Spain: Cordoba

CORDOBA

16th-18th JUNE 2015.

Early this morning we bade farewell to the owners of Torre de la Pena Camping and rode down to our 1973 campsite for one last look and to take a photograph of the spot.

Farewell Torre de la Pena. Somehow I don’t think we will be back again in another 42 years.

Farewell Torre de la Pena. Somehow I don’t think we will be back again in another 42 years.

Last night we had dinner with Angelica from Mexico and Frederic from the Netherlands. Both were easy to listen to and talk with. Frederic is the inventor and driving force behind a unique device called a ‘Frebble’.

‘Frebble’ hand pieces.

‘Frebble’ hand pieces.

Frebbles allow people to physically connect with each other through the Internet. They do this thanks to two pressure sensors which register a squeeze and in turn activate vibration motors in each hand piece.   A multi coloured LED indicates when there is someone on the other end waiting for a squeeze communication.

The system utilises haptic technology or ‘tactile feedback’, which according to one reference is: ‘Quite Literally The Science of Touch’. The word haptics, from the Greek word haptikos, means able to grasp or perceive.

Frederic, the man behind the ‘Frebble’. He is an astrophysicist by profession.

Frederic, the man behind the ‘Frebble’. He is an astrophysicist by profession.

Angelica making an early morning brew.

Angelica making an early morning brew.

Angelica was, as far as we could determine, camped in the same spot we camped in 1972, a case of history repeating itself.

Our Torre de la Pena Camping spot in 1973.

Our Torre de la Pena Camping spot in 1973.

Following are a few more 1973 images taken in Spain.

Our Beetle parked outside a bakery in a quiet Spanish village.

Our Beetle parked outside a bakery in a quiet Spanish village.

Progress has seen the demise of the donkey and the quiet life in many parts of Spain. Unfortunately trucks now thunder through villages like this one.

Bev coming to understand the donkey-driven water lifter and the hand-hewn granite water distribution duct.

Old ladies having a chat in the sun. I have always warmed to this picture and I think it is how I want to be in my old age, sitting in the sun reminiscing with an old friend (Bev I hope).

Old ladies having a chat in the sun. I have always warmed to this picture and I think it is how I want to be in my old age, sitting in the sun reminiscing with an old friend (Bev I hope).

Confusing road markings in karst country Spain.

Confusing road markings in karst country Spain.

Morning ablutions. If I remember correctly the water was freezing.

Morning ablutions. If I remember correctly the water was freezing.

The previous six photographs were taken with an Asahi Pentax Spotmatic 35mm camera using either a 55mm 300mm telephoto lens.  Asahi Pentax cameras were manufactured between 1964 and 1976 and were considered the best SLR (see through the lens) cameras at the time. I still have the camera and occasionally run a roll of film through it just to keep it alive.

From Torre de la Pena Camping we took to the road and rode back to Tarifa. It was so good to be on our bikes again, we could have kept going forever. It’s unfortunate that we are not as physically fit as we used to be, otherwise we would have simply done just that, ‘kept going forever’.

Bev on the Cadiz road on the way to Tarifa.

Bev on the Cadiz road on the way to Tarifa.

Along the way to Tarifa. Morocco on the horizon is only fifteen kilometres away. Bad luck about the telephone line, I hid it the best I could.

Along the way to Tarifa. Morocco on the horizon is only fifteen kilometres away. Bad luck about the telephone line, I hid it the best I could.

By the time we rode into Tarifa we had made our minds up that we would not visit the Rock of Gibraltar because a thick haze hung between Gibraltar and Morocco and clear photographs of the Rock would not have been possible. Our alternative was to take the bus to Algeciras then train to the city of Cordoba. Bev and I have fond memories of Cordoba as we stayed there for a time in 1973.

Even though we didn’t visit Gibraltar I think it pertinent to write a little about it. In 1973 when Bev and I attempted to visit there the barriers were down, as Spain and the UK were not talking.

A NASA image of the Strait of Gibraltar looking east.

A NASA image of the Strait of Gibraltar looking east.

