Monday, July 11, 2011

Toledo: Day Four

On our fourth day in Spain we made our way to the Atocha train station in Madrid and hopped on to another super fast AVE train bound for Toledo! Thankfully, Toldeo is located only about 30 minutes south of Madrid, so it was a quick ride over. Above, is a photo of Toledo's train station built in 1919!
The city of Toledo is quite large, but for the purposes of our trip we stuck to the old city located within the fortified city walls on top of steep hill (or small mountain? I can't decide!) which is surrounded on three sides by a river. Walking around this city, is literally like walking back in time. Most of the city buildings and streets date somewhere between 1000 and 1300 A.D., and the streets still retain their quirky, twists and turns! In order to protect its citizens, the city of Toledo built thick defensive walls around the town, they are still standing today and the only way in or out of the old city is through the Puertas or doors in the wall.

We arrived in Toldeo around 10 in the morning, ready to see the sights...but not before having another yummy morning sandwich!

The city streets in Toledo are narrow, lined with shops and full of cute little old ladies carrying their groceries.
On our way to see the Cathedral, we noticed that the town had hung up canvas down the city streets surrounding the church. This provided us with much needed shade later in the afternoon, and is something for which we were very greatful! You can see in the photo below that the buildings accross from the Cathedral were hung with garlands made out of rosemary, so again the air smelled wonderful. Leanne informed me over the weekend, that I was wrong about the "Saint's Day" in my post about Sevilla, it was instead,  the celebration of Corpus Christi and I assume that it was the same case in Toledo.

The Cathedral itself, is hemmed in on all sides by buildings, there is no plaza where the front doors are, so it took us a bit to find the correct front door! They all looked very similar.
Once inside this gothic cathedral, though, it quickly distinguished itself! Photography was not allowed in the interior and I dutifully kept the lens cap on. After a few minutes I noticed several brazen tourists walking around with their cameras right out there for all to see, snapping away. None of the security gaurds offered a peep of protest, so I smuggled a few photos anyway! Although I tried to be as surreptitious about it as I could, and I felt guilty about taking more than just a handful. Anyway, the feature that really made this cathedral stand out was the "el transparente" - which is just nuts. NUTS!
Apparently the townsfolk decided that they wanted more light for the church, which makes sense, the interior was pretty dim. So some artisans cut a hole in the roof, and then proceeded to create a baroque mess of angels, cherubs, saints, sinners and prophets. The light from the hole shines down on to the back side of the altar, and it is blah blah blah. I can never actually make all of that stuff out. Regardless, it was mighty impressive and totally out of tune with the rest of the church which was fairly subdude in its gothic-ness.

Once we finished with the Cathedral, we began making our way around the maze of streets determined to find an old Jewish synagog....and then we saw these monsters (pictured above)! Now when I was a wee one living in Costa Rica, I was absolutely petrified of these larger than life figures, and I am still totally unnerved by seeing them out on display! 
Toledo is most famous for its knives, swords and other such killing instruments. ha! Toledo steel blades used to be the last word in luxury though and the knife makers today still try to keep their art alive. Pictured below, Leanne smiles as we enter the shop of a skilled artisan. She bought a hand made pocket knife from this fellow.
Toledo is also known for their marzipan and the nuns of the covent of San Clemente, who still make the sweet and sell it to townsfolk. They have a cutie pie little window display at their shop showing all the steps to makin the pretty finished product. If you wish to buy some, a nun comes to the door and then takes your money and hands you some marzipan! I wish I liked this sweet treat because it surely look good, but I cannot stand the stuff.
After trooping around for about half an hour (and buying way too many ceramic plates), we finally made our to the now abandoned Sinagoga de Santa Maria la Blanca. Toledo is widely known as the Spanish melting pot. Jews, Muslims and Christians all called this town home and all lived together in relative tolerance. For like, a few years. Or at least just long enough for their artistic styles to blend together and what you get is a Jewish synagog that looks like it should be a Sultan's palace...
and that's what Santa Maria Blanca (built in 1203 A.D.) looks like. Unfortunately, in the 16th century all of the Jews in the country were ordered to be expelled - there are only 3 synagogs remaining in the entire country from before that time, and Toledo has 2 of  them. Eventually, the synagog was transformed in to a Christian church, and then in recent times, has been converted to a museum. It was lovely with its many arches.

We were feeling peckish by this point and stumbled upon a tree covered plaza with outdoor seating from 4 restaraunts. We enjoyed our crispy breads and yes...this wonderful chocolate filled crepe!!!
Below, Leanne smiles triumphant after finding and buying a HUGE artisan knife. Now, it was handmade, super sharp and very impressive...and also cost us no end of trouble when we tried to go home. But that story is for another day. On this day at least, Caroline and I were happy she found it.
I thought that the Toledo countryside looked much like I would think Italy might. My friend Katie, who recently spent time in Italy confirms that it does!

Goodness,  this day was also quite hot. However, as long as we practiced "shade hopping" we were doing just fine. After reseting up at little park and taking some "we were here photos", we visited the second synagog in Toledo.
The Sinagoga El Transito, which houses the Sephardic Museum. This synagog, built in 1336 A.D. (!) was again, completed by Muslim artisans. All around the building you can see arabic writing citing the psalms.
Again, the Jewish population did not keep their synagog for long before they were expelled from Toledo. The building then became at various times, a hospital, a church and miltary headquarters during the Napoleonic wars. Now it is a museum, documenting the Jewish faith the in Spain.

To tell you the truth, I am a bit disapointed in my photos of Toledo. They really don't do it justice. Every nook, every cranny was just totally charming. Even their snack stands (below) are cute!
Once we made it home to Madrid, we enjoyed another late dinner of utter deliciousnes.

Caroline fell in love with the sangrias in Spain!


Aili said...

I think Toledo looks so fun. It does look hot, though!
I'm sure those canvas awnings were magical.

Shay said...

ditto what Aili said. Also love your thinly veiled contempt for gothic architecture: "and the light shines down on the alter and blah blah blah..." Looking forward to the knife saga! Couldn't be worse than the giant suitcase saga, or could it?

Caroline said...

Kinda wish I had one of those sangrias...RIGHT NOW