After I have seen all the sites in the Jewish Quarter of Cordoba, I break for lunch. Today's attempt at ordering tapas and a mojito for lunch are 'corrected' by the waiter who insists that I should more properly order a crab salad and a glass of white wine. Apparently I was trying to order bar food ... the salad comes with a packaged loaf of bread. There is so much pre-packaged food here. Music in this restaurant is American rock from the '50's.
I spend my afternoon at the Alcazar.
The Alcazar was the castle of King Alfonso X, known as The Learned, King of Castile, Toledo, Leon, Seville, Cordoba and a few other cities. He ruled from 1252 until his death in 1284 and spent nearly two decades in what would become a failed pursuit to become Emperor of Christian Europe. In spite of draining his treasury by remaining in a state of near constant war, Alfonso also promoted a blossoming in the arts, sciences, and law. He is commemorated in the US House of Representatives as one of the world's most influential lawgivers.
King Alfonso also recognized Spanish as a formal language of government, breaking Latin's hold and accelerating Spanish as one of the world's most widely spoken languages. Castilian became the common language as well, helping to unify a people who had been conducting business and general life in Arabic, Berber, Hebrew, Basque, Portuguese and a host of other languages and dialects.
The Alcazar was started in 1328 as a military fortification, and was later extended to include gardens, transforming int a residence for the Catholic monarchs after the reconquista. Christopher Columbus was received here by Ferdinand and Isabella. After the surrender of Granada, it was used by the church until the Inquisition was banned in 1821, after which point it was used as a prison until 1951.
Unlike the other 'castles' here which were actually manor houses, the Alcazar has a definite 'castle' feel to it. A statue of King Alfonso stands near the entrance. There are a number of artifacts here but I only found one furnished room, a council chamber, perhaps used as a war room. A stone staircase takes you to the roof where the view between the crenelations is far superior to the view from tower at the Roman Bridge.
The highlight of this building is the gardens in back, with its terraced pools down the center, filled with foot-long fish that are probably hand fed. There are mosaic pools in Romanesque themes situated towards the back corner. The garden also features formal box hedges, and topiary in the shape of large jugs with handles.
Across the street from the Alcazar are the Calliph's Baths, a partially restored ruin with a great many informational placards which describe its function and history. The photos in my Facebook album are annotated with these placards. To find those photos as well as additional shots of the Alcazar, please click here.
Dinner is, at last, tapas! A small plate of marinated shellfish, and another plate of potato and pepper salad, followed by a flamenco show at the Tablao Cardenal later that evening.
For some inexplicable reason, I am seated at a table by myself, at the corner of the stage, with everyone else being seated at the other end of the room. At intermission, one of the singers sits down at my table and tries to strike up a conversation but my Spanish remains inadequate. On the stage, the women are spirited in step and very serious in facial expression, in high contrast to the men, whose broad grins were so contagious that even the women were smiling by the end of the evening. It's a great experience to end my stay here.