Sunday - Toledo

Toledo Travel Blog

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On Sunday I explored Toledo, former home of such great Jewish luminaries such as Yehuda Halevi, author of the Kuzari.  It's a really nice city, and very accessible - only 30 minutes by high-speed train from Madrid.  One gripe I had is that they are a little too into it being a touristy city, as the following story illustrates.  When I got off the train, the only thing in the train station was a woman selling tickets for a hop-on, hop-off bus tour with a tourist bus.  No other information available, no maps available, just a tourist trap.  The bus was only 10 Euros, but I knew I wanted to explore the city by myself.  Plus, she told me the audio on the bus was only in Spanish.  I figured it might be worth it if it gets me to and from the old city of Toledo, but she also told me that it's a one-way trip.  So pretty much it was confirmed that it's a rip-off tourist trap.  I knew the train station was outside the city, but I had no idea how far it was, whether it was walkable or if there are regular city busses that go there, and there was no public tourist information at the station.  So I asked the bus tour woman, OK, how do I get to the old city by foot?  She refused to answer me.  "You buy the ticket and the guide will tell you how to get back.  It is very easy to get back on foot.  But it is very difficult to get there becuase it is uphill, so you need to buy a ticket."  Just point which direction, I asked her.  "No, you need to buy a ticket and the guide will tell you how to get back."  Not cool, city of Toledo.  I wag my finger at you, Toledo.

Well, it turns out that if you walk out of the station and cross the street, there is a little street sign that says (in Spanish) "Old city, 10 minutes -->", and it is indeed a ten minute walk.

The city itself is very nice, although it was Sunday so most things were closed or closed early.  I saw the Museo de Santa Cruz, which my book said contains paintings by El Greco and Goya, Spain's most famous artists from the 16th and 18th centuries, respectively, but they must have since been moved to more prominent museums, because all that was in the museum was some modern crap.  The museum is not too far from the Alcazar, a prominent 10th century fortress that is now being refurbished to house the Army Museum, which the guidebook says will contain exhibits about "Spain's ambiguous approach to its past and to Franco himself.  Historians eagerly await the reopening to see how this sensitive period of Spanish history will be portrayed."  If you don't know Spainish history (I didn't), this refers to the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s.  Fransisco Franco's Nationalist party, with help from the Nazis and Fascist Italy, took control and Franco ruled ruthlessly and murderously until his death in 1975.

There are two pre-Inquisition shuls standing in Toldeo; together with one in Cordoba they make up the only three shuls from that period to survive.  One of them I went in to.  The other is now a Jewish Museum.  Unfortunately it was closed.  (My guidebook said it is closed all day Sunday so I didn't bother to get to it until the afternoon.  Turns out it is open Sunday morning, and that information is in the official, free, maps, but I didn't get one at the train station because that cursed woman from the tour bus company hoarded them and would only give them to her paying customers.  Rant over.)  Then at the end I saw Roman ruins outside the city walls.  All in all, Toledo was a good trip.  Like Madrid, I thought it seemed a little quiet.  Not too many tourists.  I think it was because it was Sunday plus the high tourist season had just ended a week or two before.  I ended up finishing the tour hours before I expect to, and headed back to Madrid early.

When I got back to Madrid, I went to one of the kosher restaurants.  I met a nice couple from England there on holiday for their 40th wedding anniversary.  There's no menu at the restaurant.  The woman who owns the place, who seems to have no patience for her customers, barked the menu.  We commicated in Hebrew.  They have shish kabobs in meat or lamb or Moroccan hamburgers.  And she recommended the hamburgers, so I had those.  It was a ton of food, a plate of a dozen mini burgers and a basket of baget pieces that didn't really fit the burgers, but it was tasty.  The restaurantuer was kind of funny.  When I asked for ice, first she said she didn't think they had any, but she took my glass and came back with my glass with a single ice cube in it.  When I asked for ketchup, she said she didn't think they had any, but she went into the kitchen and came out with a squirt bottle and proceeded to squirt ketchup on my burgers until I said, Whoa, just leave the bottle, I can apply my own ketchup thank you very much.  When I asked for the final couple burgers to be wrapped up to go (when I saw how much meat there was I knew there was no way I was finishing it) she came back with a roll of alumimum foil and wrapped them up in a ball.  I got a nice photo with her, even though she laughed and said her husband would kill her if he saw her in a picture with another man.  BOTTOM LINE: Food good, service bad, but that's what you get when there are two kosher restaurants in the city.  I have heard good things about the other place, Naomi's Grill, especially about their fries, but I hear it is kind of pricey.

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photo by: ellechic