Day Twelve, I can hardly believe how fast this tour is going. However before it is done, I have another day to explore Seville. We started out the day by going to the Plaza de España, in Maria Luisa Park. It was built for the 1929 Exposición Ibero-Americana. The purpose of the Exposición Ibero-Americana was to smooth over relations with the countries who attended. It is lavishly ornamented with spanish glazed tiles, and was the palace in Star Wars episode I, and II (Small win though the original Star Wars are better). The building was never meant to stay standing – however the town loved it so it stayed.
We met our morning tour guide there who took us on a bus tour of the other buildings that were built for the Exposición Ibero-Americana. Then we went to an old spanish bullring. The Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza de Caballería de Sevilla is the oldest bullring in the world. The bullring was pretty cool. There was a museum and the tour guide told us all about how bull fighting started. How it was originally a way for a tribes boy to prove he was a man. Then later to show the bravado of the Spaniards. How the French king tried to introduce jousting as a more civilized sport, but the Spaniards booed him out. It was also cool to see how the hallways are very much like our baseball stadiums back home. And of course we saw the ring itself. There is no comfy westerner seating there. You sit on the brick seats from when ever the bull ring was built in 1749.
After that was walked along downtown where we had a break for lunch. For lunch we decided to branch out hand try one of the ‘prix fixed’ menus we saw, and were rewarded with an amazing 3 course meal for 11 euros. Our other tour mates went for 12 euro paella. Rip off. Then we went shopping for souvenirs, before meeting up with the bus to drive to Cordoba.
Oh Cordoba. Cordoba was HOT. It was the first time that we had intense heat in Spain. We did a walking tour of old town Cordoba. We learned about how in the tenth century, Cordoba was the most populated city in the world. It also had an enormous supply of books and was the centre of innovation. It also used to be a mixing place for Jews, Arabs and Christians. So they could all work together towards innovation. That all stopped when it was captured by King Ferdinand III of Castile.
So we checked into our hotel. Probably the most “rustic” of the hotels we have stayed at. But its Cordoba, I think most of this place is “rustic.” We saw a statue of the philosopher Lucio Anneo Seneca. He was born in Cordoba, and was tutor to emperor Nero, until forced to commit suicide. We also walked by one of 3 original synagogs left in Spain.
We also saw a statue of Ben Maimonides, a medieval Spanish, Sephardic Jewish philosopher. He was physician to the royal family for most of his life, and the royal family often asked his advice. It is thought that if you rub the shoe of the statue, some of his knowledge will rub off on you (see the gold foot).
We also saw a old water wheel (one of the first invented) which used to be beside the palace but Queen Isabelle did not like the noise it made so forced the owners to move it else where. We also saw the Mezquita–catedral de Córdoba, which is medieval Islamic mosque that was converted into a Roman Catholic Christian cathedral. Apparently since the early 2000s, Spanish Muslims have lobbied the Roman Catholic Church to allow them to pray in the cathedral. In 2010 two Muslims knelt to pray and were asked to leave and a fight broke out. So it is an interesting depiction of religion in Spain. It is neat inside because you can see all the arab influence inside and see it butt against the Christian church.
After that we wondered the city until it was time to go to the roman baths, the Baños árabes Hammam Al Ándalus Córdoba. We had a nice treat planned as an optional – where we went to the roman baths, enjoyed a soak and then got a massage. It was super relaxing after a hot sticky busy day. After that I wandered home in the twilight to rest up for the last day/night of tour.