Viva Espana: Day 11 – On to Cordoba

This post is being uploaded on Day 12. The lurgie attack turned out not to be as fully shaken off as thought.

I woke up feeling decidedly ropey and carefully made my way down to the railway station to set off for my destination. Breakfast? A glass of freshly squeezed fruit juice would do very nicely, thank you.

The train to Cordoba pulled out of Atocha at exactly 10am, as scheduled.

I did find myself wondering if everyone was on board as boarding had opened only 10 minutes earlier, and four gates had been opened to allow people onto the platform. (Train travel does feel like flying here with departure lounges, security checks and gates).

Without any announcement, verbal or written, a huge queue had appeared at Gate 10, 20 minutes before departure. There was no obvious clue. The queue then started seaparating into four separate lines of its own accord.

I finally spotted a member of staff who explained that we were using Gates 9, 10, 11 and 12 to board. There was no sense of urgency from the passengers as we snaked down the escalators.

I stashed my luggage and found my seat.  Window! Result!

Three minutes after departing, I heard snoring. Talk about relaxed. Glancing around, I realised it wasn’t snoring. It was heavy breathing – like listening to a breath track in a yoga class. What’s that like? It’s like having Darth Vader in the corner while you’re doing Downward Dog, Reclining Pigeon, Reversed Corpse or Crouching Tiger – Hidden Dragon. Only one of those is not a yoga pose. (And the one that isn’t might actually turn out to be so for all I know).

This train journey would be just under two hours.

Parents along the train were entertaining their children with songs and TV shows on tablets and phones. I offered a small prayer to the train gods that “Baby Shark” would not feature. If you’re not familiar with “Baby Shark” I would strongly advise caution before seeking it out. There’s just no need for that kind of monstrosity.

For the first 30 minutes, the landscape was rolling green fields – new crops just beginning to push through the soil.

Darth Vader disappeared shortly after the buffet car announcement was made, while the volume of whatever the small children were watching was reduced. Spanish rail etiquette requires people to take their phonecalls between the carriages, not in their seats. From what I’ve seen, this is rigidly adhered to.

I wish the UK did the same.

The landscape became hillier. I’d seen mountains in the distance for a while. The planting changed: row upon row of olive trees though a lot of taller green, deciduous-shaped trees and small pink blossom trees. There weren’t quite as many green fields as the grassland offered up shades of orange and brown instead.

It was a sunny day. The blue sky was lined with white horizontal white clouds.

Darth Vader returned and fell asleep. I wondered what yoga poses I could try in a seated position – what with his breath-track. Might as well get a workout.

The stunning scenery was briefly interrupted by a sprawling lowrise town of terracotta coloured buildings.

The landscape became rockier, and the train now passed through a large town. The buildings were all different shades of yellow, orange and white with red and terracotta tiled rooves. On its outskirts were tumbledown 19th Century brick chimneys and barns.

Darth Vader started snoring.

Outside the train, the landscape was darkly wooded above fields of olive trees. The rails now travelled along through shallow gorges surrounded by rolling plains and stubby green trees (with small flocks of sheep sheltering in their shade) before reaching vast open fields once more.

With less than half an hour until reaching Cordoba, the train began to climb higher through the woodland into almost mountainous territory, passing through tunnels. Once through the tunnels, the journey carried us over a high wooded plateau.

It wasn’t like woodland in the UK. The small shrubs were spread out – not densely growing. The grass between them was short – no tangled undergrowth. There had to be some flock of animals supporting this neat view… it was too vast for a couple of blokes with mowers. And then I spotted them – cattle.

The descent to Cordoba continued through this scenery and down tunnels through the mountainous scrubland. The hillsides were too steep for cattle at this point.

On the lower slopes, olive trees made a reappearance. I was surprised by just how green it was as the train continued down the rails.

And for Cordoba, I’m leaving the social aspect of hostels behind and am in a hotel. The freedom of being able to spread out the luggage is a delight. I’m actually pretty tidy but ten days of keeping all, but the bare essentials in the rucksack has worn a little thin.

The hotel is rather like a riad – a house built around a central courtyard – and it’s just lovely… as well as being entirely in keeping with the city’s Moorish heritage.

After lunch, an afternoon of leisurely exploring beckoned…

Thankfully, although the restaurant was pushing its daily menu special offering an epic array of courses, there was no problem in my request for a salad. My appetite was not up to Spanish style eating.

It’s a phenomenally easy town to stroll around. A friend warned me that at lunchtime, the streets are moved around. With the haphazard twisting and turning, narrow roads, I can believe that. Streets turn hairpin corners, double-back on each other, and it’s like entering a warren or a maze.

But it’s so pretty – white houses, painted tiles, stained windows, yellow or blue wooden window frames. It’s a beautiful town.

Categories: Córdoba, Spain, Travel, Viva EspanaTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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