Monday, May 8, 2017

Taking it easy in Toledo

A view of Toledo, Spain, from the walls of the old quarter

By the time we reach Toledo, it is the last week of our month-long trip to Spain, and the travel is starting to catch up with us. We are tired and a little cranky. Something we ate hit us wrong and we have to cancel plans to take the train to meet our friend Miriam in Madrid. But we manage to rally enough to explore and enjoy this World Heritage Site and one of Spain's most historically rich cities.

Toledo is known as the "city of the three cultures" because Arabs, Jews and Christians lived here for centuries. The old quarter of the city is considered to be an open-air museum because of the diversity of its historical and artistic sites.

Plaza Zocodover in Toledo, Spain

Our apartment is just a short walk to the base of the city and we take a long ride up several escalators to the top: steps away from Plaza Zocodover. Our first evening we grab a map at the tourism office and nose around the town. On day 2, we meet our guide for a free city tour and learn about the history and culture of Toledo as we walk up and down the narrow streets. (Watch out for cars! I can't imagine driving here.)

Toledo's smallest window

Toledo's history is long and complex — I won't even try to tell its story here —  and our guide does her best to share the highlights. Our first stop is the ancient mosque Bab-al-Mardum, built in 999, converted into a church in 1187, and eventually turned into a museum, the Mosque of Christo de la Luz.

Mosque of Christo de la Luz in Toledo, Spain

Rooftop cat in Toledo, Spain

We also make a stop to examine the exterior of Cathédrale Sainte-Marie de Tolède. considered to be one of Europe's greatest Gothic structures. Inside are two paintings by El Greco (1541-1614). The great Spanish Renaissance painter moved to Toledo in 1577 and created some of his greatest masterpieces here. The El Greco Museum, located in Toledo's Jewish Quarter, opened in 1911, and his paintings can be found in several churches here.

Marker embedded in the sidewalk in Toledo' Jewish neighborhood

After our walk through Toledo's Jewish Quarter, I am eager to return, which we do the following day. In the Middle Ages, most of the city's Jews lived here, although it wasn't mandatory. Small tiles have been placed in the pavements of this neighborhood indicating that visitors are in the Jewish Quarter. Although I am secretly hoping to find a good Jewish deli (nope!) I am delighted by the winding streets and our visit to the Sephardic Museum located in the Synagogue of El Transito (originally known as Synagogue Samuel ha-Levi for the man who founded it). The museum is small but contains some interesting examples of daily life and worship for the Jews in during the 13th and 14th centuries.

Interior of Synagogue of El Transito in Toledo, Spain. Women
were allowed to watch services from the gallery upstairs. 

Architectural detail in Synagogue of El Transito in Toledo, Spain

As we window shop we can't help but notice the many shops selling knives and swords. The city has been a traditional steel-working center since around 500 B.C. and artisans here continue to manufacture swords for collectors around the world. Although we aren't looking to buy weapons, we do find some beautiful gifts of a completely different sort for our sons. (I can't say any more in case they are reading this).

My knight in shining armor and a store display in Toledo, Spain

San Servando's Castle (youth hostel) in Toledo, Spain

Don Quixote statue in Toledo, Spain

Exterior detail of the Alcazar Army Museum in Toledo, Spain

Ruins of the convent of San Pablo Granadal in Toledo, Spain

Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes in Toledo, Spain

Rooftops and the ancient city wall in Toledo, Spain

1 comment:

  1. Another great place to add to our list. You could do a guidebook on Spain now with all these great posts. It is where I will look first next time we plan a trip south...