Once the Christmas festivities are over, my thoughts always turn to holidays and where I’d like to visit in the New Year. A couple of months ago, I was lucky enough to spend some time in Córdoba in Spain and completely fell in love with ‘ the patio garden’ an integral part of the culture and landscape of this part of the world.
Patio gardens evolved out of a need for the inhabitants of Córdoba to keep cool during the dry, hot weather. The Romans built their houses with a focus around a courtyard, which usually had a fountain in the centre and in many cases a well that collected rainwater. The Muslims later adapted this scheme ushering the house from the street through a hallway and placing abundant vegetation in the garden to increase the feeling of freshness.
These patios not only offer a visual feast of colourful flowers, stone mosaics and ceramic decorations, but also bring out the classic scents of Córdoba : jasmine and orange blossom mixed with a myriad of scents from the many flowers and plants.
As you stroll down the many winding narrow streets you get the chance to peek at the many patios through the iron gates of the houses. They really are an oasis of calm and beauty and it’s hard not to wish that we had a climate here in Scotland that could sustain such a set-up. If you’d like to go, once a year, the doors open and everyone is invited in to see the wonders of Córdoba’s patios.
Córdoba bursts into bloom with special festivities for the month of May. Starting off with a parade known as the “Battle of the Flowers”, the city officially launches into its spring celebrations with the May Crosses festival usually taking place during the first week of the month, followed by the Patio Contests. This can easily continue well past the middle of the month giving residents time to get ready for the annual fair at the end of May. Locals and tourists alike wander from house to house admiring these beautiful displays of hundreds and hundreds of pots, filled to overflowing with geraniums, carnations and jasmines, adorning every available window ledge, staircase and doorway surrounding the patios.
The Patio contest sponsored by the Córdoba City Hall began as long ago as 1918.
A vast range of patios await your viewing. It’s not only private, single-family homes opening their doors to show you the lovely courtyards around which their old-style homes centre. There are also larger, low-built, apartment-style buildings that have amazing courtyards where often many gardeners will work together all year to cultivate the special gems that are their shared meeting areas.
However, the patio displays go even beyond the wide array offered by the private sector to include numerous “monument” patios. The Viana Palace, a 14th century edifice, is actually known as the Patio Museum and offers around 12 different patios to its visitors. It’s well worth going to see. Lovely in early November it would be stunning in May……