Morocco to Madrid 27: Toledo

So after the craziness that was yesterday morning, it was nice to be able to just head to Atocha, get on the train, and be in Toledo.  No mess, no fuss, easy to go.

Toledo was the Spanish capital before Madrid and, as such, has a lot of history.  And, since a lot of that history took place hundred of years ago, the major sights are in a condensed space.  That being said, if you think you’re going to Toledo for a day and you’ll be able to see all of it, let me stop you right there.  No chance.  Not unless you don’t eat lunch (more on that later) and run between stops.  I don’t know that I’ve ever been in a city that was so small, but had so much to see.

Once we got settled at Plaza de Zocodover (great name!), getting our maps and money sorted, we figured the best place to stop first would be the Cathedral.  With Toledo being so close to Madrid, we were already seeing a lot of tour groups starting to gather in the main square and, we figured if we made it to the Cathedral first, we may be able to mitigate the crowd a bit.

And we kind of did.  The Cathedral was still busy as heck, and there were a lot of people moving through it, but it was also big enough that you could avoid the big crowds if you needed to, circling back to what you wanted to see when they moved to a different part of the Cathedral.

Now, not wanting to miss out on another tower climb, we decided to go up the tower of the Cathedral first.  Not knowing what was in the Segovia tower yesterday, I can’t fathom why they made their tower climb so damn difficult.  We didn’t have a guide, but we had a slightly bored looking security guard who opened doors, let us wander around, and kept people from heading up too fast.  It worked on timed entry, but the timing was every half hour as opposed to three times a day, every three or four hours.  The views from the top were great, though the best was yet to come.

Once we were done with the tower, the rest of the Cathedral didn’t disappoint.  The gilded Capilla Mayor, the Choir, a fantastic carving behind the main chapel, the one piece on display from the treasure room and, beyond all measure, the Sacrisity, which displayed the Cathedral’s art collection, with heavyweights like Carvaggio (YEAH), El Greco, Titian and Raphael on display.  We easily spent over an hour going through the Cathedral, including tower time.  Simply stunning.

I had designs on going to the Iglesia de Sao Tome to see one of El Greco’s best works there, and when we got there, we discovered the Tourist Bracelet!  For 9 Euros, you got access to 7 tourist sites around Toledo, each costing about 3 Euros each.  So if we saw four, we’d end up “Beating the System”.  And we did!  The ones we did see were;

Double Cloister at Monasterio San Juan
de los Reyes.

  1. The Jesuit’s Church – Bar none, the best views over Toledo.  
  2. Monasterio San Juan de los Reyos – A monastery with a double cloister that was built in the Jewish Quarter by Isabella and Ferdinand as an example of how their faith was superior to the Jewish faith (according to them).  Also very close to the Puente San Martin which, when you cross it, has a fantastic view of the city across the river.  And a zip line.  
  3. Christo de la Luz – An ancient mosque that was converted into a church, and the only surviving mosque of the ten that were originally in Toledo.
  4. Iglesia Sao Tome – Home of the El Greco we mentioned a very cranky-seeming guy who had his “NO PHOTO” down pat.
  5. Santa Maria el Blanco – An ancient synagogue with a white columned interior.
Really, a solid investment.
It’s at this point that I should point out that Toledo was also known as the “City of Tolerance” where, before the Inquisition, all three of the religions noted above were able to live in harmony.  Now, they live in harmony through architecture.  We also checked out the Synagogue del Transisto, with a fantastic museum centered on Jewish history in the Spain and a prayer hall that looks more at home in a medresa than a synagogue.  

View from the Jesuit’s Church.

We had seen three of the five Bracelet sites above (the old mosque and Jesuit church would be in the afternoon) and had yet to see the Alacazar, but we knew that we needed to stop for lunch.  I found a recommendation for a place called Kumera in the Lonely Planet chapter I had downloaded, and I’ve never been more happy to follow a recommendation.  They had a Menu del Dia that actually felt like they were putting their best foot forward, with the best part being my introduction to flamenquin.  Ham wrapped in pork dipped in egg and deep fried.  Daina called it “Classy Turducken”.  It was awesome.

Armor in the Alcazar.

After lunch, we did that climb up the Jesuit church for the view and then made our way to the Alcazar, which was partially closed for renovation and free as a result!  It meant we couldn’t access the top floor (and the views that it entailed). Worth it either way, and if you’re in to military history, this is a can’t-miss stop.  Weapons from several eras, the history of Spanish warfare from the War of Succession to the Civil War to the Inquisition to Napoleon, great views of the walls of the city from the lower levels.  Has to be part of your day.

After that, the mosque, then the 62 bus back to the train station, then home.

Not always the best idea to end a big trip on a day trip, but considering the amazing things we saw today, I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it.  It means dinner is a bit later and packing takes a bit more precedence, especially with a morning flight, but fortunately, we’ve got Tinto y Tapas a few doors down and a short walk to the airport bus tomorrow.  Then, home.

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