Saturday, August 23, 2014

August 23, 2014 -- Córdoba, Spain

I think this will be the final entry until I (I hope) resume the Camino de Santiago de Compostela next summer. It is obvious that my injured leg will not be well enough for me to continue the Camino this year. I fly back to Phoenix in four days. It is my hope, however, to continue both the Camino and the blog describing it in 2015.

 I walked up into the main part of town today. Just in case some think that all of Córdova is made up of narrow, medieval streets like the section of town I am staying, I assure you that most of Córdova ids as modern as any other western city.

This is a picture of the northbound lanes of the main street connecting the southern portion of the city, where I am staying, with the city center. I took the picture on Saturday morning, so there was little traffic. There is an equally wide southbound section to the left hidden by a strip park. Notice the bicycle lane on the right. It is both wide and separated from the motor vehicles.

The city's railroad tracks are underground, and the picture below shows the park that covers them. It also contains wide bicycle lanes in both directions and runs east to west.

Friday, August 22, 2014

August 22, 2014 -- Córdoba, Spain

Today I finally visited the inside of the mosque. I also wanted to visit the Synagogue, but it is closed for renovation. That is a shame, because it is said to be one of only three synagogues in Spain remaining from medieval times. However, I did visit the neighboring Shephardic Jewish Museum.

The building that is commonly referred to as la Mozquita or the Mosque and is known to the Catholic Church as the Cathedral began its life as a Roman temple to the god Janus and later became a Visigoth church. After the Moors conquered Córdoba, it was divided into a Catholic and a Moslem section where both could worship. (The Moors were much more tolerant than are modern-day Islamic governments and today's Catholic Church.) Then the Moorish government purchased the land from the Christians and constructed one of the largest mosques in the world. When the Catholics reconquered Córdova, they converted the mosque into a cathedral, and officially it is a cathedral today, although as the following two photographs show, it still looks more like a mosque.

Since the year 2000, Islamic groups have been seeking permission to pray at the mosque, but the Spanish Catholic Church, the Spanish government, and the Vatican have all opposed the idea. That seems a shame to me, because having Moslems and Christians sharing a place of worship might be one small step toward reducing the friction between adherents of the two religions.

 There are some sections of the building that do look like a church. Small chapels are located all around the walls in the style of medieval churches, and the center of the vast building has bee converted into a place of catholic worship. The following picture shows the main altar.

The following two pictures show the ceiling in the part of the mosque that has most successfully been converted into a cathedral. Even here the geometric designs of Moorish architecture stand out.

There are stone remnants of the Visigoth church preserved in display cases. The following photo shows one of the displays.

As I mentioned, I also visited the Shephardic Jewish museum today. It was an informative visit, bit the displays were small and not easy to photograph. The following is a shot of the museum's courtyard.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

August 21, 2014 -- Córdoba, Spain

I try not to walk too much to give my injured left quadriceps a chance to heal, but I do want to see some of the sights, so I go out walking in the morning and return to the hostel in the early afternoon.

Today I spent my time exploring around the mosque/cathedral. As I wrote in an earlier entry, it is one of a number of mosques that was converted into a church after the Catholics drove the Moors out and reconquered Spain.

A notice put up by the church emphasizes that the building is a cathedral and the administrative headquarters of the Catholic Church for this region. When you buy tickets to tour it, you buy tickets for "the cathedral." However, it doesn't look like other Catholic cathedrals. It looks like the hybrid that it is, and everyone refers to it as la Mizquita, the Mosque. I haven't heard any of the locals call it "la Catedral."

In the following photo, it looks more like a church except for the orange grove in the foreground. An orange grove is the traditional entrance to a Spanish mosque where the faithful once cleansed themselves in the foumtaims before entering the building.

When you look more closely, you notice that the basic structure is that of a mosque.The decoration around the arch in the following photograph looks very Moorish as do the designs on either side of it. The Moors did not believe in depictions of human figures in their places of worship, so they decorated them with geometric designs.

In the days before drip irrigation systems and underground PVC pipes, the Moors came up with an ingenious way to irrigate the orange trees in the grove. The water that leaves the fountains enters a system of small channels that run through the grove. By openimg or closing small irrigation gates, the water can be directed to a row of trees.

Finally, here is a picture of the outside wall of the orange grove. In Moorish times, I imagine that all of those doors were open so that people could move freely in and out.

Tomorrow I plan to buy a ticket to go inside. From the photographs I have seen, I expect the interior to dazzle me.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

August 20, 2014 -- Córdoba, Spain

Just seven more days until I fly back to Phoenix! I wish I could fly back saying I had completed the Camino, bit with this leg injury, there is no way that I can proceed at this time. I hope to come back next summer with a healthy leg and take up the Camino where I left off.

I spent a few hours walking around the Old City today. I followed one of the walking tours suggested on a city map that I was given.

One bit of information I read said that when touring the Old City, I should look in windows and walk in open doors. I soon discovered the reason for that advice. Behind the street doors of many buildings is an open courtyard. There is competition among building owners to have the prettiest courtyard and to show it off. I took the following picture through one of the open doorways along my route.

As I mentioned in yesterdays entry, the streets are very narrow. Some are so narrow that I can touch the walls on each side with my elbows without having to extend my arms. Here is one of the medium-width streets.

A good portion of the Old Jewish City is still surrounded by walls. Below is a photograph of the Gate of Almodóvar. I entered the old city by that gate yesterday after I got off the bus on my way to the youth hostel. Had I been smart enough to turn left immediately after passing through the gate, I would have co,e directly to the hostel instead of wandering around asking for directions.

In the foreground of the picture below is one of the old waterwheels in the Guadalquivir river. The waterwheels were once used to supply power for such tasks as pumping irrigation water. The bridge in the background is the restored old Roman bridge across the river. Some modern touches, such as electric lights, have been added to the bridge, so it almost certainly does not look the way it did in Roman times.

I walked across the bridge, naturally, and from the other side I took this shot looking back toward the Old City.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

August 19, 2014 (revised) -- Córdoba, Spain

I arrived in Córdoba without incident, found the bus stop, caught the correct bus, and even got off at the correct stop. Then everything went to hell. I didn't realize that the youth hostel was located in the old Jewish neighborhood called la Judería, with little, narrow, twisting half-alleys (streets that are half the width of a normal alley). In no time, I was completely lost in the maze. All I knew was to pick my way through the streets heading generally east but bearing slightly south. Finally I figured I was somewhere in the neighborhood of the hostel, so I started asking directions. I got answers such as "Turn left on the next street, don't go up the hill, bear left, and then ask for directions again." No one could give me detailed instructions on how to make my way to that part of the maze where the hostel is located, but by stopping and asking for directions every few blocks I finally reached my destination.

Córdoba was the political center of the Western Moorish Empire and was also the largest city in Spain during the Roman occupation, so I think there is enough to see here to keep me busy during the next few days.

The hostel is very near the old mosque: The largest mosque that the Moors constructed in Spain. After the Catholics reconquered Córdoba, a cathedral was constructed within the mosque. The following picture shows the orange grove, which was the traditional entrance to a Spanish mosque, and also shows the cathedral's tower.

Here's another shot of the cathedral's bell tower. On the left is one of the walls of the mosque and on the right are some of the little shops that cram this neighborhood.

I have not yet discovered the purpose of the monument in the following photograph. When I took this and the other photographs in this blog entry, I was wandering around carrying my backpack searching for the youth hostel and not in a mood to do much investigating. On the left of the photo is one of the corners of the outside wall of the mosque.

Below is the scene that presented itself when I walked around the corner from where I took the previous photo.

Monday, August 18, 2014

August 18, 2014 -- Last day in Seville, Spain

As the title to this blog entry states, today is my last day in Seville. Tomorrow afternoon I take the train to Córdoba, where I will spend six nights. After that I have two nights back in Madrid before I take the plane to Phoenix on the 27th.

