Travels in Spain: Part 2 – Adventures in Toledo

If you read my previous post, you’ll know that at the beginning of June I flew to Madrid for a four-day mini vacation. Four days isn’t a long time, but it’s surprising just how much you can see, do and experience in that time. I spent three days in Madrid and one day in Toledo, a nearby city.

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A view of Toledo, looking back across El Puente de San Martin (Bridge of St. Martin)

 

I was very  impressed by the Madrid public transport: the Metro subway, which I took most days to get around the city, was clean, fast, easy to navigate and incredibly cheap at €1.50 for a single journey (about $1.65).

 

Admittedly, I was with a friend who knows her way around Madrid so I didn’t have to worry too much about getting lost. But compared with my experiences on the Tube in London, the Madrid Metro is a breeze. It is also air-conditioned, something that many Tube trains are not!

It was also a novelty to me to travel via intercambiador (interchange) stations. Madrid has some stations which combine bus and subway services in one station with lots of different levels.  So you get on a bus which is underground and the driver weaves through the subterranean roads to arrive out into the Madrid sun.

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A map of the Metro with one of my tickets from station Prosperidad to La Latina

Trains run regularly to Toledo from Estación de Madrid Atocha — the main railway station. But on day two of my trip, we decided to take the bus to Toledo in the autonomous province of Castilla-La Mancha (a region famed for the Don Quixote connection). It was cheaper and only took half an hour longer than the train.

The landscape between Madrid and Toledo is almost completely flat. And the well-known children’s rhyme, “In Spain, the rain falls mainly on the plain”, is lying. In Spain, the flat plains of Castilla-La Mancha are parched and dry.

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A view of Toledo taken from the top floor of the city’s municipal library. The photo is hazy because I took it through glass, looking out across the city in the midday heat

As the old capital of Spain, Toledo is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the city is beautiful. Built on the side of a steep gorge of the Río Tajo, it sits on a rocky hill. The streets are cobblestone, steep and winding…and very, very narrow. We had to squeeze ourselves into doorways a few times to let cars pass on streets that were originally built only for feet!

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One of the streets had garlands and cloth hangings

Toledo has an ancient history — captured by the Romans in 192 BC, over the centuries that followed it became the home of Moors, Jews and Christians.  For years, they lived together in equality and prosperity. But the Spanish Inquisition, founded by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 1478 to maintain Catholic rule, drove out Muslims and Jews from Toledo. In the sixteenth century, Madrid became Spain’s capital.

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Walking down to El Puente de San Martin. To the right of this photo, there’s a long zipwire across the river. You can pay €10 to go on the zipwire, but I decided to stay on level ground!

Toledo is a compact city, so we wandered around taking in all the beautiful architecture and historic buildings. Many shops sell marzipan and dulces, traditionally made by the nuns in Toledo’s convents.

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My friend snapped this image on her phone through a shop window. The shop displayed a detailed scene of nuns working in a convent, rolling out pastry and making marzipan.

The historic centre is full of churches (iglesias), chapels, synagogues and other religious buildings, with La Catedral Primada at its centre. The cathedral took 267 years to build and was finally completed in 1493.

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Yours truly outside La Catedral

The architectural detail and stonework on the cathedral is amazing, as this photo of the Last Supper shows:

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Scene from The Last Supper on Toledo’s cathedral

Despite its relatively compact size, at the end of the day we had walked 12 km (7.5 miles). It was great fun to explore the city — walking around the centre; a stroll by the Río Tajo on a path which is connected with the Camino Natural hiking route; lunch at a small restaurant shaded by trees; eating lemon ice cream and people-watching in the main square of Plaza de Zocódover.

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I’m not sure what the large building is, but I think it’s probably one of the monasteries

The weather, of course, was beautiful — sunny and hot without being humid. This will sound strange, but I love the fragrance that rises from the warm earth and dry grasses in the Mediterranean heat. I wish I could live with that kind of weather all the time!

 

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A view of the river gorge that encircles part of Toledo

Next time, in my third and final post about my Spanish vacation, I’ll share more about my travels in Madrid — visiting an Egyptian temple and walking along a street of poems.

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15 thoughts on “Travels in Spain: Part 2 – Adventures in Toledo

  1. Pingback: Travels in Spain: Part 2 – Adventures in Toledo — Cultural Life – Welcome to the World of Ekasringa Avatar!

  2. It’s amazing to think that hundreds of years ago, people who lived in cities like Toledo most likely saw much of the same landscape and architecture that still stands today. Just from your pictures alone I can feel the rich history and culture that surrounds the city. That last shot of the river is beautiful; it’s like a scene from a painting!

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    • Yes! And I also think about how those people, centuries ago, weren’t all that dissimilar to people today. They had the same fundamental needs — food, water, shelter. They had jobs and livelihoods and people they loved and families to support… It’s quite comforting really, to realize that the same aspects of human existence run like a thread through the centuries. Now I’ll stop my philosophical ramblings, haha!

      I’m glad you enjoyed the photos. 🙂 It was fun to revisit them today. I still need to sort out my Scotland pictures!

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        • The food is good, especially if you enjoy meaty dishes. I am mainly vegetarian but sometimes I do eat fish. In Toledo, many of the restaurant main courses were either meat or fish — no veggie option apart from salad and gazpacho. And very good olives! 🙂

          My favourite type of European cuisine is Greek food, especially when it’s eaten sitting outside at a little taverna on one of the islands. Mouthwatering! 🙂

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  3. Pingback: Travels in Madrid: Part 3 – art galleries, Egyptian temples and more | Cultural Life

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