Spain has been conquered by multiple groups: the Visigoths, the Romans, the Moors, and more. And with each change of hand, a new religion dominated. Normally, rulers raze down all traces of the former civilization and start anew, but in Córdoba the Catholics actually preserved the old Muslim buildings. As a result, visitors to the city have a rare opportunity to see the combination of two cultures, both different yet at the same time quite similar.
Along the way to our first attraction, we happened across a churro stand. It was only 10 AM, but we couldn’t pass up a chance to try some more fried dough. The stand is run by a father and son duo, and they make their churros fresh for each customer. These churros (€1.10 each) are circular as opposed to stick-like, and you also have the option of having extra sugar on top – which really shouldn’t be optional. These were the best churros we had in Spain: they had a crunchy exterior yet a fluffy interior. In addition, the churros were acceptably oily, meaning they didn’t leak through the paper onto our hands. This nameless churro stand is located on the corner of San Basilio and Campo Santo de los Martines, on the way to El Alcazár de los Reyes Cristianos.
After the mid-morning snack, we entered El Alcazár de los Reyes Cristianos. This is the palace where the Spanish Christian monarchs used to stay, where the discovery of the Americas was planned, and where the headquarters of the Inquisition was located. Afterwards, the palace was used for a prison before the town eventually bought and restored it. Admission is €4 for adults, €2 for students, and free on Wednesdays. My favorite part of El Alcazár was the gardens. All the shrubbery and flowers were all planted in such an organized fashion.
Some of the trees were cut into the shape of long, thin tubes. Hidden amongst the regularly-cut trees is this tree cut into the shape of a tower. Pretty creative!
In the center of the gardens, there are also three statues: King Ferdinand, Queen Isabella, and Christopher Columbus. They represent El Alcazár’s role as the meeting place for the discussions concerning Columbus’ explorations. It is widely known that Columbus brought syphilis back from the New World with him, and he was the first to die from the disease. It is rumored that Queen Isabella was the second person to die from the disease. Scandalous!
After our visit to El Alcazár de los Reyes Cristianos, we wandered around scouting places for lunch. While looking around, we passed through Calleja de Las Flores. This is a narrow street that is famous because of all the potted flowers hanging on its walls. While a quaint idea, I didn’t really see the appeal of this path. The flowers were not captivating enough to make me want to linger, and the street is filled with more tourist souvenir shops than flowers.
For lunch, we went to 101 Tapas. We were hesitant at first, because the name implied a sub-par restaurant for tourists, but we were proved wrong. The place really does have 101 Tapas, and you are given a sheet where you indicate which dishes you would like. It’s a method that I’ve seen used at a lot of dim sum places, and I think it’s quite efficient. We ordered four tapas: croquetas espinacas, flamenquín Serrano, lagrimitas de pollo, and patatas bravas cordoba.
The croquetas espinacas were crisp and had a creamy interior. I liked how they weren’t overly salty. The flamenquín Serrano consisted of a piece of pork wrapped in bacon and then breaded and fried. It was packed full of porky flavor, but the meat itself was a bit dry. The labrimitas de pollo were also nicely crispy, but as with the pork the chicken was a tad bit dry. The patatas bravas were excellent. They weren’t the best that we’ve had, but the sauce was thick and creamy. All the flavors of the tapas were spot on, and the portions decent, but there were just a few execution errors – mainly the dry meats. The atmosphere was fun, though, and the place was packed. I also loved all the posters on the walls.
We also ordered sangrias, and these were the best sangrias we had in all of Spain – Córdoba was just on a roll. At the end of our meal, we were also given a complementary shot of some sort of dessert liqueur that tasted like dates. I’m not sure if this is a custom at 101 Tapas because we didn’t see every person who ate at the bar get one. Therefore, I can’t exactly say our experience at 101 Tapas was typical.
After lunch, we went to La Mezquita, conveniently located only a few yards away. It costs €8 to go inside, and there is no student ticket. La Mezquita was originally a church build by the Visigoths. However, when the Moors arrived, they bought the church and built a mosque on top. The building of the mosque took over two centuries, and at one point was one of the largest mosques in the world. When the Spanish took over Cordoba, they converted the mosque into a cathedral by adding in various Catholic alters yet kept the original building intact.
Take time to also look at the high ceilings of La Mezquita as well. With so much detail even on the parts of the walls so high up, you can see why the building of the mosque took so long.
Leaving La Mezquita, we passed through La Puerta del Puente and onto the Roman Bridge. It was really windy that day, and we almost felt as if the wind would blow us right off. There’s not much on the other side, though, and we ended up walking back uneventfully.
On our way back, we decided to try some buñuelos. Buñuelos are fried pieces of round dough and are typically less crunchy than churros. We figured we had to give some loving to other fried desserts, so we approached the lonely man at his cart. The man turned on his machine, which churned out little rings which floated down a river of hot oil. Along the way, the man would turn the pieces of dough to cook them on the other side. I wish I could have gotten a picture of the process, because it seemed very carnival-like. At the end, we had a choice of powdered sugar, caramel sauce, and/or chocolate sauce. We went with chocolate. The buñuelos weren’t very good. They were far too oily, and we just felt as if we were eating dough soaked in oil. Even the chocolate sauce couldn’t save them because it was too thick. We tried something new, but it seemed that it was best to just stick with the churros.
Taberna 101 Tapas
Velazquez Bosco 12
14003 Cordoba, Spain