4 good reasons to visit Córdoba

4 good reasons to visit Córdoba

Córdoba is the city of caliphs. It is located in the heart of the Andalusian region, next to the waters of Guadalquivir River, one of the largest in the Iberian Peninsula.

The Cordoba foundation

It’s already a quite old city, with vestiges of occupation that date from 3200 BC. The population started unfurling much due to iron ore mining (copper and silver) in Sierra Morena and agriculture.

But the foundation of the city of Córdoba only happened by the hands of the Romans, in the year of 206 BC. During the Roman occupation of Córdoba, this was the capital of the Province of Betica and the largest in the whole Iberian Peninsula.

Golden Age

However, that period wasn’t the city’s golden age. This would come with the arrival of the Moors, a couple of years later, with Córdoba then becoming the capital of Al-Andalus. The construction of the Great Mosque was put in motion already with the city serving as capital. When the construction of this magnificent monument was concluded, Córdoba was the biggest city in Europe.

During this grandiose era, many people from other places would arrive at the city. They tried to know its constructions, speak to the Caliph or find a cure for a health issue. For instance, the king Sancho I de León, looked for a cure for his obesity. The city was regarded as a hub of knowledge and learning, having a 400.000-book library, whereas other European libraries only had a few hundreds…

It was with algebra, created by the Arabs, and the discoveries which derived from it, that a major mathematical breakthrough took place, prompting the construction of major Gothic cathedrals of the Middle Ages.

Having the chance to stroll through the city was wonderful, walking on its paved streets, looking at the amazing houses with stunning courtyards, already with piped water. With the hot temperatures that could be (and are) felt during the summer, walking through Cordoba, sometimes, would represent a fresh breeze.

Given the Arab influence, the city’s trade was organised into different areas, depending on what was sold, as if it was a souk, a market.

The golden age of Córdoba ended abruptly at the beginning of the 11th century, due to internal affairs of the Arab Empire. When the Christians retook the city, the imposing monuments built by the Arabs underwent several changes.

Nonetheless, despite these changes, we can totally perceive this splendorous past while we visit the city. You will love it.

What you really cannot miss

1 – The magnificent Mosque – Cathedral

The Mosque – Cathedral of Córdoba is the most important monument of western Islam. This is the most visited space in Córdoba.

It is found in the historical centre and occupies an area of 24.000 m2. The original building was built in the 18th century, however it underwent several changes. The most important was its conversion into a place of Christian worship.

A quite interesting detail is that, for a couple of years, this Mosque-Cathedral was divided into two areas. This allowed Arabs and Christians to practice their worship in different sectors.

Use the Door of Forgiveness as an entrance, a spot where, in specific days, debts were forgiven, and let yourself be astonished by this wonder. In 1984 it was elected as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and, a bit later, the whole urban complex around it received the same distinction.

Detail of the facade of the Mosque-Cathedral

Interior of the Mosque-Cathedral

Detail of the interior of the Mosque-Cathedral

Detail of the interior of the Mosque-Cathedral

Detail of the interior of the Mosque-Cathedral

2 – The Alcazar of Christian kings

In Córdoba there is an Alcazar, akin to other Spanish cities. It consists of a fortress which, in its interior, holds a magnificent palace. Originally this was an Arab palace, the residence of Caliphs.

It underwent several sorts of occupation, it filled the role of the Christian Royal Family residence, the Court of Justice of the Holy Office (Inquisition) and also as a prison.

Now it has gorgeous gardens and courtyards, among which the Mudéjar deserves to be highlighted, with its marble surface.

3 – The courtyards, squares of the quarters

The whole historical area around the Mosque – Cathedral is deeply interesting. Visiting Plaza del Potro is something mandatory, and the same goes for the Old Alcazar and the Jewish Quarter. The latter is a unique quarter, where you can find one of the few synagogues in Spain.

Take your time to stroll through those streets and lose yourself in the courtyards, they are quite beautiful indeed, having been acknowledged as a World Heritage Site.

The decoration, the colours, the architecture, among other factors, turn this into a top-notch tour.

A street in Cordoba

A courtyard in Cordoba

4 – The city of Caliphs

Medina Azahara is found approximately 10 km from Córdoba. This was a city of Caliphs, whose construction was ordered in the 10th century, during the zenith of the Moor occupation.

The legend says that the Caliph Abd-al Raman III wanted to have a city in honour of Azahara, his favourite wife. But the reality is a bit different. This caliph must have had the ambition to display the grandeur of the new caliphate, established in the West.

Medina Azahara was divided into 3 floors, 2 of those occupied by the Alcazar and the lower one being reserved for the remaining houses and the mosque itself. Around 10.000 people worked in this city on a daily basis, using marble, gold and other precious stones.

I can imagine that it would have been a really stunning city. I think a visit it’s interesting, especially if we are already aware of this tiny bit of its past.

