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  Holy Week in Cordoba  

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The week leading up to Easter, and especially Holy Thursday and Holy Friday, is full of ritual, display and devotion. Throughout the week, costaleros from Thirty Catholic associations, or brotherhoods, bear images of the Passion of Christ and of the Virgin Mary on their shoulders through the narrow streets for hours, taking turns under the heavy load. These massive, wooden pasos are carved, gilded platforms for the images and carry elaborately depicted Biblical scenes. They seem to float through the crowds, rocking gently with the trained step of rows of unseen costaleros, whose difficult maneuvers become acts of Faith. Thousands of candles and masked penitents leading the way and trailing behind, accompanied by music, add to the solemnity and symbolism.

Easter Solemnity and Springtime Exuberance

Unaccustomed to Andalusian Holy Week processions, some tourists-with fresh eyes-may perceive more in the symbolism-- whatever their beliefs--than many people from Cordoba who have experienced this moment in the sacramental year routinely every spring. People make their way from one procession to the next, socializing, eating sunflower seeds and popping into bars and taverns for refreshment. Holy Week guides, printed by local businesses, read like game programs with a lineup of brotherhoods and their serpentine routes, carefully coordinated along the "official route" in the center. A list of times and places let the experienced Holy Week enthusiast or devotee plan his favorite sightings carefully, allowing for cut streets, un-passable crowds and tired feet.

It is an occasion of contrasts. Barefooted penitents anonymously suffering under crosses, while mothers follow behind hooded children with sandwiches, water and fussiness. Moments of silent reverence and others of untroubled joy. A poignant saeta drowned out by boisterous chatting. Heady incense mixing with the exuberant fragrance of orange blossoms.

Practical tips

Holy Week is a difficult time to get a hotel room. Many lodgings are booked nearly a year in advance, so last-minute finds are a miracle. Plan ahead. Rooms may also be hard to find in outlying towns, many of which have their own popular Holy Week celebrations; but if you do find lodging there, rest up before coming to Cordoba for the evening and be prepared to park 20-30 minutes away from the historic center. Be ready for a long night and don't lightly plan to crisscross the town--you will need to take long, roundabout ways much of the time. Good places to see processions are in the courtyard of the Mezquita, the Jewish quarter and the Roman bridge in the southern part of the historic center. North of the official route, the San Miguel and Plaza de Capuchinos areas are good places to see processions. Check the programs for times. Arm yourselves with patience and good walking shoes. Carrying snacks and drinks is helpful for when energies run low, and plan on elbowing your way into crowded eateries to make use of the facilities and take a well-deserved break.



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