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Published: August 19th 2015
Reaching the end of our travels in Andalucia and the final two amazing buildings that I wanted to visit, the Mezquita in Cordoba and the Alhambra in Granada.
The Mezquita or Santa Maria cathedral is a wonderful building, never seen any building quite like it. There’s a special atmosphere, even with the large numbers of visitors. The huge area with the repeating columns with their red and white striped curved tops makes the space seem both infinitely large and quite intimate as no one space is particularly big. It would have been amazing to see it with more than one door open and the light playing through the columns as it was designed to do. The site was originally a Roman temple, then Visigoths, then a mosque that was extended three times, then a cathedral. Many of the columns are taken from different Roman ruins by the Moors. The current building is officially a cathedral, dating from the 17th
Century, thankfully much of the beautiful mosque, started in the 7th
century was preserved. So now there’s the oddity of catholic chapels within the arches of the mosque. There’s a beautiful mihrab too that was hidden behind a wooden screen that
helped to preserve it. The main cathedral is in the centre, also very beautiful, with an organist playing while we were there.
Spent the whole day at the Alhambra palace, such a special place. Our tickets specified our visit from 2pm-8pm but we were able to wander around the not quite so special areas freely before then. It was super crowded, Saturday in high season so not surprising. The Alhambra sits atop a hill dominating the town. The Royal Palace is the high point of the visit. Hard to describe how lovely it is, especially the patio of the lions and the harem rooms, delicate lattice plasterwork and intricate patterns, columns, all using light to play on the patterns, beautiful plasterwork on the ceilings, fountains and pools and tilework designs too. Of course it would have been wonderful to see it without a couple of hundred other people, it would be a tranquil place with soothing patterns and use of light. Apart from the wonderful palace the route takes you through the beautifully laid out gardens again using water and patterns in the neatly trimmed bushes, all looking out on a grand vista of the town below. The summer
palace, Generalife, up on a higher hill gives expansive views over the city. Finally the alcazabar, not much left of it but a good place to take in views of the whole Alhambra.
The visits to both of these towns focused on one building in each. Other than that, Cordoba is a very pleasant city, around the Mezquita are narrow lanes with small squares and a very nice atmosphere. We enjoyed a visit to the Botanical Gardens, particularly the fascinating paleontological collection of plants, well displayed and sufficient English to understand what was going on. They have a huge collection of fossils mainly from around here but also from the UK, Australia and the US. We also had a look at the tiny church of San Bartolome. It’s unfinished, but the tiny completed section that was quite beautiful, lots of tiles and painted ceiling.
Granada is a bigger and busier city, still an enjoyable place to visit. Outside of the Alhambra we walked up to some view-points but didn’t visit any other buildings.
And so ends a wonderful visit to Andalucia.
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