Toledo

It seems days ago that I was writing about being in the pointy end of the plane on my way  to Toledo and just starting writing about this new adventure. Well it was days ago, 3 in fact. This was a return visit for me as last year I went on a day trip with Val and she pretended she knew her way around this maze of a town. Just to remind you, she didn’t and everytime she said “now we just go down here and then round to the right. Oh, we are not where I thought I was” and then consulted her GPS which was staring to get angry about having to recalibrate continuously. 

Times have changed. Val has since been back again since that trip last year and when we arrived this time we only got lost once on the way to our little pink house. We only one took wrong turn despite using the GPS. This did not happen again. Not once over the three days did I hear “Oh, we’re not where I thought we were.” Even I was able to navigate my way round the maze having had the time this time to get my bearings. I lead us up and down hills although I must confess I did lead us up a couple of blind alleys on occasion. The difference between me and Val last time was at least I didn’t pretend to know the way 😉.
Our little pink house that was only about 3.5m wide  

Toledo is a fascinating medieval little town perched on a hill and surrounded on three sides by the Taji River. It has a city wall and impressive gates in which to enter the town. From the river to the town its a nasty hike up a short steep hill. Located in this town are more churches than you could imagine. Knives, swords and armour are plentiful and in truth you could probably kit out all the extras of the Lord of the Rings (which I suspect actually happened given the way LoR is marketed in these shops). Toledo also seems to treasure it’s Jewish history as it has one of most important Jewish synagogues in Spain dating back to the time when Toledo was the capitol of Spain.  

So what did I do whilst there. Well I had the same problem in Toledo that I did in Venice. It rained. And after the sun and beautiful warmth of Rome, it was not at all pleasant. What would you do in that situation? If you said stay inside where it’s warm – correct answer. But there comes a time when you decide you are visiting another place and you can’t stay inside being a couch potato all the time. You have to go out and walk. A nice walk to do is down to the river, cross one of the bridges and head up the hill to look back to the town which really is well worth the effort, especially if you are lucky enough to catch the sunrise.

 The Alcazar really dominates the skyline even over the Cathedral in the middle of the town. 

  

Walking around the streets in the rain isn’t too much fun especially after a while. Churches offer good respite for a small fee. We went to many of them -some big some small. The Jesuit Cathedral was a pleasant surprise as it was possible to go up to the bell tower and look out over the town. Note the sexy new leopard print umbrella that was a purchase of necessity.

  

My favourite place was Santa Maria Di Blanca, an old mosque, synagogue then claimed by the Catholics of course. It’s now just an empty building not used for any religious purpose but it’s just gorgeous. Peaceful too.

  

There’s another nice old ex mosque come Catholic Church called Christ of the Light. Very small (about 9m with a vestibule) but also very nice. Here Christ flies in the face of the Islamic past.

    

I even managed to coerce Val into coming into these churches as she had been into neither. How did I do it – I had to pay!  

Since Val went where I wanted to go, I ended up joining her (having previously stated rwice I didn’t want to) to visit the Hospital Tavera which is located outside the city gate. It’s another imposing building and its claim to fame is it houses painting by El Greco who is Toledo’s favourite adopted son (there a number of museums that are dedicated to his work). Despite my reluctance to go to the Travera I actually enjoyed it. In behind massive wooden doors, which are kept locked, is an amazing courtyard leading into a cathedral which was build by some dude San Juan Bautista as a mussoleum to himself I guess basically honouring his good deed of building a hospital for the sick. His casket lies in front of the alter. Talk about pride. A beautifully sparse monument to himself it was except for the El Greco paintings. I can only think of one word to describe them – hideous. The bodies are all anatomically wrong and one poor chap had bilateral quadriceps tendons AND biceps tendon tears. No wonder he was stuck in the creek. El Greco did do one statue I was quite fond of. I’ve never seen an adult naked Jesus before. If he ever did have a love affair with Mary Magdalene, I think I can work out why there might Not have been any resulting off spring from this union (no offence intended to my Christian friends). 

   
    
  

   

 

Finally at end of the last day, the rain stopped and my sexy leopard print umbrella was able to take a well earnt to break. Time to strolł the streets again. Guess what I found. Yes my day was complete – not one nun but two. 

  
 

No mistaking I was in the Jewish quarter as these tiles are inlaid around the ‘ghetto’. 

  

Whilst I liked the churches and the streets, what I really enjoyed this time was being out in the big outdoors, well outside amongst trees and rivers. We will ignore the cars driving along the road along the river. I feel I’ve I have spent days in the city streets and I realised I had missed the quiet openness of a bit of a nature. Time to slow down.

   
   
Getting this shot was quite funny. It was very close to the side of the road but there is a barrier about a metre high. To get it I had to lie on my belly on the barrier, stretch my arms out at full stretch and take my feet off the ground. An older Spanish couple walked passed at this moment and laughed. They must reach a point where nothing tourists do amazes them any more.

I also perfect place to sit and reflect (note the puddles), whilst others preferred the sanctity of one of the many churches.   

 

Grotty weather does have one advantage – great light and I was lucky enough to find some   

   

 Everything has to come to an end including little trips to Toledo. Time for a train to take us to the grand daddy of all old mosques in Spain.

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