Water and Horses

We woke up with no alarm for the first day in months. We have quickly fallen into Spain schedule.

Chiyo pointed out that I did not mention La Mezquita in yesterday’s email, only posted on Facebook. So here is that:

La Mezquita is the great mosque of Córdoba. Originally a place of worship shared by Muslims and Christians, the Muslim ruler of Spain bought the Christian half in the 8th century and built a mosque, the second largest in the world at the time. When Christian kings regained control, they converted it to a cathedral. It’s a real hodgepodge of architectural styles, including columns from Roman times. Hundreds of columns and arches, like a forest.

Intricate Arabic carvings are mixed with statues and paintings of Catholic saints. Ornate Arabic script and display cases for Crusader relics. An ugly stained glass window in a fake Arabic pattern. The place is huge, yet somehow cramped feeling.

This morning we left the apartment around 11:30. We had a 2:00 appointment at a hammam. We took a wide route away from the cathedral. Still, the streets were packed. Lots of people to see the processions. Mostly Spanish, with some French and Germans thrown in. Occasional Americans, from South and Central America with a smattering of US. We went into the new part of town, late 1800s, early 1900s, and stopped in a ham shop where we got a sandwich of Jamón Ibérico for breakfast. Yes, ham has been our main source of nutrition so far.

Continuing our looping route to the hammam, we came across 5 women dressed in black, each wearing identical black mantillas (that big comb that flamenco dancers wear on their heads), on their way home from Good Friday mass.

As we got closer to the hammam, we started to hear marching band music. Turning a corner, we came upon a small group carrying a statue of Jesus’ dead body. Right past the door to the hammam, which was across the street, may as well have been across the ocean. They passed fairly quickly, however, and we went into the spa.

We had booked 90 minutes in the baths, with 45 minute massages in there somewhere. After the changing rooms and shower, we entered. The was a big, swimming pool-size warm bath, two cold baths, each the size of large bathtubs (these were not very popular, hence so small), two hot baths, each about as big as a hot tub in a hotel pool, and a small steam room. We spent time in each, though only a few seconds, up to our ankles, in the cold, which was really cold.

There was a coordinator, Antonio, who pulled people out for their massages. Colored wrist bands indicated how long your massage lasted. We had the longest, so pretty early on, we were put on the tables. We had everything loosened up, then into the shower to get the oil of and back into the baths.

The whole place had an Arabic motif, with small ceiling windows shaped like 8 sided stars letting in shafts of sunlight.

Eventually, Antonio came around and quietly gave each person the 5 minute warning. When he came around to us, he told us we could stay another half hour. Maria’s charmed life continues (my life is also charmed by being in close proximity to her).

Soon everyone got up and left. Our time slot had about 10 people total. We were the only ones left. Eventually, we decided to leave even though we could have stayed, and I discovered the reason: traffic control in the men’s locker room, which had only 2 changing cubicles.

Back on the street, we headed back to the apartment to hang up our wet bathing suits and get some lunch close to home. We are staying in a corner of the old walled city, and the restaurants are nicer than those in the center right next to the tourist sites.

We ate a big lunch, Spanish style at 4:00 on the afternoon. No jamón for once, we had half raciones (a ración Is a small plate, bigger than tapas) of croquettes, fried eggplant with “honey” made from concentrated sugar cane, tuna and fried potatoes. A couple glasses of wine and a dessert made of whipped yogurt (Maria swears this must have been whipped cream, but I think with enough sugar, you could make yogurt taste like that), topped with “tocino del cielo”, literally “bacon sky”, which was a slab of caramel custard 1/4 inch thick. Yum, even Maria, who is not a fan of caramel, loved it.

After lunch, we went to the Royal Stables, just a few blocks from the apartment. They had a nice show demonstrating the talents of the Andalusian Horse, a cross between Arabians and European horses. On the small side, elegantly beautiful, and under tight control of their riders. On several of the pasos (acts), a flamenco dancer came out and danced with the horse.

Now, home early, maybe a light dinner of ham and chorizo, and a quiet night. Big night tomorrow.