Driving in Spain
A day after the conference, we started our journey exploring Andalusia by car. As car rental was affordable – in fact, it was cheaper than in Malaysia – I rented a VW Polo for a test-drive (as I told my wife). We didn’t have a GPS and decided not to rent one. So, Hana served as the navigator, studying the free map that we obtained from the tourist information center. Whenever we need help, we will communicate in one way or another with the locals, majority of them spoke very little English. I liked the experience.
The first interesting experience I had with the car happened as we were leaving the airport, approaching the first traffic light. It was red and I had to stop. Since the car had a manual transmission, I struggled searching for the stick-shift with my left hand, only to realize that it was on my right hand side. It was really funny. Haha… You need to make mistake once, so that you’ll remember it for very long time… Rule No 1: stay focus.
It was a nice drive in Southern Spain. The drivers were courteous and majority preferred to observe speed limit, which is normally 120 km/h on the highway. The biggest challenge I faced was to avoid confusion in the roundabout, and I had to be alert every time. Remember to look for traffic on the left, and to go counter–clockwise. On occasions where there were too many exits with confusing signages, we have to plan ahead, all within seconds. Things got a bit more confusing when the signages were inconsistent – the information on the signboard before the roundabout was not the same as the small one on the exits to the streets. So, it is better to count the exits.
Along the highway, there were a few service areas, distantly spaced. There were different than the one that we have in Malaysia. The service area had a gas station, and a restaurant and/or coffe shop with attached souvenir shop. There were with plenty of parking spaces. I think, since intercity train services are good, there are less traffics on the highway.
Along the way, the views were beautiful. It reminded me of Southern Colorado, but the bushes that we saw here were mostly olives. The mixture of vast green farms (perhaps wheat), and nicely distributed patches of olive bushes cleared my mind from all the problems that were normally wandering around, waiting for solutions. Aaah, it was a great feeling. Perhaps I need to do this more often.
After about two hours of leisure driving from Sevilla, we reached our first stop – Cordoba. It was made capital of the Muslim caliphates/emirates in Andalusia after Abbasiyah caliphate replaced the Umayyah and made Baghdad as their capital. Member of the fallen Umayyah Caliphate, Abdul Rahman 1 moved to Cordoba and rule Andalusia from there.
As it is an old city with lots of historical sites, the streets were expected to be mostly narrow cobblestoned, and to find parking spaces would be impossible. So, the best thing to do was to park the car outside the area and walked to tour the tourist attractions. That’s exactly what we did.
Similar to other cities in Andalucia region, the signature narrow picturesque streets were everywhere.
We spent quite some time in the mezquita and I became a bit emotional (as I wrote earlier). In that short time, my mind was drifted away to recall the history of Andalusia in the limited knowledge that I had on the more than 700 years of Muslim civilization in the Iberian Peninsular.
The construction of this Great Mosque started during the rule of the Emir Abd al-Rahman I in 785, some 74 years after the Muslims took the reign from the Visigoths. The Mosque was added to by Abd al-Rahman II in 833, before being completed by al-Hakam II and the vizier al-Mansur in the second half of the 10th century.
Then we walked to the bridge, enjoying the scenery before walking back to the parking lot to continue our journey to Granada.
Since we have planned to spend the night in Granada, we didn’t have time to visit most of the historical sites including the administrative center and the palace (medina az-zahara), perhaps next time. Good bye Cordoba.