Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Córdoba Recycled

I realize that I haven't written for some time but I confess that, because of the recent heat, my siestas are getting longer and longer. What's a bear to do? - I mean, we are genetically programmed for long sleeps after all. In any case, a few weeks ago I decided to pay a visit to Córdoba. As a freelance Good Will Ambassador, I'm naturally drawn to places which tolerated and embraced different religions, cultures and ideas. That's part of my job description.

Founded by the Roma
ns over 2,000 years ago (Julius Caesar once sacked it out of pure spite), it would eventually fall to the Moors in the 8th century. During this period it rivalled Baghdad and Cairo as the epicentre of art, learning & culture and, in its day, was considered the most brilliant city in all of Europe. It became a kingdom in its own right in 929 but was retaken in 1236 by Ferdinand III, which signaled its decline from greatness. Of course, the plague didn't help.

Phew! That's a lot of history!

We can still see today those cultural links between East and West that Córdoba forged over the centuries: Roman, Islamic, Jewish and Christian influences are everywhere. In the Je
wish quarter or Judería, I visited one of the three synagogues which still exists in all of Spain. It's very small - bear-size in fact.

While walking through the Judería, I was as
ked by camera-wielding touristos to pose with Averroës, (I know! I know! - always the fashion model!), the Muslim philosopher, theologian, physician and all around Big Brain of the twelfth century. Among his many accomplishments - because he really did have an awfully big brain - he's believed to have been the first physician to identify and treat erectile dysfunction. Sometimes I'm glad that Grey Bears don't have reproductive bits.

Although there's
lots to see in Córdoba - my bipedal attendants proved very adept at sniffing out excellent bars and stealing beer glasses from them - the biggest jewels in the city's already heavy crown are its alcázar (or fortress) and mezquita (or mosque). And if I had to chose - although no one really asked me to - the mezquita is my favourite. And not just because my grey flannel fur is shown to full advantage among its red and white horseshoe arches and pinkish light. (Although it does).

When you meander through the Patio of the Oranges or the mosque itself, it's hard to imagine that it took builders just one year to start and complete the mezquita. But in 785, what would be considered an architectural tour de force, pretty much set the Arab world on its ear. Walking through the mosque is like walking through a forest of columns and semi-circular & horseshoe arches, except here there are no lions and tigers, and only one bear.

Like many things in Andalucía, the
mezquita would eventually be converted into a church, and is now the city's cathedral. It's kind of like architectural recycling, I guess. But that's what I like about Córdoba - and Granada and Sevilla and much of reconquered Spain for that matter. Andalucía isn't just bullfights, flamenco, excellent sangria and beer, tapas, and traditional homes with shady patios and gardens of jasmine and bougainvillea and bubbly fountains. (Although that's part of it). I mean, in the end, if we can't get along and play nicely, can't we at least respect the pretty buildings each of us made? I bet the mezquita's architects would agree.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice post Senor Bear!