway.
The modern city of Cordoba does not seem to offer much to the visitor; rather most of its treasures are situated in the old historic section. To reach this area, we walked across a stone bridge built by the Romans. Once across the bridge we made our way through a warren of narrow streets, the old Jewish Quarter, to visit an historic synagogue. Filled with shops and restaurants, we spent the better part of our morning in this quarter. However we saved the best for last, the famed “Mesquita” of Cordoba.
Beginning in the 6th Century, a basilica was built on the site of an ancient place of worship constructed by the Visagoths. During the Islamic period in Spain this church was destroyed in order to build a mosque on the site in 785 AD. No ordinary mosque, this was to be the most important Islamic place of worship in all in the West. Two subsequent additions enlarged the mosque to a truly impressive structure. In 1236, when the Christians reconquered Cordoba, the mosque was ‘purified’ and then converted back into a Christian cathedral. (www.catedraldecordobe.es) Today, in the center of the mosque’s hundreds of pillars and colorful arches, an impressive cathedral has been constructed. It’s one of the most amazing sights in Europe. Don’t miss it if you have an opportunity.
Last night, about midnight, we crossed through the Straits of Gibraltar to land, this morning, in Cadiz. Many guests headed for the marvelous cultural capitol of Spain, Seville; others explored the old city of Cadiz, where many explorers of the New World began their voyage.
Elaine Durst has caught a bug in her chest (but she’s doing better already); otherwise we’re all enjoying the Crystal Serenity and visiting Spain in the late fall sunshine.
Wish you were here!
Paul and Christine