Living in Spain allows you to feel as if you are walking through history. Surrounded by it, captivated by it, and breathing it in. This country is so much older than the United States, and you gain a palpable understanding of the passage of time in every cobblestoned step you take. You also sense the centuries that have gone by in the aura of the people. They move about with an unmistakable poise and composure that only comes from a country that has risen to the top of the mountain and come back down again. It’s an acceptance of the cyclical nature of things that instructs them never to get too high or too low. It’s very different than the frenetic energy in the United States, the urgency that seems to be attached to every moment or decision.
Truth be told, European history was never my favorite subject. And I spent more time in Mrs. McDonald’s Modern European History Class designing the power play with Ethan Skerry than I ever did contemplating Ferdinand and Isabella’s reign. This was reflected in my grades, and were it not for some stroke of luck that I selected to the take the class pass/fail, it would have been an ugly blemish on my report card. As it was, that “passing” mark was achieved with little margin for error.
At the same time, being here, living in this ancient culture is different than experiencing it in a textbook or even through the lectures of a great teacher. And we feel incredibly fortunate to be able to walk down the streets where the Queen of Aragon or Ceasar or King Boabdil once strolled. It does feel majestic, and it’s about as close to time travel as one can get. There is some degree of astonishment that these structures have stood for thousands of years, and we marvel at the manner in which time can march on while, at the same time, leaving marks (and structures) which are so completely indelible.
Córdoba is a city in Andalucia with one of those indelible histories. A thousand years ago, it was one of the largest cities in all of Europe. Córdoba is home to the magnificent Mezquita, the great Mosque that has a church built inside it. It is a place before its time and for all time—a religious building shared by Christians and Muslims for 73 years in the 8th century. The interior embodies a collection of cultures–with distinct, red-striped arches and magnificent gold inlays combined with a glistening white basilica. It’s tremendously inspiring, particularly in light of our fractured world centuries later.
All around the Old Town (which remains one of the largest old towns in Europe) the past gleams. From the impeccably cared for buildings of the Juderia (where Jews once lived and prospered alongside Muslims and Christians) to the Alcazar Palace (a residential home to Ferdinand and Isabella) to the Puente Romano where Ceasar triumphed, Córdoba sings with pride in the richness of its past prominence on the world stage.
During our two days in Córdoba, we covered quite a bit of ground. We took in the main attractions of the old town, ate a great Mexican meal (which, surprisingly, isn’t that easy to find in Spain), played with a friendly dog of an old man on the street, and Karen and I even took in a romantic date night strolling to Puente Romano while the boys took in room service at the hotel. At this point, they have become expert travelers, armed with kindles and phones, but also open to exploring each destination with curiosity and enthusiasm. That is a luxury for us, and we have reached a point where they are pretty much up for anything when it comes to travel. However, as we get set to hit the road over the holiday break in the heart of winter, we will see what these California kids are really made of. 🙂