Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Last night wandering Sevilla streets I saw some tram lines barely exposed. It´s a long time since they closed that service. Interestingly, though, they are installing a metro. The blasting and digging has caused a halt to repair work at the cathedral where two columns were found to have cracking. They have been encased in gigantic stacks of collars, custom made, liberally endowed with concrete. When the Metro is finished (at its closest point it is three hundred metres away and the same for the river) work will recommence on column repair.
It´s big, but I can´t say the cathedral is beautiful. It has some beautiful aspects, one of which is the bell tower, and the ceilings over the chancel are wonderful. As a building, it looks like it was designed by competing interests.
There is much of interest in Seville, and the prices are kept well down by intense competition. Postcards for 15 - 30 cents, last night´s Chinese Menu del Dia at 5.75€, the quality bedroom for 20€, for instance.
I managed OK to walk to the station dragging the house, but boarding the train was interesting. Being an AVE, it left on time, but the platform was not announced until 10 minutes before and we had to line up to have baggage screened. The first on placed their small bags in the luggage area nad there was literally no where for the later arrivals´ bag. Two passengers changed that. They identified passengers, and put the smaller bags above the seats until there was enough room for everyone and everything. But it took them 15 minutes! And yes, my bag was the greatest of them all. The trip was again quiet and short but I took more careful notice of the country. The greener-than-olive trees are oranges. Surrounding Seville there must be tens of thousands of hectares of them. The largest crop is maize - again, huge areas of it. And then, quite suddenly, about halfway to Cordoba, the olives took over. There must be something in the soil, becasue both places have hot climates.
It took about 15 minutes to walk to the city centre of Cordoba to find the Information office, and a further 10 minutes to reach the cathedral. I was directed to my Pension where I have a tiny room with double bed that´s very hard, and a washbasin for 18€. It is within 100m of the bus stop, so that will make tomorrow a little easier, when my destination is Pamplona (via Madrid). Departure is 8.55am, arrival 5.38pm, with a three hour stop in Madrid. If I can fit the luggage into a locker, I will go for a walk for an hour or so.
Cordoba´s old city is very small for what was one of the largest cities in the world in the 12th century (around 250 000). I found the oldest inn still standing - the Posada del Potro - and in the front there was an outstanding display of models with text in SP and Eng. There, the reason was made clear.
There was an economic collapse in the 6th and 17th centuries. I guess then, that large sections of the town fell into disrepair with people moving closer to the centre. Now, there are many wide streets apart from the three large boulevardes where it is possible for traffice to flow freely. Much of the city feels quite modern and considerable growth is happening further out. A km away over the river there is a very large retail complex dominated by Eroski. One the bigger chains of supermarkets in Spain, it is from the Basque territory.
I managed to find all the places recommended to me by the "i" centre, including the largest plaza where a guitar festival is right now taking place, Posada del Potro (Inn of the Colt), the Archbishop´s Palace, Castle, Synagogue (it´s Monday so most things were shut), and some very tiny streets. One is so narrow that two young men could not stand side by side in the narrowest place.
Another is famous for its flowers. There are artisan shops everywhere, many of them specialising in leather goods. During Muslim-controlled times, Cordoba produced the best leather in large quantities, so much so that English bootmakers were called Cordwainers. Oh, and Toledo produced the best steel for swords. Guess what artisanshops fill their streets.
Manfred asked me to take some photographs for him, knowing they would also be of interest to me. They were of statues of great Cordobans and I found five: Maimonides, Averroes, Seneca, the guy who built the Mosque, and one described as an oculist. The last has his name included on the photo but the other I will have to check on the Internet.
The big controversy in Cordoba for the last 800 years has been the Mezquita Cathedral. When it was conquered by a Christian king in the 1200s he brought in his bishop to consecrate the whole thing as a church. This is interesting, to say the least. Pretty obviously the Christians appreciated the beauty of these places. However, the worship styles are completely different, and just sticking chapels around the edge did not work. Jesus Christ is the Light of the World, and the mosque was a dark place, with only the important bit facing Mecca lit other than dimly. In the 1500s it was decided to put a Gothic nave, choir, and crossing in the middle to raise the roof, making it better for singing and intoning, and to strengthen the building. Even a casual glance shows that many of the pillars are not vertical and it most likely would have collapsed by now with that added strength.
There is a fine belltower which may have a Muslim base but it doesn´t look it, but it must be said the quality of desing and execution of the Gothic structure leaves much to be desired.
As to the question of whether the Christians should have taken over this Islamic place of worship, the largest in Europe, I say of course they should have. Let me see now, where did the Muslims build their mosque? Why, right over a Visigothic church! We don´t hear too many offers from Muslims to rebuild that. And why would they? They defeated the Visigoths. And why would the Christians back off? They defeated the Muslims. That all three cultures tolerated each other in Cordoba for along time is generally accepted, but the Muslims would never have been defeated if they had not bickered and fought with each other.
Anyway, I´m being told to pack up.
Two days time I hope to have sold the Carrix.
God bless you all

No comments: