Welcome to our travel blog. We are Tabitha and Nic. In 2011 we 'retired' in our early 40s and set off to travel the world. We spent our first year in South America and have been lucky enough to make two trips to Antarctica.

Our blog is a record of our travels, thoughts and experiences. It is not a guide book, but we do include some tips and information, so we hope that you may find it useful if you are planning to visit somewhere we have been. Or you may just find it interesting as a bit of armchair travel.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Cordoba, Spain - part two (Throwback posts)

Another place worthy of a tour around is the Palace of the Christian Kings. The current structure was built by King Alphonso XI El Justiciero (The Righteous) in 1327, but there are still a few remnants of the older Roman and Moorish buildings. It is an impressive palace, and there are some lovely gardens to walk around.

The 1469 marriage of King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile, united Spain, and in 1492 the monarchy left Cordoba and the palace was give to The Inquisition Court, where it would have been the site of some terrible acts of cruelty in the name of Christianity.

For anyone whose only knowledge of the Spanish Inquisition is that Monty Python sketch, I'll give you a brief run down. With the wars with the Moors having come to an end, and the Catholics in power, focus had been shifting towards religion, and a desire to make Spain a solely Catholic country.

Religious intolerance had been growing in Spain for some years, predominantly against the Jews. Many had been forced to convert to Catholicism, and were known as 'Conversos'. Some, however, had converted in public, but continued to practise Judaism in secret; they were known as 'Murranos', and were deemed as highly dangerous to the Catholic regime. In 1478, Pope Sixtus IV issued a Bull (an official papal letter) permitting Ferdinand and Isabella to establish The Inquisition, to seek out and put an end to heresy. In reality, of course, much of what occurred was more to do with strengthening the power of the unified monarchy, and with individuals using it to further their own interests.

In 1492, Jews were given a stark choice of Catholic Baptism or exile, and somewhere between 40,000-160,000 Jews left Spain. In 1526, Islam was banned in Spain. Whilst many Moslems accepted a forced conversion to Catholicism, these 'Moriscos' were still regarded as dangerous, and by 1614, some 300,000 of them had been driven out of the country. In the 16th and 17th centuries, The Reformation saw the rise of various Protestant religions spread across Northern Europe. In Spain, the spread was largely halted, as anyone associated with Protestantism was quickly arrested and dealt with. With Jews, Moslems and Protestants kept at bay, focus turned to Catholics who had adopted ideologies that differed from that of The Inquisition, and they too were persecuted.

The Spanish Inquisition lasted from 1478 to 1834, and was active in Spain and its colonies. As well as people being denounced for their actual religious beliefs and practises being outside of the accepted form of Catholicism, many people were turned in on that pretext, but in reality for other, purely selfish reasons. Once arrested, the victims would be tortured into confessions. If they survived the torture, they were required to denounce other heretics, and if guilty - which most were found to be - punished. The number of those said to have been executed varies widely depending on the source; the lowest suggest 3000-5000, while some others suggest up to ten times that amount. The most serious and unrepentant heretics were burned alive at the stake, especially in the early part.

This was not a good period in Spain's history, but let's not get too critical, as it certainly isn't the only country with skeletons in its past. We did visit the Museum of the Inquisition, which has a large, private collection of Inquisition period torture instruments. This also reminds us that other countries did their own share of terrible things, as the items here aren't all Spanish. There are some truly awful bits of equipment here, designed purely to inflict suffering. It is a fascinating place to visit, but I have to say that I left with renewed horror of the capacity that we humans have to do terrible things to one another.

Enough of that. I think it's time to move on swiftly to nicer subjects.

One of Cordoba's famous past inhabitants in Cervantes, who lived here as a child, and included reference to the Plaza del Potro in his famous tale of Don Quixote. It is a pretty little square, and the old Inn, that Cervantes may well have visited, is now home to the Centro Flamenco Fosforito, which turned out to be one of our favourite things to do here.

The centre is a great little museum about flamenco music, song and dance, with lots of information about its history and people. The bit that we really liked though, were all of the interactive music exhibits, where you could attempt to tap along in time to the flamenco rhythms. Nic and I spent ages trying to outdo each other. We were lucky to have the place mostly to ourselves, so try to go along when it is quieter, for the best experience.

Needless to say, we also found a few places to eat and drink here, and our favourite was definitely La Siesta, just down from Plaza del Potro, in Calle Enrique Romero Torres. The street is much quieter than the main square, and full of restaurants, but this one had excellent food at good prices. Top choices for us included the Berenjenas fritas con miel de cana, a kind of tempura aubergine with honey, and Natillas con canela y mousse de galleta, which it describes as cream custard with cinnamon and cookie mousse, but I just call delicious. We went back a few times.

In the main square, you really should try Bar Santos, a tiny tapas bar that is famous for its tortilla, which for anyone who hasn't tried it, is a sort of potato omelette. The ones they have here are huge great thick wheels of tortilla, and they are stacked up in the bar in huge numbers. Their popularity is justified, it is an excellent tortilla.

We certainly didn't want for good places to eat and drink here. There was a great little beer place, which I can't remember the name of, but I expect you'll come across if you wander around a bit. The final place I will mention is just slightly out of the main tourist area, but worth popping along to is you have time. The Mercado Victoria is a gourmet food market, which has a few stalls with raw ingredients, but is mostly prepared foods of various different cuisines. It is a nice place to go for some good and varied food, but it is busy.

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