The landmass on the right hand side in the above image is Morocco. The most southern tip (centre of image on the left) of the major land mass is Tarifa and the distant peninsula on the left is the Rock of Gibraltar.

At present Gibraltar is circled by the sea on three sides. In prehistoric times the Rock was surrounded by fertile plains as the water level was much lower than today. In caves around the Rock Neanderthals were known to have lived. In 1848 the first known adult Neanderthal skull was found. The exact date of the skull is unclear but it has been attributed to around 50 000 years ago.

Gibraltar was captured by the British in 1704 during the Spanish war of Succession. In 1713 under the Treaty of Utrecht Gibraltar was ceded to Britain. The treaty stated: ‘the town, castle and fortifications were to be held and enjoyed forever without any exception or impediment whatsoever’. Spain has however an irredentist claim on the Rock, in the hope that one day it will return to Spanish control.

In a 2002 referendum the people of Gibraltar rejected a joint sovereignty proposal between Britain and Spain so the Rock remains under the control of the British. Following the results of the referendum one commentator said ‘There is more chance of hell freezing over than the people of Gibraltar accepting Spanish sovereignty in any shape or form’.

The Rock of Gibraltar as we didn’t see it. Image credit: From www.historic-uk.com Author unknown.

The Rock of Gibraltar as we didn’t see it. Image credit: From http://www.historic-uk.com Author unknown.

There have of course been many friendly and unfriendly visits by foreign nations to the Rock. One friendly visit was by the Great White Fleet in 1909.

The Great White Fleet visiting Gibraltar in 1909. Image via Wikipedia. In the public domain as copyright has expired.

The Great White Fleet visiting Gibraltar in 1909. Image via Wikipedia. In the public domain as copyright has expired.

The Great White Fleet was the nickname for the United States Navy battle fleet that visited Gibraltar during a 1907/09 circumnavigation of the world. It was called white because all the vessels were painted white.

The bus journey to Algeciras from Tarifa was in most part along the road we travelled in 1973.   The countryside hasn’t changed but there are many more holiday apartments and houses associated with increased tourist numbers. Wind generators proliferate the countryside now, something unseen in the 1970s.

The urban sprawl between Tarifa and Algeciras. A modern day version of the Victorian/Edwardian worker houses of England.

The urban sprawl between Tarifa and Algeciras. A modern day version of the Victorian/Edwardian worker houses of England.

A wind farm along the side of the road we travelled today.

A wind farm along the side of the road we travelled today.

An interesting observation with regards the location of wind farms in Spain is they are located mostly in forest areas away from populated areas and therefore the sound and possible detrimental health aspects associated with wind generators is eliminated.

Some say wind generators are ugly and that includes the leaders of our conservative government in Australia. Unfortunately none of our conservative leaders read this blog but if they did I put it to them: isn’t a huge open cut coal mine a worse form of visual pollution? The present government (Liberal) leans heavily towards the export of fossil fuels as it is a quick and easy way to raise royalty taxes, however coal mining in Australia will come to an end as the world develops green energy methods. It will be to Australia’s detriment if serious consideration is not given to alternative green energy supplies.

Open cut coal mine in the Hunter Valley NSW. This photograph was taken on Day One of Encountering the Past Part 3 as we travelled by train to Sydney.

Open cut coal mine in the Hunter Valley NSW. This photograph was taken on Day One of Encountering the Past Part 3 as we travelled by train to Sydney.

A wind farm (on distant hill), a village and grapes on the way to Cordoba.

A wind farm (on distant hill), a village and grapes on the way to Cordoba.

At Algeciras we had a few hours to spare so we rode towards the seaside but unfortunately ended up in the port. Razor wire fences and security guards made sure we didn’t get our feet onto the beach. High razor wire fences are common these days around southern ports of the Mediterranean countries. The port of Algeciras is one of the largest ports in the world. There were few worthwhile photographic opportunities, however there was one building of interest.

The remains of an apartment that once joined the Hotel Marina Victoria.

The remains of an apartment that once joined the Hotel Marina Victoria.

An artistic expression if nothing else. The shape and the size of old rooms are clearly evident. The old wall has been sprayed with a sealant to stop water penetration into the hotel.