Medina Azahara

Medina Azahara

Detail of Medina Azahara

Of course there is a lot to see and do, if you look at a map of Córdoba you will notice that there are countless attractions. But, in my opinion, these are really mandatory.

To sum things up, I emphasise the food and flamenco… What are you waiting for?

Sigtuna, where Sweden was born

Sigtuna, where Sweden was born

Sigtuna is a picturesque city from the Viking period, located in Stockholm’s metropolitan region, not that far from its international airport. It is located right by the waters of Lake Malären, which was once an important marine route between Sweden and other nations.

Lake Malaren

House near the lake

Based on what the legend says, Sigtuna was Sweden’s very 1st city. This is where we can find medieval churches, ruins, castles and runes from the Viking era. Whilst visiting Stockholm, I do recommend checking this place as well. Walking on the Sigtuna’s main lane, just like others did 1000 years ago, is something amazing… It is like we have travelled back in time, arriving in some other era.

Sigtuna Foundation


In the distant year of 970, Erik the Victorious, Sweden’s first king, made the decision to build a city from scratch. This city is called Sigtuna. His goal was to establish a kingdom that would be akin to those that already existed throughout Europe.

Erik was definitely ingenious when building the city. By donating land, he was capable of keeping merchants and owners as his allies.

The streets were built abiding by the typical dimensions of the Viking period, like so many others scattered throughout Scandinavia. Another interesting trait is the fact that Sigtuna grew around one main lane, the Stora Gatan. It is believed that having access to water was what justified this situation. This is the oldest street in Sweden.

Even today, the centre has approximately the same size and shape of when it was founded, which is absolutely one of a kind in the country. Another unique trait is that Sigtuna holds the nation’s largest amount of runestones (around 170).

Coinage

Olof Skötkonung, the son of Erik, succeeded his father as king, and he was the 1st Christian king in Sweden, a belief that he upheld until his death. When Olof started to rule, Sigtuna was still going through the first stages of its development. He aimed to build a grandiose kingdom.

Like the other Christian Kings, he decided to mint coins. And that was how Sweden had its first minted coins, with the 1st appearing in 995.

The first Christian Churches

The construction of the Saint Olaf Church started at the beginning of the 12th century. This stone church is regarded as the oldest in Sweden. Its architecture is quite interesting, since the choir is greater in width and length than the nave itself. Right next to one of the church walls, there are ruins of an old house which can be visited even today.

Saint Olaf Church

A bit later, around 1250, the 1st brick church was built as an initiative of the Dominican Friars. It’s the Mariakyrkan and, since the 16th century, it is the parish church of Sigtuna.

Mariakyrkan

The main square

The main square was established in the 17th century and it was a stopover point for horses and carriages, and also vehicles later on. As we speak, with the increasing number of cars, it became a pedestrian area.

At the end of each August, a fair is held in this spot, the Sigtune Möte. This event finds its inspiration in the year of 1912 and so the vendors are dressed as if they are living in that period. This time of the year should be great to visit Sigtuna.

The city hall

Rådhus

The city hall was built in 1744, and it is the smallest in all Scandinavia. The building was conceived by its mayor.

The 14 islands of Stockholm

The 14 islands of Stockholm

The Kingdom of Sweden is part of northern Europe and belongs to Scandinavia. This remarkable nation comprises 220 thousand islands.

Stockholm is the Swedish capital, being also the country’s largest city overall, the most important and one of the oldest. It is located in Sweden’s south-east, gathering 14 islands which happen to be connected by 53 bridges. Hence its epithet: Venice of the North, one often used.

It is a truly enchanting city, endowed with a beautiful architecture, gorgeous parks and also being quite close to water. Sweden didn’t have to endure the malaise’s of World War II and so it preserved authentic architectural treasures.

It is a city very well outlined in several aspects, in order to provide its inhabitants with a high quality of life. And that energy is felt as we stroll through the city. In my opinion, coming from someone who loves warm temperatures, the problem is the weather itself… I visited it during October and the average temperatures were around 8ºC.

Stockholm is a city that can be visited by foot rather well and, if necessary, one can use its public transport network.

History

The city of Stockholm was founded in 1252 by Birger Jarl. This regent wanted to enact a fortress to protect the Lake Malaren from the looting pirates. This lake is one of Sweden’s largest and is quite close to Stockholm.

Due to its location, Stockholm was a common plateau for several ships, which, at the time, were circulating between the Baltic Sea and the Lake Malaren. These were merchant, war and also pirate vessels.

And, with that being the case, Birger Jarl made the decision to put stakes on a canal, the one currently known as Norrström. The city’s development happened at a fast pace, but many years had to pass before being chosen as the country’s capital.

In the 14th century, the Kalmar Union was held, with Sweden joining Denmark and Norway, to exercise their rule over the Baltic Sea. However, this union’s king was Danish for more than 100 years and the Swedish aristocracy remained dissatisfied with the situation.

