"Amazing Toledo" Toledo by sirgaw
Toledo Travel Guide: 764 reviews and 2,186 photos
. . . they would talk of bloodshed and a whole lot more.
I had done a bit of pre-trip reading on Toledo - internet and travel guides and had read up a little of the history of Toledo. Seems it had been occupied since Roman times - and probably well before that too - and each wave of conquers had added some of their own architecture on the city. The city also has a dark past when in 807 the infamous "Day of the Pit" when more than 5,000 Toledans lost their heads. You can read the story at http://www.toledo-spain.info/history.html . It had also been the capitol of Spain until about 500 years ago and has the remarkable achievement of being one of only a few UNESCO World Heritage listed sites where the entire city has been ear marked for total preservation - coming from the "new" country of Australia that's pretty impressive stuff.
It was a short 45 minutes very fast train ride from Atocha Railway station in Madrid to Toledo station - which is a remarkable building, more like a church than a station. We lined up and waited our turn for a taxi to our pre-booked hotel opposite the remarkable Alcazar, which unfortunately was closed for re-building at the time of our visit. It was a trip of only about 10 minutes and we just gawked at the impressive stone walled ramparts that still guard the city from invaders - but don't seem to be able to stop the hordes of tourists.
We arrived at the pre-booked hotel, and while my wife was settling in and unpacking I did a bit of exploring and found knife and sword shops with enough stock to start a couple of wars. When I got back to the hotel I tried to teach the very little English speaking receptionist into saying to my wife, "Is is illegal for non-Spanish citizens to buy anything in the shops." He broke out in laughter trying to recite that to my wife, who immediately knew I'd been up to no good - as usual. I mean I had to try something and protect our credit card from total melt down.
Shortly afterwards we started to explore the city fascinating city and our first building was the amazing Santa Iglesia Catedral Primada (see tip). We just gawked at the trappings of wealth contained in the 700 year old Cathedral of Toledo. As it was a Sunday, somehow we managed to luck in and witness part of a service, however, judging by the ever-present TV cameras, it seemed to be a day of significance. We witnessed a solemn procession which included women dressed in mantillas and although not sure, either a cardinal or a bishop bringing up the rear of the group. We stayed for about 15 minutes and decided to leave before the collection plate was passed around - we had already paid the admittance of 6 Euro each.
Although we had been in Spain for 10 days, we had not really become accustomed to eating out in "Spanish time." We stalked from restaurant to restaurant and every where the same story, "Sorry Senor, the kitchen does not open until 9pm." We did however find a cheap eats place in one of the many back street "squares" (in reality nothing is square in Toledo) where the service was cheerful and a United States woman and her 2 children came to our aid in the translation department.
Like many cities we visited in Europe, Toledo has a tourist "train" that winds its way around the city with a commentary in various languages. Although expensive, they are a great introduction to a city. We had to almost fight off the hoards of other tourists to claim our seats on the "train" and sat there for the 45 minute ride around the perimeter of the walled city. Just amazing scenery of a medieval city and we well understood the strategic importance of the city. The commentary suggested that the area where our hotel was located was known as "the square of the beasts" as all manner of animals were sold there - mainly for their meat. That second day was a memorable mix of having a cheap lunch where the makings were bought at various small shops, wandering the streets, visiting as many buildings as we could and getting back to the main square just in time to see a live performance by a choir and a group of talented musicians - then we ran into problems.
We decided to eat in the main square - OK I know experienced tourists say this should never be done - but we were there and a vacant table was just waiting for us. We had one of the worst meals of our trip and very expensive too served up by a waiter with an attitude problem. My revenge was a 1 Euro cent tip. It was time for desert and coffee away from the waiter from hell and we discovered the Spanish equivalent of the Australian pub with no beer - a coffee shop that had run out of coffee. Mumbling to ourselves, McDonalds to the rescue.
Our last full day in Toledo, we managed to get to a huge range of buildings including The View from Heaven at the Inglesia De Los Jesuites, the Real Foundation of Toledo and viewed some of the work of the artist El Greco, Roman ruins and the Sinagoga Santa Maria La Blanca (tips on all), where we inadvertently tagged along on a tour that took us to other parts of historic Toledo. It was the mention of lunch by the tour guide that made us realise we had "crashed" a tour. Luckily we were not asked to pay for our mistake. On the return to our hotel we stumbled upon a craftsman making Damasquinados, the intricate gold jewellery of the area. Feeling generous at the time, I bought a sample for my wife.
Another cheap eats for us that night and more battles at the main square over expensive ice cream and coffee. Again the golden arches to the rescue, although my version of a little bit of Spanish didn't help in getting the right sort of coffees for us both.
The last morning the breakfast room had a few problems of its own. During our stay I had noticed a position vacant sign in Spanish on the window. They were looking for English speaking reception staff. I had jokingly offered my services - well I do speak English. The breakfast room toaster decided to die and another was brought out and it too failed to work. I suggested re-setting the automatic safety switch and immediately after we had fresh toast - even these efforts failed in my one and only application as a receptionist in another country - maybe it was my grey hair that coloured the application.
We returned by taxi to the railway station that should be included as a UNESCO World Heritage Listed site, boarded our train to Madrid and continued on to Barcelona for our next stop.
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