Countryside between Algeciras and Cordoba. Despite the dirty windows of the train the above image is reasonable. The soil I would describe as chocolate loam, good for the growing of potatoes.

Countryside between Algeciras and Cordoba. Despite the dirty windows of the train the above image is reasonable. The soil I would describe as chocolate loam, good for the growing of potatoes.

A farm near the chocolate loam field.

A farm near the chocolate loam field.

Our digs in Cordoba. It might not look much from the outside but inside, like many Iberian and Moroccan hotels and hostels, it was magnificent.

Our digs in Cordoba. It might not look much from the outside but inside, like many Iberian and Moroccan hotels and hostels, it was magnificent.

Saints looking over Hotel Maestre patrons in the Andalusian-style courtyard.

Saints looking over Hotel Maestre patrons in the Andalusian-style courtyard.

The courtyard of the nearby Hostel Maestre, a former family home.

The courtyard of the nearby Hostel Maestre, a former family home.

The main reason we wanted to visit Cordoba was to retrace our 1973 steps in the city. During our previous stay in the town we stayed with Australian friends who had two small children and it was one of the children who called me Fred Bear after I read a book to her called Fred Bear. The nickname stuck and by association Bev became known as Bev Bear. Our first ceramics company name was ‘Bear Creations’ and, as readers know, this blog it is called Tbeartravels.

Bev on the balcony in 1973, third floor up on the right.

Bev on the balcony in 1973, third floor up on the right.

A 2015 view of the same street.

A 2015 view of the same street.

Things haven’t changed much in Calle D San Basilio, even the stork nest on top of the belltower is still there.   The balcony Bev was standing on in 1973 is the one on the right hand edge of the photograph with no awning.

The 1973 view from the balcony. Note the angel statue on the corner of the church directly above the donkey cart driver’s head.

The 1973 view from the balcony. Note the angel statue on the corner of the church directly above the donkey cart driver’s head.

The angel statue is still there. Imagine what she has seen in the years since Bev and I were there.

The angel statue is still there. Imagine what she has seen in the years since Bev and I were there.

A 2015 image of the belltower. The only changes are the stork nest, which has a metal frame support, and a TV antenna.

A 2015 image of the belltower. The only changes are the stork nest, which has a metal frame support, and a TV antenna.

Bev and I were quite chuffed that we found one of our old haunts. It’s a comforting feeling to know some things haven’t changed. Satisfied with our efforts we went off riding the streets of the city.

Many of the Cordoba streets, like many old towns in Spain, were not designed for the motorcar. They were developed in the days of the donkey and cart. The following photograph shows one of the many back streets not suitable for cars. If a driver ends up in a street like this there is a chance he could get stuck and have to back out.

Donkey cart lane in Cordoba. What do you do when on your bike you come face to face with a van like this: you pick up your bike and huddle in a doorway.

Donkey cart lane in Cordoba. What do you do when on your bike you come face to face with a van like this: you pick up your bike and huddle in a doorway.

An alleyway almost too narrow for a bike.

An alleyway almost too narrow for a bike.

In Cordoba there are many antediluvian buildings and we had no intention of visiting them all in the short time we were in the city but one we had to visit was the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos. Built in the 8thcentury it was once the residence/fortress for the Christian monarch King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. At the time when they were in residence it was the headquarters for the ghastly Spanish Inquisition.

I have deliberately not included any images of the various torture activities of the inquisitors for the sake of young readers of this blog; I wouldn’t like them to have nightmares.

Since commencing our Encountering the Past Odyssey three years ago I have become increasingly interested in the religious history of the world and why people are drawn into a particular religion.

For some it is a way of conformity. Others are brainwashed into it when young. Then there are those who join with the thought of an afterlife and others who are forced to adopt it under the threat of death. An example of the latter relates to Cordoba when a Spanish Inquisition Tribunal was established in the city.

