Córdoba: Day 25, 26 (Well, Kind Of)
To make a long story short, the 25th day of our European adventure was pretty ugly. After waking up at the godforsaken hour of 6AM (much to the offence of seven surfers, I’m sure), we boarded our train to Zaragoza and began our eight-hour journey to Córdoba…
…which, in the end, lasted thirteen.
At Zaragoza, we missed the connecting train to Madrid. I admit our tardiness was partially due to general incompetence and a lack in cardiovascular skills (the run to the security checkpoint carrying 20kg backpacks was a veritable workout), but the confusing and incredibly vast architecture of the Zaragoza station certainly had something to do with it. Upon realising new tickets to Madrid would cost a tear-inducing 63€ (our budget travellers’ souls broke in every single way possible), we decided to get a four-hour bus to Madrid for a quarter of the price.
I won’t go into the details, but trying to figure out how the bus system worked and whether or not we could exchange our connection from Madrid to Córdoba required a) a lot of Spanish and b) a lot of grit. And patience. And frustration and exasperation and a lot of other not-so-great things.
But as an individual who is predisposed to seeing the glass as half-full, I wasn’t terribly upset. Life can be mean sometimes, but we’ve just got to deal with it. Besides, the whole fiasco taught me some valuable lessons in maturity, which I guess was the whole purpose behind this trip in the first place. As an added bonus, the bus ride offered tremendous views of the Spanish countryside and a lot of time to sleep… although I did feel terrible for one Australian tourist who left his luggage on the bus at Zaragoza, stepped out for a toilet break and missed the bus entirely.
Once we got to Madrid, we booked tickets for the last train to Córdoba, which was around 15€ cheaper than the trains for the earlier times. We finally arrived at our hostel just before midnight and proceeded to crash into bed at 1AM, relieved to finally be in Córdoba — in our own private room at that! — with a whole day before us.
Which leads me to our 26th day in Spain, possibly the most laid-back day of the trip thus far. In the morning I went for a run around the Puente Romano in an echo of the run I did with my dad in 2014 (you can find my blog post here). It was touching to visit our old hostel and the places that I visited with my parents. I’ve written about this before, but the thing I most admire about Spain is the way it remembers: plaques and statues adorn every street corner to recognise those who played an instrumental part in making the city what it is. In the same way, I’ve come to associate several parts of Córdoba — such as the Plaza del Potro, where our old hostel was — with certain memories and people, which, upon my re-visits, left me with that warm, fuzzy feeling that nostalgia brings.
The day began very slowly. Joseph got his laundry done, I sent some mail and bought some olives for my mom, Nicole bought some things for her film camera and we just meandered around the area. The streets of Córdoba create an intricate maze, which means we ended up walking the same routes over and over and over again… not that we minded too much, as the gentle tranquility of Córdoban architecture is very pleasant for the eyes and the soul, and, more importantly, Nicole wanted to hatch her Pokémon eggs.
We were quite lucky in terms of the things we stumbled upon. At one point, we walked into a flamenco museum, where we had a go at playing a Guitar Hero-esque flamenco drumming game, read about murderous innkeepers and learnt how to build a guitar from scratch. We also came across some beautiful squares hidden in street corners, visited the Calleja de las Flores, saw a 22 meter deep well nestled in a random store and a motley mix of other things.
Food, however, was another matter. In a city that boasts an endless variety of restaurants, we weren’t very lucky with what we ate. For lunch we walked into a restaurant offering an awesome deal — 10€ for an appetiser, main, drink, bread and dessert — and ended up with a series of fried things (my main of ‘fried aubergines’ were literally sticks of aubergine made to look like fries) that made us feel 100% nutritionally bankrupt. We soon rectified this, however, with some 3€ juices at a nearby juice shop, where we spent a while conversing with a New Zealand couple about their past and upcoming travels around the world. Dinner was a similar affair at a neighbouring restaurant, which was essentially a carbon copy of our lunch spot.
(What I’ve learnt is that meals on a budget are incredibly hit or miss — case in point: some of my best meals were less than 4€ — and that most of the time, it’s down to luck. In Ronda we’re planning on splurging a little for our first and only proper group sit-down meal, and fingers crossed that it’ll be much more fulfilling than what we had in Córdoba.)
The rest of the day was spent meandering around, with no goal in mind. We passed shopping malls, churches, fountains, aphrodisiac stores, kittens, pillars… the list goes on. By the time we came back to our room at night, we’d basically memorised the entire city and thus had no problems with navigation.
There’s a reason why Córdoba is one of my favourite cities in Spain — in fact, it’s my favourite after Salamanca. It’s quite spectacular, given that I spent a month in Salamanca and only an accumulated two full days in Córdoba. The gentle beauty and quietude of Córdoba always leave me feeling very much at peace, and the fact that Córdoba is the perfect fusion of Arab and European, Muslim, Christian, and Jewish cultures and traditions offers an important lesson in tolerance and communal spirit… which is something the world really needs at the moment.
Now we head off to Ronda, which will be equally, if not more, quiet. Then to Madrid as our final hurrah, then back home — and yes, it’s been a while!