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Ya verás/You’ll see May 16, 2008

Posted by Emily in Andalucía, blog, fiesta, photography, Spain.
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Since about Christmas, maybe before, there’s been one phrase the cordobeses have repeated to me over and over: ya verás (you’ll see). They were speaking of two things: just how hot it gets here and what Córdoba is like in May, the month of non-stop fiesta.

Lucky for me, I haven’t yet gotten a real sense of the heat here. It got up into the low 90s about a week ago, with the southern Spanish sunshine that shines with a strength that tells you the equator’s not too far away. (Hello, alliteration!) But Córdoba supposedly has the highest average temperature in Europe. When I was wearing a skirt and tank top, seeking out the shade and sweating all the same, people were walking the streets in jeans, long sleeved shirts and sweaters. I saw TWO women wearing (hideous) fuzzy mukluk Eskimo boots. It’s been raining this week and it’s been OK. Ya veré…I’ll see what it’s like soon enough.

Córdoba is a city that basically peaked in about 1250, when it was a thriving religious and trade hub, the center of Moorish culture outside of Baghdad, by some accounts Western Europe’s biggest city. The Mezquita and the ruins of the Medina Azahara give some sense of what it might have been like.

In a February book review in the New Yorker, Joan Acocella quotes the author David Levering Lewis on ancient Córdoba, “‘The capital’s streets, following no particular pattern from the long wall beside the gray Guadalquivir River, linked neighborhoods where Jews, Berbers, Catholics and Orthodox, Arabs and muwalladun‘–non-Arab converts to Islam–‘lived as though in their own separate worlds. Sephardic apothecaries, Visigoth blacksmiths, and Greek surgeons offered services in these long, narrow arteries.’ Orange and lemon trees perfumed the air. Outside the city, ‘the long Guadalquivir plain, abundantly irrigated by waterwheels, was carpeted with cereal plantations of wheat, rye, and barley, and olive trees forever.'” She goes on to write, “You want to move there.”

Córdoba has been trying to recapture that spirit for some time now (some might say the last 750 years or so), but the city’s fall from grace doesn’t affect the pride of the cordobeses. Oh no. At the same time that they hate on the sevillanos for thinking they’re the ombligo del mundo (center..but literally belly button..of the world), the cordobeses are not lacking in pride for their city, and never more than in May.

The month kicked off with Las Cruces, a festival in which crosses of flowers are mounted in all of the main squares of the city, as well as bars that blast flamenco and sevillanas all afternoon and into the night. Kind of strange mix of religion and debauchery (for more on this phenomenon, see: El Rocío). My Swedish friend Anna came down to visit from Pamplona, where she’s studying, and we had a blast floating from bar to bar, er cross to cross. We also went to a party in which a group of guys mounted their own cross on their massive terrace, along with a cardboard waterwell with a bucket/plant holder that moved up and down.

After Las Cruces, we had Las Catas del Vino (wine tasting festival, featuring ONLY wine from Córdoba and nothing from those other silly provinces) and the start of Los Patios. 70,000 people turned out to Las Catas over the course of four days. In an outburst of cordobés pride and I’m guessing somewhat full of cordobés wine, a gray haired man burst into a raucous version of the Córdoba F.C. fight song (quite unlike this rather stoic version) while waiting to cross the street at the end of Friday night’s festivities. It also served as yet another opportunity to tout Córdoba as a candidate for the European Capital of Culture in 2016.

These days, if there’s one thing Córdoba is famous for other than the Mezquita, it’s probably the patios. The interior of houses in the older part of the city face into a central patio, one of many Moorish steps to combat the heat, and every May the patios, usually closed off to the public, are open and in full bloom for the annual competition. There are two categories: Modern or Renovated Architecture and Original/Traditional Architecture. The first prize winner in the Traditional Architecture category receives 3,607€, but all participating patios seem to receive around 2,000€ just for being a part of the competition. I need to get myself a patio…


(Anna is six feet tall)

When the patios finish up next week, it will be time for the mother of all Córdoban parties, the 10 days we’ve all been waiting for: la fería. Remember how I wrote about the (more famous) Fería de Abril in Sevilla? The Córdoba/Sevilla rivalry is out in full force already in the form of the portada, the absolutely massive entrance to the Córdoban fair. I’ll look forward to taking some pictures that weren’t possible with the rain in Sevilla. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we’ll have nice weather, not much rain but also not completely roasting at the sandy fairgrounds. Supongo que ya veré. I guess I’ll see.

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