Thursday, 26 April 2012

The best of Córdoba in May

One of last year's winners
If you've never been to Córdoba, May is the month to be there. And if you've been there at any other time of year, May is the best time to visit this ancient city. Aside from the world famous Mosque -a breathtaking experience- and various other fscinating historical spots, the reason to be there this month is the flowers. Spring bursts into bloom with a parade known as La Batalla de las Flores (Battle of the flowers), which launches the Cruz de Mayo (May Crosses) festivals usually during the first week of the month (watch this space for a forthcoming item on them). And that is followed by the Patio Competition, this year held between May 2 and 13, when every courtyard is alive with colour. And this is a preamble to the annual Feria at the end of May. Let's look at the patio competition (and more photos).>>>

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Originally launched by the Council in 1918, it is best appreciated with a little understanding of the local architecture. The central patio, or courtyard, is a feature of houses in the dry, hot climate of North Africa. And the Moors were here for 800 years, so their influence is patent.

But the Romans before that were well aware of the need for a cool central area for their homes, too; they took note of their possessions in Egypt, although in fact the system was used as far back as the Babylonians. The cooling system was achieved thanks to two main features: water, usually in the form of a fountain, and vegetation.

So common were the courtyards that nobody seemed to notice them. Until the advent of tourism - even back in the early 1930s, when the competition really got going, to continue after a hiatus for the Civil War.

Back to the present: the best areas to see these courtyards, balconies and other features are in the very oldest part of town, the barrios of San Agustín, Santa Marina, San Lorenzo, Judería and San Basilio. It is possible to have a guided tour of the best of them: ask at any tourism kiosk, of which there are several near the Mosque.

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