Thursday, 21 June 2012

Toledo - take two

Having spent a wonderful day chilling and just ambling around the streets in Toledo before returning to the UK, I decided I really needed a bit more time to do it justice. And, well, having found an awesome campsite, I was definitely heading there first night back in Spain too! Here is the view from the pool looking out towards Toledo, which I of course made good use of!

It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986 for its extensive cultural and monumental heritage as one of the former capitals of the Spanish Empire and place of coexistence of Christian, Jewish and Muslim cultures, as well as the place where harsh religious persecutions were held against the Jews by the Visigoths. It's got a long and complex history as a result, and I recommend a read of Wikipedia, as I'm not going to reproduce it all here.

The first thing you realise when driving up in a 'van is that Toledo has very imposing walls, and whilst the gates were pretty big, you have to start wondering about height clearances. Thankfully I fitted! The next thing you realise is that *every* single parking area in central Toledo is underground as it's built on a hilltop and that a 2m clearance just isnt enough for the van. Shortly after that I discovered just how easy my baby is to stall on a steep slope - and just how impossible it is to do a hill start with hundreds of  irate spaniards hooting at you. I decided to bow to fate, and pleaded "female driver, help" to a nice white van man, who laughed, kindly got out to help drive my van to safety, and promptly got in the wrong car door and was horrified at the lack of steering! After repeated cries of 'soy Ingles, es Inglesa coche' - which is probably grammatically terrible, he finally got the idea and changed seats, and escorted me to safety  - and van friendly parking. He was definitely in the 'cute' varient of Spaniard too, so it wasnt too much of a hardship to play the female rescue card!

Once parked, I made use of.....a bus! And then huge amounts of shanks pony to wander the streets. The  first place I actually went into was the Cathedral. I've been to quite a lot of churchs and  the odd Cathedral on this jaunt, but I think I can safely say that Toledo Cathedral beats every other cathedral hands down for decoration and extreme detailing.

The current cathedral is built on the site of an original mosque - in fact, for 3 centuries, it was in fact the mosque itself. The new building was started in the 13th Century under the Reign of Ferdinand III. Its been worked on and tweaked ever since and is the most carved, painted and glitzed building I've ever seen.

Just the choir area took me 30 minutes to look at all the carvings - and the miserichords are just awesome! On the backs of the seats, the battle to retake Granada is depicted in glorious detail. And here's a mythic battle taking place, just underneath those tired gluteus maximus muscles!

 Back out on the streets I headed away from Christianity and lost Muslim buildings and in search of Toledo's Seffardi Jewish roots. My initial search was diverted however by a more edible goal : this is the convent of Santa Rita, and they sell the Tears of Santa Rita, made by nuns ......and having just scoffed a few, I can assure you they are very very tasty indeed. She must have been crying for joy, and not from sadness! They are a local Toledano delicacy made of marzipane  and gently toasted in an oven. The nun who handled the sale was securely barred behind many layers of iron work portices with an intricate rotating cabinet with chain operated door..... to ensure that they have no opportunity to sneak out, I assume. Or get contaminated.....or simply, for the joy of the technology perhaps!

 Finally finding my destination, I visited the local Seffardi museum once a synagogue, and then went on to Santa Maria La Blanca - which is the oldest synagogue building in Europe, and is now owned by.....the Catholic church. It's got a large cross on the central wall and a very stern looking nun is sitting trying to push religious card sales on the sidewall. All this doesnt detract from the beauty and simplicity of the carving on the walls though - so very different from the  complexity and gilt on display in the cathedral. Its still a quiet and peaceful place, pleasant to visit, but curiously disjointed with its blend of tourism, art gallery and different faiths.

Toledo is famous for more than just buildings though, and its crafts are known thoughout the world. Damasquina - or the creation of gold plate designs on a steel backplate is alternately tacky in it's machine made tourist trap glitz and stunningly beautiful in the complexity and fineness of craftsman ship in its handmade sister. I got to see a number of craftsmen at work, and the skill required to do some of the more complex geometric designs is just astounding. The other famous output from Toledo is steel - nice sharp pointy things to cause much damage with. On every corner of every street is a shop selling perfect replicas of so many historical swords ( and mythical ones too - I had to giggle when a sales girl told me that their excalibur was a museum quality replica of the original!) - and of course armour galore!

Onwards next to Segovia..........

No comments:

Post a Comment