This morning I went to the Church of the Savior or la Igesia del Salvador as it is known in Spanish. I spent much of the afternoon on the phone, making phone calls over Skype from my tablet PC, getting my car insurance reactivated so I can drive legally when I get back and ordering Internet service from Cox. Dealing with the insurance company was easy. Dealing with a poorly trained Cox representative was a nightmare.

The following picture shows the front of the church. On the outside, it is not nearly as ornate  as the baroque cathedral. However, inside the complexity of the carvings and metalwork almost numbs the senses.

Below is a picture of the main altar taken from the front of the church followed by a picture taken from farther back.

I couldn't resist taking a picture of this dome. Getting enough light inside a church without weakening the load-bearing walls too much was a problem for the early church builders. 

No ancient church was complete without a relic. Acceptable relics were body parts of some famous saint: a finger, a vial of blood, a bone, etc. The relic inside the case in the photo below is purported to be from Santa Barbara. I have no idea which of her bones that is, but one of the medicos among the readers may be able to tell us in a comment.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

August 16, 2014 -- Seville, Spain

Today is the day that I finally got inside the Giralda, which is the enormous bell tower of the cathedral. I not only got inside, but I walked around and around the ascending ramp all the way to the top.

As you line up for tickets to get into the cathedral, you pass a restored version of the giant weather vane that tops the Giralda and gives the tower its name (the weather vane "gyrates" or turns). I had been inside the cathedral itself several times, but when the cathedral is open to the public cor free in the mornings, the museum areas are closed off, and the many side chapels are not illuminated.

However, I have written about the inside of the cathedral in previous entries, so this time I will comcentrate on the Giralda.

I took the following picture while ascending the ramp that leads to the top of the Giralda. The images of the boys coming down the ramp are blurred, because they were descending at a fast clip, and I took the picture using my primitive cell phone camera in low light. At the end of this section, the ramp turns to the left and continues ascending. I didn't count the number of left turns I made to continue ascending, but it was several dozen.

As I mentioned in an earlier entry, the way to the top of the tower is a ramp. because when the tower was the minaret of a mosque, a man would ride a horse to the top to call the faithful to prayer. I suppose making someone to ascend that high tower on foot five times a day was considered too onerous.

In case you doubt that I made it to the top, here is a selfie at the level of the bells. That's not the very top of the tower, bit it's as high as a tourist is allowed to go. There is a staircase leading higher, bit it is blocked off.

You are probably wondering what Seville looks like from up there. Here it is. Notice that eben the nigh roof of the cathedral in the foreground is quite a distance below.

Finally,here is the courtyard of orange trees. I have read that it has been considerably altered since the cathedral was built, but it is one of the remaining features of the old mosque and once served as the mosque's entrance.

Friday, August 15, 2014

August 15, 2014 -- Seville, Spain

If I hadn't given up my Catholic faith decades ago, I would have realized that today is an important Catholic holiday and therefore an important Spanish national holiday, as well. For those readers who are as ignorant as I am, I will explain that today is Assumption Day, the day when, according to Catholic dogma, the Virgin Mary ascended into Heaven. If I correctly remember what nuns told us in catechism when I was in my early teens, the Catholic faith teaches that Mary is the only person to have ascended into Heaven, body and soul, without having died first.

I walked into town despite my injured leg and was surprised to find the doors of the cathedral wide open with thousands of people inside. A high mass was in progress, and because there were so many attendees that not everyone could see the altar, the mass was projected onto overhead TV screens. Naturally the Giralda or bell tower was again closed, so I once again failed to get inside. Tomorrow, perhaps?

 Because I walked instead of taking the bus, I saw things that I hadn't seen before such as the beautiful parkland stretching along the Guadalquivir River. Even though Seville is not on the coast, it is a seaport, because the Guadalquivir is navigable. It was an important starting point for voyages to the Americas during colonial times.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

August 14, 2014 -- Seville, Spain

I did make it into the cathedral this morning, but I only saw part of it. A notice was posted saying that the tower would be closed to tourists this morning, because the bells were going to be rung. I can imagine that the sound of so many large bells could make a deafening sound reverberating inside that closed space.

