By Jeroen van Honk
There must have been someone, somewhere, sometime, who said that everything happens for a reason. Led by the hand of this convenient adage, and by the siren calls of invisible angels who trumpet my destiny, I will now scale the faithful stairs of the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos at the fringes of the Unescoed heart of the ancient city of Córdoba. Made of large stone slabs, the Alcázar housed the Christian Kings, Isabel de Castile and Fernando de Aragon, after they drove the Moors out of their once-famed capital. What is left now is a calculated ruin, showing just enough grandeur to inspire awe and just too little to anchor the place in a tangible, imaginable version of history. The walls are still standing and the gardens stretch out endlessly. This contrast of grey and green emanates a certain simplicity here, bringing everything back to basics. Here, it is as if the human race once and for all is pitted against nature. From the grounds there is one spiral staircase, with tall, uneven steps, leading you up to enjoy the ultimate vista of the place.
Though unimaginable, since it is now a major tourist showcase, it is said that those who scale these steps can never again return to terra firma. At the foot of the steps there is only the insignificant warning sign stating that no more than ten people at a time are allowed to go up. At the same time it is impossible to know how many have gone before or how many are walking around up there. Never has anybody been seen to descend the stairs, though there are tourists who claim to have done it. They show pictures of the gardens taken from an aerial point of view. These don’t prove anything, however. As the legend grew, it has become a popular tourist pastime to put their cameras on self-timer and throw them in the air, or tie them to long, wooden poles. It’s a fascinating amalgamation of the decadently touristic with a fatalistic old-world curse.