Today we ventured outside the city of Madrid to Toledo! Its the weekend so my brother has off work so we decided to take that opportunity with him to explore outside the city and use his fluent Spanish skills to get around. We met up with Doug at the bus station got some Bocadillos and some fresh water and waited for our bus. Tickets were 3.50 Euros each and an hour bus ride later we got dropped off in Toledo. The weather was just perfection.
The history of Toledo is really quite amazing if you have time to read up on it. We had plenty of time on our bus ride. I'm the kind of tourist that buys a book and wants to know about everything we visit or see! I love exploring new pieces of the city and meeting locals, but I never want to not know what makes a place unique. We walked to the city center, through the defensive walls that were built in the 16th Century and onto our mini tour of the city. They gave us our maps pointed to all the stops and practically told us to run because the next guide started in 10 min and it was about a 15 min walk. So we ran!
Our first stop was the Singagoga de Santa Maria la Blanca, built in 1180, the oldest synagogue in Europe still standing! It was used in three different religions, Muslim, Catholicism and Judaism. So the structure itself lends to each religion without really taking from the other. It was bright white with high ceilings and arches in the interior full of columns holding them up, bright natural light.
After we walked across the road to the Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes, and it took my breath away, built between 1477–1504. Full of Bronze sculpting from top to bottom alter, natural white light, stucco paintings and marble sculptures everywhere. It was gorgeous. You could tell how beautiful the acoustics were just by walking and hearing the echo. We were able to walk around, see the courtyard full of orange trees, all the ceilings adorned with hand cut wooden decor.
Right around the corner from there was the Bridge/Puente de San Martín, a medieval bridge constructed in the 14th century. It had a great look out point to see the East of the city. You can see Frank and me sitting near the west entrance with the city eat behind us above!
After the bridge we headed out to the Catedral of Toledo, which on the way we stopped in Colegio de Doncellas Nobles down all the winding brick road streets which felt like a maze. So there was a lot of map usage.
I completely fell in love with all the details of the city, the door knobs and knockers, the roofing, the brick roads, the pillars, the numbers on each building, street signs, everything was just perfect. It was almost this fairytale feeling type of place. They are known for their steel and swords and craftsman shops were everywhere, steel bars throughout the city on all the doors. It was just like being in a fairy tale.
We stopped in at Iglesia de San Idlefonso a cathedral built in 1629. It was gorgeous just as everything else in that beautiful town. We were able to hike up to the bell tower and get some really amazing shots of the city.
And we were off to the most fascinating Cathedral I had ever been to, The Catedral de Toledo, Cathedral of Toledo was built between the years 1226 and 1493. The Cathedral is the centerpiece of Toledo, its considered one of the greatest Gothic structures in all of Europe. It is also the second largest cathedral in Spain, after the one in Seville, but it is considered the most important church in Spain because of its history as the capital of the Catholic faith in Spain.
When you enter the first thing you notice are the sparkling gold reliefs of what is called the “Retablo” in the Capilla Mayor, just behind the main altar. Another feature of the Cathedral is a mesmerising piece of 18th-century sculpture done in the “churrigueresco” style (a highly ornamented and lavish Baroque style). This altarpiece is carved from marble and alabaster and is known as “El Transparente.” El Transparente was overlooked for years because the cathedral was too poorly lit for it to be noticed. This problem was eventually remedied by its sculptor Narcisco Tomé, who cut a skylight in the ceiling to give it proper illumination. Pictures don't even do this cathedral justice.
Legend has it that several centuries ago, the Virgin Mary came down from Heaven to pay a visit to Toledo. Inside the cathedral is the stone believed to be the one Mary stood on as she delivered her message to Toledo. Which they allow everyone to touch, and we did for luck!
The Cathedral also houses a beautiful Sacristy which contains a gallery with paintings by such masters as El Greco, Rafael and Velázquez. The Cathedral houses the most famous former resident, El Greco major work called “The Disrobing of Christ.” it has been said that Toledo has changed little since the day the Greek painter arrived. The painting itself is in the dressing rooms of the Monarchs that probably is bigger than my whole house.
14 Monarchs are buried there since the 14th Century, on top of the 20 something extra chapels, an art gallery and gallery that houses all the jewels and castings, you could spend all day here. We spent quite some time walking around. We went off on the trek again to explore the defensive walls of the city, back through the winding streets finally meeting up with a tour guide who explained a little more in depth about the cities walls and history.
After the walls we walked over to the Mosque of Cristo de la Luz, built in 999.
Finally winding down the day with a few beers and tapas at the Restaurant Kumera. It was a really long day of walking fast and getting lost but we had so much fun. After Tapas we got to play around the city a little more and actually wanted to get lost. We found the Plaza de Mayor where they had a band lining up with hundreds of people and we joined right in, because why not? Eveyrone was dancing down the streets to the rhythm of the band. We passed a teen club, so many butchers and tons of bakeries! After about 20 minutes of dancing we found ourselves back to the city center where we enjoyed the community of the city ate some Marzipan and got back onto the midnight bus back to Madrid.
Tomorrow we head to Segovia!!!
Toledo was a magical fortress!