The inquisition began in 1478 and was conducted by an Inquisition Tribunal. This tribunal was in effect a court responsible for the detection, conviction and execution of heretics. Heretics were Jews, Muslims, Protestants and non-believers. The true purpose of the inquisition is somewhat obscure. Some historians suggest it was political, however it is generally agreed that the religious aspect was a predominant factor. The king and queen wanted a true and fully encompassing Catholic state. The inquisitors believed that their actions of obtaining confessions a result of torture and execution saved the heretics from the hideous fate awaiting them in the underworld. Today this is inconceivable but in the 13th century the only education was a religious one. People were guided by blind faith.

The body in charge of the inquisition was under the direct control of the Spanish monarchy and it was not definitively abolished until 1834. Modern historians have questioned the number of people actually executed. Estimates vary from 150 000 charged and 2000 to 5000 executed. The inquisition spread to Spanish colonies in Central and South America as well.

35 Goya painting Spanish Inquisition

Artist Francisco Goya’s depiction of an Inquisition Tribunal. Image credit: From Wikipedia.

There is a WordPress blog called 100swallows.wordpress.com. An article titled The Best Artists describes the above Goya painting. It is definitely worth a read.

The people wearing the dunce caps were the accused heretics. On the cap were written details of their crimes. The use of the cap implies that the accused lacked intelligence for not following the faith.

In more modern times (into the 20th century) the dunce’s cap or hat was used as an article of discipline and as an instrument of humiliation for children slow to learn their schoolwork. I have clear memories of a teacher putting fellow classmates into a ‘dunces’ corner’ (without the cap) where they stood facing into a corner of the classroom as punishment for some misdemeanour. These included flicking rubber bands, throwing spitballs, passing notes, pulling hair or flicking ink from the nib of a pen. I was involved in the throwing of spitballs and the flicking of ink but fortunately I was never caught and therefore I never did a stretch in the dunces’ corner. Spitballs were made from chewing blotting paper.

The word ‘dunce’ comes from John Duns (1266-1308), philosopher/theologian. Duns received the papal accolade of Doctor Subtilis (Subtle Teacher) and he, to this day, remains in high esteem within the Roman Catholic Church.

 A friend recently told me about another diabolical punishment and it involved the use of drawing pins. In the late 1960s one teacher punished naughty children by making them stand bare footed on their toes and under their heels drawing pins were placed point up on the floor. If the children fatigued while standing and they lowered their heels they would come in contact with the sharp end of the drawing pins thus inflicting pain.

CORDOBA ALCAZAR. Because of the Alcazar’s history as headquarters for the Spanish Inquisition for a time it is relevant to write about this horrific but fascinating period. As we walked around the gardens I couldn’t help but think about the cruelty inflicted on people over the years the inquisition raged.

The gardens of the Alcazar. It’s hard to imagine these tranquil gardens having seen inquisition times.

The gardens of the Alcazar. It’s hard to imagine these tranquil gardens having seen inquisition times.

37 Alcazar garden

Botanical way in the gardens.

A Dr Who Dalek light in the garden.

A Dr Who Dalek light in the garden.

In the Dr Who television series the Daleks are the most feared race in the universe. Their creator, Davos, has only one intention and that is to destroy all life apart from Dalek life.

Following are a couple of images of footpath mosaics within the gardens of the Alcazar. I could not help but include them as they really are beautifully executed.

Interlocking art.

Interlocking art.

Interlocking circles.

Interlocking circles.

One of the many fortified towers in the Alcazar wall.

One of the many fortified towers in the Alcazar wall.

According to my reading, many heretics met their death from being thrown from the top of Alzacar towers. After reading about the Spanish Inquisition and other religious events in the world I have come to the conclusion that religion is like owning a cat: some people want one and others don’t. Religion is the same, you either want to get into it or you don’t.

Another building of note is Cordoba’s Catholic cathedral, the Mezquita-Catedral de Cordoba, also known as the Great Mosque of Cordoba. I didn’t go in as I had an altercation with a security guard who wouldn’t allow me to chain our bikes to a lamp post. The thinking is that our bikes could have been disguised bombs. These days in Europe there are signs at various strategic locations saying ‘Unattended bicycles, motorbikes and prams will be removed and destroyed’. Not a pleasant thought if your bike and gear which has been locked to a lamp post disappears while you are having coffee.

