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Europe 2014 - Inland to Córdoba

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Inland to Córdoba

The route we chose took us around another reservoir and across hills to the large regional centre of Arcos de la Frontera with the old town set high on a sandstone cliff. Finding that the main carpark was underground we stopped at a rough gravel parking area nearby and walked up a steep path to the main street leading to the old town where the narrow cobbled streets had to be negotiated with care due to the fast local drivers. After looking at the few main sights we decided to head east to the sierras around El Bosque and Ubrique, and found a recreation area and viewpoint after a long climb up a winding road where a large group arrived for a noisy picnic. We continued to the small mountain village of Villaluenga del Rosario, the highest village in Cádiz province at almost 1000 metres, where we parked up overnight only disturbed by the flocks of sheep being taken up into the meadows. The peaceful village had several interesting old buildings, a compact bullring in the centre and a ruined church converted into a cemetery. It's a popular starting point for hikes into the surrounding hills.

Villaluenga street corner
 Villaluenga street corner

Villaluenga del Rosario
Villaluenga del Rosario
Villaluenga cemetery in ruined church
  Cemetery in ruined church
       Grazalema        Grazalema square
Grazalema                                                                      town plaza
The next morning we soon reached Grazalema, a white town set on a hillside and reputedly the wettest place in Spain so we were lucky to arrive in warm sunshine. We found a small carpark in the centre with a sign banning overnight parking of motorhomes. It is on the tourist trail with several craft and gift shops. After walking around the narrow streets admiring the bronze statue of a bull and some colourful house porches (a foretaste of the patios in Córdoba), we set off north across the hills covered in wild flowers to find a bridge across the Embalse de Zahara was closed so had to take a long diversion to reach the main road to Olvera, another Peublo Blanco. Bypassing the town we took the road to Setenil de la Bodegas set in a steep valley and famous for cave dwellings, but we found it to be rather scruffy with nowhere obvious to park so we headed back towards Olvera stopping at a shrine at the Ermita Santa Maria de la Remedio for lunch in the scorching sun.

Ermita Sanat Maria de la Remedio near Olvera
Ermita Santa Maria de la Remedio near Olvera

We found a new ACSI campsite for the night set on a hilltop a few kilometres to the east of Olvera. After using the motorhome service point (difficult to access and I got soaked from the very high pressure water tap), we decided to drive on main roads to Ecija and onto the free autovia to the city of Córdoba where the sat nav led us to the busy municipal campsite a couple of kilometres north of the city centre.
Cordoba mosque doorway
a golden doorway
We arrived in Córdoba in time for the annual Patio Festival fortnight but there are many other sights worth visiting in the city.

We walked into the centre in the evening to visit some of the patios and caught the bus the next morning to visit more patios and also the mosque with a cathedral built into its centre - an interesting mix of Arabic and Christian cultures.

Cordoba cathedral roof
Córdoba cathedral

The mosque is a UNESCO World Heritage site as is the whole of the old city centre, centuries ago the second largest city in Europe, and covers a massive area in the old centre. The site was originally a Christian church and developed as a mosque over centuries of Islamic rule. The current Christian cathedral was built within the mosque during the Renaissance so there is a strange juxtaposition of Moorish and ornate Baroque architectural styles, symbols and icons. Whilst it doesn't have the grandure of the Alhambra in Granada we found it a fascinating place to walk around and it wasn't too crowded. We then walked along the banks of the River Guadalquivir to the sixteen arched Roman bridge and the remains of old watermills.

Cordoba Mesquita

Cordoba watermill
ruined watermill
  Grazalema bull statue   Grazalema colourful flowers in porch
Grazalema bull statue                and colourful porch

   Ornate shrine altar
Ermita Santa Maria de la Remedio altar

Cordoba mosque
Córdoba mosque

  Cordoba Mesquita doorway

Cordoba mosque

Cordoba Christian cathedral in the mosque
Christian cathedral altar

Cordoba Mesquita courtyard
Mosque belltower from the courtyard

Cordoba Roman bridge
Roman bridge