Holy Toledo!

Posted on February 5th, 2012 by

I wanted a cool name for this blog, but I couldn’t think of anything. A friend mentioned that “Holy Toledo!” is a saying so I just decided to use that. OK now on to the actual blog.

Sorry that I haven’t posted in several weeks. I don’t really have a good excuse other than I have been taking advantage of my time here in Spain. I have been traveling every weekend and I am taking a class on the protection of human rights with the University of Alcalá de Hernares’ Facultad de Derecho (that’s basically like their PoliSci dept. but not exactly). Anyways it’s been cool to take a class with Spanish students, as well as other Europeans studying with the Erasmus program (students from different EU countries can study in other EU countries). Something about encouraging European integration.

But this has nothing to do with the traveling I have done, or with this blog, which is supposed to be about Toledo. So if it’s OK, I’m going to start talking about Toledo. I went there three weeks ago (and I meant to do this post within a couple days of that… Oops) with two other students from CIEE Alcalá. We took the AVE train from Madrid, which is this really fast train (for my Japanese friends, probably not as fast as the trains in Japan, but still pretty fast) so it only took us 10.60€ and half an hour to get there (don’t ask why I remember the price of the ticket).

This is the train station. I thought it was pretty. It was built in the early 1900s but was made to look way older. Anyways, from the train station we took a bus to get to the historic part of town, which is situation on top of a hill that is surrounded by a river. Typical place to have a walled city.


Oh, and those walls are still there. The buses drive through the gates that have been standing for centuries.We got off the bus at Plaza Zocodóver (I think that is an awesome name for a plaza) and that was right by the Alcázar (that’s derived from an Arabic word meaning castle), which is really famous. There has been some sort of fort or castle on the site of the Alcázar since the Roman times (they called the city TOLETVM [Toletum]). Basically, they just kept improving the site. Now the Alcázar houses the Army Museum, full of a bunch of old weapons from the iron age all the way to weapons used today. Here’s a picture of the side of the Alcázar. The old looking stones are Roman ruins.Anyways, Toledo is divided into three historic zones: Muslim, Christian, Jewish (very typical of old Spanish cities, of course during the Reconquista [Reconquest] of Spain the Christians just ended up turning all the mosques and synagogues into churches). After struggling for an hour to find a mezquita (mosque) in the Muslim section we decided to move on to the Christian section.Oh there is one thing you notice really quick when you get to Toledo: Everyone is obsessed with swords. There are swords EVERYWHERE. Basically every shop that isn’t selling food is selling swords. I guess back in the middle ages Toledo was famous for swords so they’ve kept that tradition alive that’s for sure. If the shops are selling food there is a good change they are selling Toledo’s other specialty: Mazapán (marzipan). I bought some mazapanes but I didn’t buy a sword. Although we did see a man bring a sword through security to get back on the AVE train (Security isn’t very tight in Spain, especially since most of us got through customs without having to fill out that sheet of paper [for those of you who haven’t traveled abroad, usually before you land in a country you have to fill out a paper saying what kinds of things you are bringing into the country] and I’m pretty sure the attendent didn’t even look at my passport or visa before stamping it).

OK what am I talking about? Oh, right. Swords and marzipan. The other thing that is awesome about Toledo is that it has awesome Jesuit churches like this one (actually I think this is the only one in the city) that not only looks awesome on the inside (I loved the way the light fell in this place):

But you can also climb on the roof and look out over the entire city!

And there was also this monastery that had a beautiful courtyard with an orange tree. I didn’t see any monks there but I think they are still around but the point is that it was really peaceful. Here’s a picture of that before I conclude this post:

And that essentially concludes my brief account of my time in Toledo. I would love to go back before the semester is over, but if you only have one chance, ‘Toledo In a Day’ is quite a feasible proposition.

Also, if you want to see more pictures of Toledo, I uploaded my best collection onto Flickr. But actually, I don’t like Flickr that much so I probably won’t be using it in the future. Anyways, the link to my Toledo collection is: http://flic.kr/s/aHsjyuDsCZ

 

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