Maybe the security guards at the Mezquita-Catedral were thinking about a 2010 fight between security guards and two men of the Islamic faith. The fight started after the Muslim men pushed the boundaries a bit by kneeling and praying in the cathedral.   The fight broke out after they were asked to refrain from doing so.

Since the early 2000s Spanish Muslims have lobbied the Roman Catholic Church on more than one occasion to allow them to pray in the church but their requests have been rejected by church authorities in Spain and by the Vatican.

Whilst Bev went into the Mezquita-Catedral I lay on a cool smooth polished granite park seat and mulled over the fact that due to security measures imposed on travellers like us Spain these days is not a comfortable country to travel in.

Aerial view of the Mezquita-Catedral. To fully appreciate the size and grandeur of the cathedral one needs to get a bird’s eye view. Image credit: Toni Hameryko. Uploaded to Wikipedia by Hameryko.

Aerial view of the Mezquita-Catedral. To fully appreciate the size and grandeur of the cathedral one needs to get a bird’s eye view. Image credit: Toni Hameryko. Uploaded to Wikipedia by Hameryko.

The Mezquita-Catedral was originally a Catholic church but when the Muslims conquered Spain in 711 the church was divided into two sections, a Muslim and a Christian portion. The shared worship lasted until 784 when the Christian half was purchased by the founder of a Muslim dynasty that ruled the greater part of Iberia for nearly three centuries. The plan was to demolish the entire structure and build a grand mosque on its grounds. The building of the grand mosque never eventuated as there was a power swing and the church became fully Catholic.

Double arch hall inside the cathedral.

Double arch hall inside the cathedral.

A hall such as the one shown above is called a hypostyle hall, which is where the roof is supported by a double row of columns. The use of double arches (horseshoe and semi-circular in this case) permitted higher ceilings. The red and white painted voussoirs of the arches were inspired by the Dome of the Rock shrine, which bears great significance for Christians, Muslims and Jews. The Dome of the Rock is one of the oldest pieces of Islamic architecture and is located in Jerusalem.

Islamic architecture and columns of jasper, onyx, marble and granite.

Islamic architecture and columns of jasper, onyx, marble and granite.

A section of the 16th century cathedral which was built in the middle of the mosque.

A section of the 16th century cathedral which was built in the middle of the mosque.

Combination of two styles of architecture.

Combination of two styles of architecture.

Detail in archway.

Detail in archway.

The Mezquita-Catedral bell tower.

The Mezquita-Catedral bell tower.

For me riding around Cordoba is slow going as there are many small things to see, even down at ground level. Following are a few small things at both low and high level.

Limestone kerb, marine skeletons in the stone can be easily discerned.

Limestone kerb, marine skeletons in the stone can be easily discerned.

The house is gone but the staircase handrail remains.

The house is gone but the staircase handrail remains.

Asking for a serviette after having a feed of olives? Modern artists can paint on tiles as well. Circa 1990.

Asking for a serviette after having a feed of olives? Modern artists can paint on tiles as well. Circa 1990.

Attention to detail, an intricate design on a saucer.

Attention to detail, an intricate design on a saucer.

I don’t need a cat but I do appreciate them as a photographic subject.

I don’t need a cat but I do appreciate them as a photographic subject.

BBear securely strapped to the handle bars and guarding the cherries. The cherries were in season and they were delicious.

BBear securely strapped to the handle bars and guarding the cherries. The cherries were in season and they were delicious.

From Cordoba we took a high-speed train to Madrid where we changed trains and took a second high speed train to Cuenca, famous for its ‘Hanging Houses’. We decided not to stop over in Madrid as firstly we were there in the 1970s and secondly we couldn’t face the prospect of the crowds. Since being in Moroccan medinas and the Old Town of Tarifa we have no desire to venture into large cities like Madrid. From now on we will head for smaller towns. However there will be two exceptions, Barcelona and Paris.

The end of another post is here. The next post will take us to Cuenca of hanging house fame. Bev and I have not been there before but there is a connection and it relates to my ceramic work back in in the 1980s.

 

 

 

 

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About tbeartravels

It's been said that I know a little bit about a lot of things and a lot about little things. I hope I can share some of this knowledge with you as we travel.
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