Ancient Royal Cities
Toledo Travel Blog› entry 7 of 27 › view all entries
Toledo is a beautiful, highly photographic city (as you´ll see from the pictures we bring home!). Even the train station is beautiful.
Before Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand expelled all the Jews and Muslims from Spain in 1492 (well, they could also convert or choose to be put to death...) Toledo had been full of Christians, Jews, and Muslims. The architecture reflects the fact that a lot of the building trades were Muslim trades. The design of the city is distinctly Moorish. The city has been declared a Unesco heritage site and no one is allowed to alter the facades of their building.
It´s also an old city. It was the country´s capitol before Madrid. The Romans had an active community there. The streets are all tiny (some as small as 3 people across). The lanes twist and turn and run up and down. The shops all open out onto the street. It´s what I envision when I imagine a town from the Middle Ages. I loved it.
We climbed up to the cathedral and spent probably an hour there. They have some excellent things, including some El Greco paintings and some beautiful garments worn by the acolytes. I took some pictures i case Augustana wants to upgrade the acolyte and deacon-wear. :)
I also ran into a very rude Russian tour guide. We were in the treasury -- a small room -- when she came in with about a 20-person tour group. They filled the room. Jeff and I were -- quietly!! -- discussing one of the treasures in a case when she suggested we should not speak until she was done talking since there were quite a few of them and only two of us.
I was quite taken back. So much so that I wasn´t able to respond. My response would have been along the line of ¨bite me¨or ¨then wait until we´re done to bring your group in here¨.
Afterwards, we wound our way to the shop of a sword maker recommended in the guidebook. Toledo is know for several artistic endeavors, including sword making. Jeff really loved them. He´d wants to get a saber for the boat. :) You know, do his ¨pirate¨up right. He ended up going back later and buying one, so we´ll be toting that around with us for the next 2.5 weeks.
He needs to get a leather scabbard custom-made for it. So if any of you know anyone who does that kind of custom leather work (Shelby?), drop Jeff a note.
We had two wonderful pork dishes for lunch. Pork is really king here.
After lunch it was -- you guessed it -- siesta time! Since we didn´t have a bed to go to, we found a park bench. Jeff snoozed with his head in my lap for a while and I read.
Yep, another shocking incident of International Loitering!
When the siesta was over, a few more drinks and off to the old Jewish Quarter.
There are no longer any Jews or Muslims in Toledo. In 1992 (500 years after the edict expelling them), the king formally tore up the edict invited Jews to return to Spain and specifically to Toledo. I´m not sure anyone has taken him up on it.
We knew we were in the right area when we found....swastikas spray-painted on some walls. It never ends, does it?
There are two synogogues still standing. One is museum of the Shephardic (Spanish) Jews.
It was cool and lovely inside. High arches, interesting tile work on the floor. I took a ton of pictures.
Then joined Jeff at a tea cafe for some tea and hand-out time.
The other art form that Toledo is known for is damascene. That´s gold thread worked intricately into a metal disk or form. It´s unbelieveably beautiful. I bought a pair of earrings and a small disk representing the joint history of the Jews, Muslims and Christians.
It was another beautiful day. The weather has been in the 60s and sunny. Monday was also breezy, so I had to keep an eye on my skirt all day to not do a Marilyn Monroe expose! The skirts are working out great for me but they are very light fabric and very full!
Before leaving for the day, we sampled some marzipan (not as cloyingly sweet as I expected) and took a trolley ride around the city with taped travelogue.
This is where what I call the ¨Toledo Disconnect¨really set in for me. Toledo takes a lot of pride in its past, lauding itself as a multicultural city where Jews, Muslims, and Christians used to co-exist.
But there´s the rub -- used to. The Christians told them to ¨get out and stay out¨500 years ago and don´t seem to show any regret for that. They heap praises on the work of Jews and Muslims and then blithely go on to talk about all the churches and monasteries they´ve built on top of mosques and synogogues. Or mention that this fabulous building became this beautiful church after they got rid of the Jews and Muslims. Or explain how this lovely city wall was built partially from Muslim headstones.
They are still taking credit for being a fabulous multi-cultural tolerant city, except they aren´t any more and haven´t been for half a millenium. Maybe I´m just not getting something. Maybe I´m just too American, my consciousness formed by Civil Rights movements, Native American rights movements, gay rights movements, etc. But it was beautiful and off-putting simultaneously.
I don´t know if this is something it is polite to ask about of a Spaniard. I will, gently, broach it with our hosts in Valencia. I would like to understand it better.
I´m enjoying myself and learning new things. I´m enjoying myself with Jeff. I´m looking forward to the world famous Prado museum on Tuesday and Sevilla on Wednesday. I´ll write again soon.