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Published: April 20th 2012
The past 7 weeks I've been revisiting old familiar places around and outside Madrid. I am headed home in 3 weeks, but not without paying Toledo a visit. This "El Greco" fav city has so much to offer, and not a tad bit difficult to visit from Madrid. Like Segovia and Avila, it is just a short train or bus ride away.
It's Been 10 Years
Has it been 10 years? Back In 2002
, I traveled to Toledo for the first time with my nephew and good friend. I enjoyed that trip
but this recent one even more. At the time, we joined a tour group and allowed ourselves to be herded around this lovely city brimming with art, history and culture.
I remember the winding narrow alleys. The many churches and museums, shops selling jewelry so unique to Toledo, the cuchilleros with their artfully crafted pen
knives, little statues of Don Quixote and Sancho
, the bakeshops selling mazapan, turones and so much more.
No wonder El Greco
loved it here. Unlike my experience 10 years ago, I had the pleasure to linger in the Cathedral for well over an hour. This cathedral was built to impress. Sure it is a holy, sacred place. But awestruck you'd be. From the retablo behind the Main Altar to the choir area, to the ceiling, the dome, the many sculptures, the El Greco paintings of the saints, the chapels. Sensory overload? Naaaah. I lingered and appreciated that "hole" in the ceiling. Like those statues up there may fall out anytime. For the life of me, I can't imagine how they were able to sculpt those!
In my earlier blog, I dwelled on the sad story of General Ituarte
and his equally brave son. http://www.travelblog.org/Europe/Spain/Castile-La-Mancha/Toledo/blog-395278.html
It's a sad story that touched me so. A story of bravery, loyalty and patriotism. This time around, I skipped and hopped around Toledo, tracing its walls, checking out its many lovely ancient gates with a happy heart.
El Greco's paintings of many saints hang in the many capillas inside. From outside, the Cathedral may pale in comparison with those in Sevilla and Segovia, mainly because it is difficult viewing its grandeur in its entirety. Hemmed in by many other ancient edifices, it is a chore to find a spot where you can step back to admire its beauty. Besides, Toledo's narrow alleys compel you to simply look up while navigating around the Cathedral. There is a square, but still.......
Inside the Cathedral, I am particularly awed by this ceiling art and the statue of a smiling Virgin Mary and a playful Infant Jesus. The more I looked at it, the happier I feel. Many statues of Mary project her as saintly, lovely and in deep prayer. This statue caught her in a motherly, loving, even playful mood. Infant Jesus cupping her chin, and Mother Mary looking back at her Son with so much love. I went home with that happy thought.
The Jewish Quarter
I remember entering Toledo via the Bisagra Gate
the last time. Then walking all the way up to the Cathedral and
Alcazar. That was 10 years ago.
I managed to conserve my energy this time around to allow more leisurely strolls around the Jewish Quarter. From the Estacion de Autobus, it was a breeze to hop into Bus #5 to Plaza Zocodover
, the same one you take back to the station to catch your bus back to Madrid. From the Plaza, there is the Zocotren --- just €4, so why punish yourself? The one hour train ride spares you those long walks to view the walled city from a distance. No more bridges to cross for that SINGLE snapshot of the entire area painted many times over by El Greco. Just be ready with your cam, as the tiny red train stops for just a few secs.
Back in Plaza Zocodover, you may have your very very late desayuno (breakfast cum brunch) as you need all that energy for the walk. Past the cathedral, past the Iglesia de Santo Tome
(€2.50 admission just to view El Greco's obra maestro --- The Burial of Lord Orgaz), past Museo de El Greco
, you will soon reach the Jewish Quarter. Amazing how these walks strike me as very,
very similar to walks I did in Avila, Segovia and even Jerusalem!
Every 200-300 meters or so, you will come across some church or synagogue or convento or another Museo. My, Toledo is really packed with so much history and culture! The Synagoga of Santa Maria La Blanca
is like a mini-La Mesquita (Cordoba). Then there's the Puerta del Cambron
or Cambron Gate. From afar, you may think it's another church or bell tower..... but it's actually one of the oldest gates into town. Dating back from the Visigoth period, it was rebuilt in the 16th century and has not changed much since.
My advice here is to read up on the many conventos, museos, sinagogas and Iglesias to be found here and decide which ones you'd like to check out. At €2.50 admission, it can easily add up. Besides, if you only have a day in Toledo you need to really manage your time as there's so much to see.
What, More Jewelry?
We found a shop late in the day selling those Don Quixote mini-statues. Bought a couple. But we didn't leave the store without buying some Toledo black
and gold jewelry. They make for lovely gifts and they don't require much space in your luggage. If you can afford it, buy the handmade Toledo jewelry. Otherwise, they have the machine made with the same Toledo art design. The men may want to buy one of those handcrafted cuchillos or pen knives. Whatever for, don't ask. ? More photos here .
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