I did manage to take a clearer photo of the cathedral's bell tower this morning. As I wrote yesterday, the site where the cathedral stands today was once the site of a mosque. When the Christians reconquered Seville and drove the Moors out, they tore down most of the mosque but left the mosque's minaret standing, which they converted into the cathedral's bell tower.

If you scan the following picture with your eye from bottom to top, you will notice that near the top there is an abrupt change of style. Below that point, the walls are heavy and solid looking with a few narrow windows to let in light and geometric designs to ornament the otherwise blank stone walls. Near the top, the style appears much lighter with openings for bells, and even the shade of brown of the stone is slightly different. That is the portion added after the Christians reconquered Seville.

I also mentioned in an earlier post that Christopher Columbus's remains are believed to be in the church.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

August 13, 2014 -- Seville, Spain

I did make it to the cathedral today, but I didn't make it inside, so I've yet to see Chris. Chris Columbus, that is, better known here as Cristobal Colón. 

Instead of immediately getting in line and buying a ticket, I decided to walk around the outside first and also visit any parts of the cathedral that were open to the public free of charge. I found the structure to be fascinating, so I spent a lot of time sitting in various places and studying different aspects of the cathedral's appearance.

By then, my leg was hurting, so I thought it a good idea to put off standing in line to buy a ticket until tomorrow.

Before I reached the cathedral, I came across this building, which I later learned is called the Torre de Oro or Golden Tower.

The most interesting feature of the cathedral's exterior is the bell tower, but unfortunately the only full shot I took of it turned out blurry, so I'll have to photograph it again tomorrow. The tower has an interesting history, but perhaps I should go into that tomorrow. For now I'll just write that the cathedral was once the site of an ancient Gothic church. When the Moors conquered Seville, they demolished most of the church and built a mosque in its place including an immense minaret. The Christians finally retook Seville and destroyed most of the mosque but kept the minaret, which they converted onto the cathedral's bell tower.

It is difficult to find a place to stand from which to photograph the entire cathedral with a simple cell phone camera, but in the following two shots I got in as much as I could.

The following shot is off the tourist entrance to the cathedral. There is a long line of people waiting to buy tickets snaking around the courtyard, out to the sidewalk, and down the sidewalk to the left.

The shot below was taken from farther back and shows the crowd of people waiting to buy tickets. To the right of the picture is a portion of the bottom of the bell tower.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

August 12, 2014 -- Seville, Spain

I spent a good part of the day on the train getting here. The train from Granada to Seville didn't go by the same route that the train from Madrid to Grenada took over the Seville-Granada stretch. This was a single-track route through small villages with lots of curves. Once we had to wait in a station until a train coming from the opposite direction passed. The train was jammed full of passengers, however.

I got off the train one station too early and didn't realize my mistake until I went upstairs from the platform and saw that the station was far too small to be the main train station. I went back to the platform and hopped on a regional train that soon arrived, rode one stop farther, and got off at the right station this time.

The main train station is big. Metropolitan Seville has a population of about 1.5 million people, making it the fourth-largest Spanish city. The youth hostel is away from the main part of town, and I had to take two buses to get here. Luckily I had things pretty well figured out in advance thanks to Google Maps, but I still had to ask people for help. Job one was to find the tourist office and get a map. The tourist office is inside the railway station, but ot is difficult to locate. I saw no signs pointing to it,  but thanks to help from several of the train station's security detail, I found it hidden away in a side passageway.

Then I bought a 10-trip bus ticket. You buy bus tickets here in a tobacco shop. That makes sense, doesn't it? Every tourist would figure that out. Incidentally, when you buy a ten-trip ticket, you actually get a plastic card that the tobacconist activates using a small electronic terminal. I think that if I use all ten trips, I take the same  card back to be recharged.

Then I figured out where to catch the first bus. Google had said to ride it for five stops, but it turned out to be four. I walked across the street to catch the second bus, which had the wrong destination on the destination sign, but one of the passengers leaned out the window and told me to disregard the information on the sign. Google also had said to ride this bus five stops. The correct number again turned out to be four.

