All images by Alexandra Howe
San Rafael is the patron saint of Córdoba. One of his likenesses stands at the center of the Puente Romano, the Roman Bridge, gazing patiently over the Guadalquivir River. If you notice him from afar, he looks grand, imposing. I never knew who he was exactly, but from my end of the bridge he looked lofty and larger than life, looming in that way that you expect of neoclassical statues around Europe. I teach English in Córdoba and I walk past the Puente Romano every week to get to one of my classes; I’ve settled into a route that takes me through my favorite plaza, Plaza de la Corredera, where I always find an excuse to stop for coffee and a tortilla española at La Paloma (the excuse being, it’s delicious), then through the Plaza del Potro, and finally to the river, which I wander down in the direction of the Mezquita, the Great Mosque.
Córdoba is full of these inconsistencies. It is a city of unassuming magic. Its landscape, with its center rising patiently out of the Guadalquivir, its quiet streets rolling out to stout, comforting, ubiquitous mountains dotted blue with olive trees, belies its history as the light of Europe, the mighty Western center of philosophy and commerce in the Middle Ages. You arrive thinking, “Well, this is nice,” and then on looking closer realize you’ve stumbled upon something very special.
She firmly holds that Chicago’s hotdogs are the best in the world – do we even need to ask about her stance on the pizza?