Cordoba: Flamenco, Ruins and Early Mornings

My alarm roused me I knew it and I groggily hit the snooze button. Several times. Finally, I rolled out of bed and collected the last of my things. I had packed most of my stuff the night before, so gathering the rest was fast. Since I would be coming back in a few weeks, I left my dancing shoes, tent, some of my clothes, and the ever growing pile of books, CDs, videos, pamphlets and DVDs that I have been given by teams over the past few weeks. I will probably have to send a package home when I return, as the bag holding them all weighs over 15 pounds. Brush teeth, eat orange, dummy check, head out. There is no attendant at the university desk where I got my key the first night, so I leave it in the mailbox and walk down to the center of Eibar in the dark. it was 5:45.

In the center of town I wait sleepily where I find a line of disheveled and weary looking people in a line along the side of the building. The bus pulled up ten minutes later and I made my way to the back. It was too dark to see anything out the windows, so I decided to listen to my books on tape and sleep. Before I knew it I had fallen asleep and the bus was pulling up into the station in Bilbao. It was a rather small station, but I managed to find a place to get a sandwich and chocolate croissant before hoping on the bus to Madrid. I lucked out on this one, managing to get the back five seats to myself, and so stretched out across, drew the shades and went to sleep. I was woken up at a service station where I bought a sandwich for later, and finally arrived in Madrid just before 1:00 groggy from sleep and travel.

I grabbed my banjo and computer bag and went into the station to buy my next ticket, to Cordoba. I managed to figure out that the fastest bus was in a different station several metro stops away. It wasn’t until I was about to buy a metro ticket and feeling pleased with my successful spanish interaction when I realized with a sinking feeling what was missing! It was actually a sort of floating feeling that let me know, for what was missing was my backpack. In my sleepiness and hast to find my next bus. I had left it in the luggage compartment! Gahhh! I run back to the bus, but there is no one there and the door is looked. I start asking everyone in the area who looks at all official and finally get someone who says they will help. Just at that moment, a man walks up and gives my bag to me.

Relieved, I went back to the metro and caught my train to Mendez Alvaro station, where I bought a ticket to Cordoba and even got to practice my cyrillic! The business with the bags had cost me the early bus, so I sat in the station and played banjo for a few hours until the second bus arrived.I very carefully reminded myself about the bag this time, and by 9:20 that night I found myself in Cordoba station calling up my Couchsurfer, Elana. I instead got one of her roommates, Clara, a spanish girl who was studying in the city.  She speaks some english and me some spanish, but we established that they were on their way and I should stay put. Banjo time again; it has sort of become how I identify myself when I need to meet someone, less “I-don’t-know-where-I-am-or-what-i’m-doing” than a sign, and stands out more than a description. I get a call a few minutes asking where I was. “sitting outside the bus station playing banjo, you can’t miss me!” “Oh, the Bus station! Well we will need to find that. We are at the train station.” Both girls had arrived in the city within the past week, but luckily the two stations were rather nearby and soon enough we were walking back to the apartment and chatting. Elana was a Brit in her thirties and had spent the past 10 years globetrotting. She spoke no spanish, but had just started a job teaching English and was planning to settle in Cordoba for a while. She apparently was super-outgoing, for in the week she had been here she seemed to have met a large number of people. She took me back, fed and watered me and started trying to learn bamboo flute. Clara was a little younger than me and studying environmental science in the University of Cordoba. We spoke alternating a few minutes in spanish and a few in english, or sometimes each of us speaking in our opposite language. She was donating the extra mattress and I was sleeping in the room of some girl who hadn’t shown up to the flat yet. I had traveled all day, so I took a quick shower before we all headed out to see the town.

