Yesterday I caught a bus to Toledo for the day, one of the most fascinating historical towns I have visited so far with its three cultures - influenced by successive Islamic, Hebrew and Christian occupants.
Toledo is an ancient city set on a hill above the plains of Castilla-La Mancha and as you enter the walled old city via the Moorish Bisagra or Sol Gates, it opens out into the Plaza de Zocodover, a lively square and a good place to begin a walking tour of medieval Arab, Jewish and Christian monuments.
I caught a bus to Toledo and before we entered the city it stopped at the top of the gorge past the Alcázar Fortress providing a view over the Rio Tajo and then this beautiful and fascinating city.
Sadly because it is only an hour from Madrid, it was overrun by large tour groups on day trips, such a pain however I did manage to keep out of their way and avoided the obnoxious selfie sticks. Instead of a selfie stick, I make friends by asking people to take the odd picture of me (oh yes Cameron, would you mind making up a spare bed at Laurieton, I met a lovely German lady yesterday and invited her to visit us next time she is in Australia, if we are running out of space, just ask Mum to move the cat out of her spare room, tks).
I was intrigued at how the various religious buildings eg. synagogues, mosques and churches were converted or demolished to the three different religions depending on religious politics at the time. I have seen evidence of this before in Spain where a Mosque was converted into a Cathedral, however all the pillars and Mosque architecture remained, it was incredibly beautiful, and unbelievably interesting considering all the religious dramas involved both historically and currently.
Strange how once a religious building has been built on a specific spot, it is always a religious spot and whether it be a Mosque, church or synagogue, they demolish or convert on the same spot, instead of trying somewhere else?
The Synagogue of Santa Maria La Blanca was impressive with its five naves divided by horseshoe arches over these white lime painted octagonal columns with Eastern style unusual looking honeycombed capitals, really beautiful and totally unusual.
The old gateways were impressive and it always feels exotic to enter an old walled city, it reminds me of the first time, when I was very young and naive, and visited Jerusalem’s old city. I was overwhelmed, however am still excited at the experience even though I have since been to many old walled cities in Europe and Asia.
I was also impressed with the Iglesias De Los Jesuitas, the dome was amazing and the entire church was light and bright without over the top ornamentation. I was able to climb the bell tower for wonderful views of the city.
I also spent many hours wandering around the huge Jewish area still with all the Jewish menorah tiles and evidence of Jewish lifestyle, however if I understand correctly, no Jewish community lives in Toledo anymore.
I have learned so much during my time in Spain this time about Jewish conversions, how they coped, how they managed to live as Christians for survival.
The reason Ham is such a major part of Spain, because the converted Jewish people and the Moslems used to keep a leg of ham in their window and slowly the leg would become thinner as they consumed it and this confirmed their conversion to Christianity.
Yep, I guess I found Toledo fascinating, also quite a pretty town on top of the hill with the river running fast down below and of course entering through the old gates with the fortress in the background higher up, most impressive.
I only returned to Madrid about 9 pm so after, yes you guessed it, a ham salad for dinner with a glass of Sangria (now often replaces my beer) I collapsed into bed without consulting ‘my trip journal’.
Carol and Gavin, did you notice how many pharmacies there are in Spain, one on every street corner, but all really small, mostly only selling drugs or specialised shampoos and creams. Interesting and I thought of you guys.
Lucille, I’ve asked Cameron to look in my old diary for the name of the hotel we stayed in at Cinque Terra, it was so convenient, economical and quite nice if somewhat basic.
Priscilla, are you sitting in Cape Town knitting socks or something, we never see any photos or hear news of your trip. You must be having too much fun and the family are probably keeping you extremely busy, please send some news.
Time for a day out in Madrid.