I'm very excited about tomorrow. I've long wanted to visit the old cathedral in Seville, which has a number of remarkable characteristics. For one, it is the largest church in the world, larger than Saint Peter's Cathedral in Rome. Second, Christopher Columbus's body is entombed within (although some people doubt that it is really him). Third.... but all of that is a subject for tomorrow's entry.

Finally, I will leave you with a picture of my room. It's a five-person room, but so far I have it to myself, and I think it may stay that way. This is an enormous hostel, but it's almost empty. Yes, the rumpled bed is mine as are the backpack, dirty walking shoes, and tablet PC on the table.

Monday, August 11, 2014

August 11 -- Granada, Spain

This is my last day in Granada. Tomorrow I take the train for Seville where I have booked a bed for a week. After that week is up, I will have a few more days to kill before I fly from Madrid to Phoenix on the 27th.

I went back on ibuprofen for my leg this morning. I had been off ot for quite some time, because I think it may not be a good idea to take too much of the stuff. However, it greatly reduces the pain in my injured left leg, although it doesn't stop me from walking with a limp.

My excursion into the city was short today, and I only took one picture. This seems to be an old apartment building. but one that is quite attractive from the outside.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

August 9, 2014 -- Granada, Spain

This blog only has a few more weeks to run. When I get back to Phoenix, I intend to make my last entry until I head back to the Camino, and I hope that will be next summer.

I foolishly walked several miles today. Walking does my injured leg no good, and each step is painful, but I am constitutionally unable to sit around all day. I wonder if I will be able to ride my bike in the lower gears when I get back to Phoenix. For what walking I'm required to do, I think a cane would be a big help.

I only took one picture on my wanderings today. This is the monastery of San Jerónimo. Note the intricate stonework.

Friday, August 08, 2014

August 8, 2014 -- Granada, Spain

Today I made the decision to fly back to Phoenix if my left leg doesn't make some sort of miraculous recovery in the next two weeks. I changed my flight reservation from September 27 to August 27. Of course, I can change it again if I do get better. If I don't get back to the Camino, I suppose I will have to change next summer's plans and pick up the Camino on foot where I left off. I had planned to come back next summer and cycle it.

However, the prospect of my leg's healing in the next two weeks is unlikely. Despite the swelling of my left leg, I kept kidding myself into believing that I might just have some sore muscles that would heal in a week or two. However, in the past dew days I've had to accept that I did some serious damage to the quadriceps and/or the associated tendons in my left leg that is going to take months to heal.

Even though I know that I should stay off that leg as much as possible, my restless nature drove me to walk several miles today up through the narrow lanes that ascend the hill below the Alhambra, an area known as Sacromomte. It is the traditional gypsy part of town, and there are even some gypsy caves up there, which I would have loved to have visited if my leg hadn't been hurting. The following photographs will give you an idea what the streets of Sacromonte are like.

The following picture shows one of the few streets that is wide enough for residents to park their cars. If you double click on the photo to enlarge it, you will notice the faint outlines of the city below looking over the wall between the tree and the tower. You may also notice the layer of smog that hangs over the city.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

August 7, 2014 -- García Lorca, Granada, Spain

After some initial improvement in the first week, my left leg muscles (or tendons, perhaps) and right big toe are not improving much. I assume the problem is that I keep walking on them, but I am not a person who can sit around without getting exercise. To add insult to injury, it feels as if I may be catching a cold.

Today I walked to what was once the summer house of Frederico García Lorca. I suspect that only my fellow literature wonks will have heard of him, but he was a famous Spanish playwright and poet who was killed during the Spanish Civil War, the war that brought Francisco Franco to power. Perhaps his best-known work is the play The House of Bernada Alba, which is sometimes performed in English.

The house is now a small museum. You have to go through it with a guide in a group, and no photographs are allowed inside, so the only pictures I have are of the outside of the house. It was once located in an orchard, but now the orchard is a large city park.

Among the things I was able to see inside was the desk at which García Lorca is said to have written many of his works.