"Looking for a casual girlfriend"

Coming with us was Maria, the third roommate along one of her friends, and a spanish fellow named Raul who Elana had met on couch surfing. We headed out to La Corriderra, a large plaza and a popular gathering place for student and other folks. We arrived to find the whole thing utterly and completely packed full with thousands of people, apparently there was a music festival going on and some band was playing that night in the plaza. We hung out there for a while, got some food and drink and then I went off with the spanish girls to another bar. On the way we found a rather interesting classified ad. The new bar had funky decorations all over, and we stayed a while before deciding that it was probably in our best interest to find a photo booth. Why not? The photo booth that we found was broken, but we pretended that it worked, to much hilarity.The next stop was a night club in which I got something of a surprise! While maybe half the music that was played was just about what you would expect in a spanish nightclub, they also played such hits as “Summer Lovin'” from Grease Lightning, “New York, New York” as sung by Frank Sinatra, the Beatles, or YMCA. Everyone went wild and danced around to some of these unlikely songs and I just stood laughing!  After a little while I was just about asleep on my feet, and my hosts were gracious enough to take me home (it was 6:00am after all!) and I was asleep far before falling into bed.

I got up the next morning and started wandering around the city. I walked along the river and through winding, narrow streets with beautiful old buildings all around me. The city is absurdly clean, and we found out why while walking late the night before; they handwash all the streets with hoses every night! They also string up large sheets above the pedestrian parts of the city to shade a little bit fom the scorching sun. My first real stop was at the Mezcita, a breathtaking building in the heart of old Cordoba. After listening to an absurdly talented hammer dulcimer player outside, I entered into the gardens, filled with orange trees, fountains and pillars. A giant clock tower soars over one side of the garden while the walls around the edges provide some needed shade (my goodness it was hot!) There was some confusion as to if they would let me in with my banjo, but eventually they let me in and I walked into the cool and shadows of the interior. The first thing you think when entering is that the pillars seem to go on forever. I should explain, the building was a Mosque that was then turned into a cathedral.  

Really the cathedral was basically just built in the middle of the thing looking slightly out of place in the low ceiling of the Mezcita. 

I spent a good while wandering around the different chapels and old artifacts before heading out again. My next stop was an old roman bridge that went across the river to an archeological sight on the far bank. The bridge was interesting because from the top it looks fairly modern, but when you cross and look at the side of the bridge you realize how old it is!

This was actually amazing during all the days I spent in the town, seeing how many old buildings there were everywhere. I was a bit tired, so sat down on the center of the bridge to play banjo for a while and busk. Another highlight of my time in Cordova was a visit to the Alcazar of the Christian Kings, a (just about) perfectly square castle surrounded by beautiful gardens, each one different from the next!

After I had thoughouly explored the castle (including playing banjo in a lovely stone room at the far end of one of the battlements and climbed up for a photo at the very top) i ventured out into the gardens.

One of the cool things that i found was the statue of Columbus asking the rulers for ships to sail west to go east! There were also lovely fountains everywhere!

The next night Elana, Clara and I went out to a Flamenco show! It wasn’t the greatest that I have seen but we had fun and got to talk a bunch. I feel my spanish improving rapidly when I spend so much time with spaniards, it’s really great!

I finaly got in contact with the dance team from Obejo, a town an hour north from Cordoba, and manage to talk in spanish on the telephone! I was to take a bus at 6:30 in the morning from the train station. My body chose this time to start to get sick which was unfortunate since I had an hour and forty minute wait in the cold in a little town in between to change buses. I spent half of it curled up in my rain jacket before remembering I had my banjo.

I’m currently in England (i know! Further and further behind!) making rapper swords, so Obejo is a story for another day! Thanks for reading and I promise I will update soon!


About Jeremy Carter-Gordon

My blog of a year studying point-and-hilt sword dancing on a Watson Fellowship. Enjoy reading, tell me your thoughts and leave me a comment, or visit my website at
This entry was posted in Exploring, Spain, Travel and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Cordoba: Flamenco, Ruins and Early Mornings

  1. The adventures continue! Thank you for the excellent update and the great photos. xo Zoe

  2. Pingback: Chasing the Star of Swords: Sword Dancing on a Watson Fellowship | Rapper Sword Dancing |

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s