| Iberian Adventure:
Can't We All Just Get Along
Story and photos by Tom Weber
the past six days, 29 international travel journalists and photographers
have banded together and shared space on a luxury motor coach rolling
through Portugal and Spain as guests of Insight Vacations (Insight)
on it's Iberian Adventure.
Now, on day seven, as we make the final
turn and head down the home stretch, it seems appropriate that our party
of intrepid scribes and shooters finds itself along the cobble facing
the Rio Guadalquivir.
Well, there's a city in Andalusia, much
like our "band of merry media," that once upon a time thrived
and survived while other metropolises of the day failed miserably in
their quest to provide a positive answer to a simple question: "Can't
we all just get along?"
That city was Córdoba, a benchmark
ciudad of the Western World, the greatest metropolis west of
Constantinople, where three religious cultures Islamic, Jewish
and Christian lived in peaceful harmony, coexisting and prospering
side by side.
Off the motor coach, parked in full view
of Puente Romano, a bridge built by the Romans back in 1 AD, we pass
through Puerta del Puente (Gate of the Bridge) and into Córdoba's
historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Gathered inside the Patio de los Naranjos
(Courtyard of the Oranges), where no less than 98 perfectly spaced orange
trees provide a fragrant canopy, we meet up with Enrique, Insight's
distinguished-looking, Córdoba-based art historian.
Ear buds in place for a quick audio check
of our portable radios standard issue on all Insight journeys
and then we're on the move again.
The grand Mezquita (Mosque), Córdoba's
iconic structure, where Moorish meets Christian art and architecture.
Flashing our fastrack tickets, we pass
through an ornate entryway and into a vast honeycomb of pillared arches
850 in all that support the Mezquita and, further inside,
a full-blown Renaissance cathedral that occupies the middle of the mosque.
Awe-inspiringly beautiful, the Mezquita,
or Córdoba Cathedral as its known by its current occupants, dominates
the historic center, beckoning thousands of tourists and artists
with easels inside to marvel at its spectacle.
Dancing with the darkness, natural light
flows down from windows high above in the four cupolas of the cathedral,
creating interesting, eye-catching, atmospheric effects framed perfectly
for the camera's lens.
Filled with shimmering decorations throughout,
like Byzantine mosaics of gold and a variety of Gothic, Renaissance
and Baroque art, not to mention massive, dueling pipe organs, the Mezquita-Catedral
(Mosque-Cathedral) built in the 10th century as a Moslem center
of prayer then transformed into a 16th century Christian house of worship
stands as a reminder of a lavish and refined bygone era of a
truly unique, vibrant, multi-cultural world city and the capital of
the Moorish kingdom of El-Andalus.
Back outside, we take one last look around
the Courtyard of the Oranges.
In the shadow of the Torre de Alminar,
the 93 m tall bell tower that now occupies the space where the Mezguita's
minaret once stood, we form up single file and follow behind Enrique
as he narrates the scenes unfolding along a serpentine route through
the Juderia, Córdoba's whitewashed Jewish quarter.
A labyrinth of meandering, narrow streets,
residents of the Juderia show pride of ownership as they decorate their
patios and walkways with colorful seasonal flora.
The atmospheric historical center is, unfortunately,
filled with bric-a-brac tourist shops that occupy space adjacent to
some excellent bars and restaurants, like Casa
Sitting along Calle Torrijos, just across
the street from the Mezquita-Catedral, we gather in the quiet of this
restored 8th century house's Patio de Las Palmeras (Courtyard of the
Palms) for an endless parade of tapas of black Iberian ham washed down
with countless glasses of chilled amontillado jerez (sherry).
After all, we are the working press.
A much-needed café solo at
Bandolero's bar rounds out this mouthwatering pit stop.
Founded by those empire-building Romans
along the banks of the Guadalquivir, Córdoba became a port city
of great importance, shipping Spanish virgin olive oil, strong wines
and durum wheat back to Caput Mundi. These sandal-clad sons of
Caesar also built the impressive Puente Romano Bridge over the Big G.
With less than an hour on the clock before
we have to bid adiós, whaddya say we cross that bridge
and see what else we can see of captivating Córdoba?
For complete information on Insight's 112
premium and luxury-escorted journeys around Europe, including 10 highlighting
Portugal and Spain, just click HERE,
or call toll free 1-888-680-1241, or contact your travel agent.
See you in just a couple of hours outside
our hotel when we'll go for a twilight carriage ride along the cobble
of Seville, take in a fiery flamenco show, and cap our final night of
this journey inside the city's oldest tavern savoring more mouth-watering
Not a Barber, But I Am in Seville; Evora's
Priced Iberian Ham; The
Medieval Village of Monsaraz; Enchanting
Évora, Portugal's Laid-Back Museum City; Sampling
World-Class Wines at the Alentejo; Cascais
and Sintra: To the Edge of the Earth