I was lucky enough to have been invited to Cordoba by one of the teachers I have conversation classes with for one of the best times to be in Córdoba, La Fiesta de los Patios. From the 2nd of May to the 15th the patios or courtyards of houses are open to the public to visit. During this time the houses compete in a competition to win the prestigious award for having the most beautiful patio and 1,000 euro. The patio or courtyard was first adapted by the Romans and later the Muslims to fit their needs, making the home center around an inner courtyard, normally with a fountain and often a well to collect rainwater. There are two types of courtyards, the first one is in a one family home (now converted into apartment style housing) in which the rooms are arranged around the courtyard; the second type is called casa de vecinos or neighbors house and is where the individual homes look out into a central courtyard with a communal kitchen and bathroom area.
Although I only had about a day in Córdoba, I did a ton. Due to Manuel (the teacher I went with), being from Córdoba and having lived there for many years he was able to show me around and take me to the patios easily; he was the perfect person to go with-like having my own private tour guide. It was supposed to rain the whole week including the day we got there, but we lucked out. This allowed for two things; one, the first night there was almost nobody visiting any of the patios allowing us to see more with no crowds, and two, if it had rained it would have destroyed many of the flowers for the following day patio visits.
The patios of Corodba are incredible, each one different from the last in both floral arangment and style. Walking into each one was like a suprise, either awe-inspiring or slight of disappopintment (some weren’t as beatufiul as others), with sometimes a feeling in between. The care, dedication and work it must take to maintain them is staggaring, not to mention they don’t use any modern day or automated watering techniques; it’s done manually by someone using a long pole with a cup-like fixture attached to the end. Here are some examples of the patios:
After being around so many beautiful flowers, I felt I needed some for my house. So, when I got back to Jerez I bought a few.
Aside from magnificent patios, Córdoba has a bunch of typical foods that Manuel made sure I tried. First off is rabo de toro, or bulls tail; I was surprised at how big the tail actually was, which makes sense considering how big bulls are, but for some reason I was expecting something like the size of a golden retrievers tail. Bulls tail is a slow cooked, fall-off-the-bone type of meat; it’s very tasty, but now having tried it I’m not sure I’d need to have it again. Second on the list was a dish called flamenquín- slices of jamón serrano wrapped in pieces of pork loin, coated with egg and breadcrumbs and then deep-fried, served with french fries and mayonnaise; it is also incredible delicious and must be tried if in Córdoba. Third was salmorejo, a puree consisting of tomato, bread, oil and garlic and garnished with bacon and cheese; it is similar to gazpacho, but thicker and more flavorful-it is delightfully refreshinig. Fourth was cogollos con ajitos, or lettuce hearts seasoned with bits of garlic fried in olive oil; a very minimal dish made all the better accompinaied by a fino.
Lastly a dish I have been wanting to try for a while, snails. Snails have recently invaded all the bars and restaruants of Jerez, each place with a sign saying tenemos caricoles “we have snails”, or a drawing of a snail sginifying the same thing. This recent influx has peaked my interest of late and only a week before I had asked my friends if anyone would try them with me. Little did I know I’d be going to a place where they are highly prized. The month of May starts the beginning of snail season in Córdoba and all around the city selling points pop-up, like roadside snail bars. My dreams came true on the second day, we stopped at the 2014 second place finisher and decimated a family of snails, including their cousins and second cousins. We tried four different dishes each one a different flavor: caracoles picatones-small snails in a spicy sauce, caricoles chicos en caldo-small snails in a hot broth, cabrillas en salsa de almendras-medium sized snails in an almond sauce, and caracoles a la carbonara-small snails in a carbonara sauce. Surprisingly they were delicious and I had more than satisified my curiousty of caricoles.
Cordoba has incredible patios, great food and it also has a ton of history. Córdoba is an ancient city and has the second largest historical district in Europe, the largest urban area in the world declared World Heritage site by Unesco. It is here where most of the historic buildings in the city can be found, the most important and symbol of the city the Mosque of Córdoba with the current Cathedral and next to it the Roman Bridge. The Mosque dates back to the 10th century when Córdoba reached its zenith under Abd ar-Rahman, at this time Córdoba was the largest, most prosperious cities in Europe and the Great Posque paralleled its splendour. In the center, like a parasite lays the Cathedral, which date back to the early sixteenth century with other changes made when Córdoba was reconquored in 1236 and consecrated as a Christian Cathedral; two juxtaposing architectural styles in one place makes for a really unique viewing experience.
*Bonus: When eating Thursday night one of the most popular modern flamenco singers in Spain, Nina Pastori came in to eat at the same place we were. Althought I didnt know who she was it was a huge deal for Manuel and his friend. They compared it to eating out and having Beyonce come in, granted I think that might have been a little of an overstatement, it goes to show how highly she is regarded.