As a result, Gustav Eriksson banished the Danish king on the 6th of June of 1523. This is currently the National Day of Sweden.

Over the years, Stockholm became the country’s political and administrative epicenter. Throughout the period during which Sweden was the ruling power in Northern Europe, a tremendous cultural development took place.

In 1634, Sweden became the nation’s capital. It is the seat of government, of the Swedish Parliament and the residence of the head of state.

Areas

We can divide the city into 4 different areas. The center, Blasieholmen and Skeppsholmen, Djurgarden and Gamla Stan. The latter is my favourite.

Center

This is the heart of the city, as well as its commercial hub. It comprises several museums, theaters, markets and lovely green areas.

In the 18th century, this was also the area where the noblemen started to edify their stone-made residences.

Blasieholmen and Skeppsholmen

From a cultural standpoint, it is a quite interesting area indeed. This is where we can find the most significant museums and cultural institutions of the city.

In previous centuries, elegant palaces were built in this area.

Djurgarden

It started as a royal reserve, where reindeer deer and elk were kept. It is now a colossal natural park, being the world’s 1st city park.

Gamla Stan

This area is endowed with immense historical heritage. This is the location of the Royal Palace, the Parliament, the busy and narrow streets and the elegant palaces.

There are still traces of Stockholm’s beginning stages as a city.

Bangkok, the City of Angels

Bangkok, the City of Angels

Bangkok is Thailand’s capital and one of the world’s most stunning cities. It’s located on the east bank of the Chao Phraya River (which means River of Kings). This river spreads itself through the city and flows into the Gulf of Thailand.

The name

Thai people actually don’t recognize the city by the name of Bangkok, rather Krung Thep or City of Angels. These last two come from the city’s ceremonial name, which can be found in Pali and Sanskrit, two ancient Indian languages. When translated into English, it goes like this: The city of angels, the great city, the city that is an everlasting gemstone, the unshakable city of god Indra, the world’s greater capital, ornamented with nine precious gems, the joyous city, the enormous and abundant Royal Palace, one that resembles the celestial location in which the reincarnated god reigns, a city gifted by Indra and built by Vishnukam.

According to the Guinness Book, it’s the world’s longest city name! It’s totally comprehensible the need for shorter designations. The ceremonial name is used only on special occasions. Actually, it’s more than just a simple name, given how much it says about the city’s history.

As for the international name of Bangkok, its origin probably has something to do with the designation that was given to the place where it was built, Bang Kok. This means village of plum trees. As time moved on, this name was dropped by Thais, but has been kept by the international community.

Foundation of the City

Initially, Bangkok was a small village located on the bank of Chao Phraya River. Back then, it was used as a harboring city for ships heading towards Ayutthaya, the kingdom’s capital and homonyms city. And so it exponentially increased its reputation.

After the Burmese loot of Ayutthaya, the kingdom’s capital moved to Thonburi. After a while, it shifted to Bangkok. The decision to change from one of the river’s bank to the other (from Thonburi to Bangkok) was taken in order to hamper the access of the Burmese, who used Thonburi’s flank for their invasions.

With this, on April 21 of 1782, the city of Bangkok was founded. The Grand Royal Palace started to be built in the very same year, which is a vast complex made of buildings and temples. Throughout the wide array of years that kings inhabited this palace, they carried out several overhauls, each one using different styles

It kept growing with time, given the intense trade established with China and some European nations, reaching its current status of a modern city. Currently is a metropolis with about 10 million inhabitants and two distinct areas. An old city filled with palaces and ancient and colorful gold temples, as well as a more contemporaneous one, with hotels, offices and shopping areas.

My opinion

Don’t miss the opportunity to get familiar with both sides of it, even if you prefer one over the other.

This is a fascinating culture and a very interesting one to visit. In my opinion, a visit must include a boat tour through the city’s canals, a visit to the Royal Palace and the Emerald Buddha Temple, to the floating market and to its most commercial area, particularly on Khao San Road.

Don’t overlook the chance to properly know the wonderful Thai cuisine and get at least one massage. They are awesome and super cheap!

There’s plenty to do in Bangkok, the village of plum trees…

Getting to know the organization of Manhattan

Getting to know the organization of Manhattan

New York is divided into 5 boroughs: Manhattan, Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island. The Bronx is the only borough that is not an island.

Manhattan is the smallest island and the most well-known borough, encompassing the city’s main attractions. The island is 21,6 km long and 3,7 km wide and is crossed by streets and avenues, perpendicular to each other. (more…)

Marrakesh, the red town

Marrakesh, the red town

Marrakesh gave the name to the country of Morocco.

The biggest mountain range of the African continent can be found in the north section of the Atlas. It’s one of the most symbolic capitals of the Old Moroccan Empire.

Fernando Pessoa depicted the first impression he had of the city: “At first, it’s unfamiliar, then it strikes roots”. It has been totally ingrained in me… I do confess. I’m absolutely in love with this city. Let’s know more about it. (more…)

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