Have you seen the last weeks articles? In the one with Segovia, I wrote that you can stay there for a longer period of time and take the train and visit some more (while avoiding the populated Madrid) around the city.
So yeah, I took the bus from Segovia, got myself to the high-speed train station and waited for the train to Madrid.
Now, is important to note that transport in Madrid, as of 2018 is very expensive (compared to other European cities). So is better to buy a full ticket from your point of departure to your arrival (and return), and if you need to stop at Madrid and change the train station, then the urban connection is free (if you take the urban train). All you have to do is to go to an info point, show them your ticket and they give you a free pass.
So here I am, waiting for my train to Toledo.
If you look at it on the map, it doesn’t show much now does it 😅
In fact, Toledo is very beautiful and packed with history, legends and stories. Also is an architecture feasting.
Right from the train station, you get a taste of what Toledo will be: The city of the three cultures – Muslims, Christians, and Jews. Lots of arches, Mudejar architecture, Gothic architecture, El Greco and beautiful wood carvings, white stone, orange and lime stone etc.
So as you get out of the train station, don’t take many photos, but climb the hill in front of you, right where the Hospital is (or the military area) so that you get a gorgeous view of the surroundings.
Here is a classic viewpoint with Alcazar de Toledo on top and Puente de Alcantara in the entry of the city (the last image of this article was done at almost the same spot, but at nighttime).
If you are planning to stay here more than just one day (ans you should…), follow the river Tajo from Alcantara bridge to the other side, San Martin. There is a pedestrian road that goes all along this side of the old city. Kinda makes you smile, when you think how easy was to protect this side from the enemies.
Again the Muslim architectural style can be seen inside the walls that once protected this city.
Now once in the city, head towards the Santa Cruz Museum and admire the beautiful entrance. It is so wonderful, they even made cakes with it (no photos allowed inside the museum so…).
If you are in a rush, or just one-day tour, you should just go to the main square, Plaza de Zocodover and decide if you should visit the Alcazar or the Cathedral. Don’t forget to take a picture with Cervantes.
Due to many commercials, I chose none of the above. In fact, I and my sister went to see a sorcery museum (magic creatures and witchcraft).
But, if your Spanish is not your thing, then let me give you a review of this place. It has creatures that look pretty much real (dead, but real, not like those dinosaur museums). They look like they really existed at some point in time. Like double-headed snakes, huge rats with clothes on that sit like we do, all kinds of jars of poisons, small objects, cures and curses, small creatures etc.
There are even artifacts that go into the satanic side of magic, rather than Harry Potter type. What I hated, was the lack of English translation of all the stuff (some have, like 5% of all the exposed artifacts/objects/creatures).
So even thou I understood nothing about the meaning of all, I did enjoy seeing this more than visiting yet another castle… You know, is more fun I guess 😅
But for now, back on the streets, and towards the Cathedral.
This place is evocated in the tour of Segovia’s Cathedral, where they have a “fight” on which city has the biggest tower; both in height and in width. Segovia won apparently but is not so fair fight. The cathedrals are different. Here we have more paintings and fewer sculptures and is not the same kind of location…
So I did not visit this Cathedral and went to see some other historical monuments.
One thing I have not seen so far in my lifetime is a Synagogue. And I chose one, that was once the Main Jewish Synagogues in Toledo (out of a total of twelve). This is Santa Maria la Blanca and is more beautiful inside than outside (unlike Christian Gothic Churches).
This Synagogue was built between the late XII-th century and the beginning of the XIII-th and has Muslim influence. And is beautiful and mostly crowded, so me and a few other photographers stood here quite a bit, hiding each other so we can get pictures of these arches in complete quietness.
I will not try to bore you with details of which tribe from Morocco did what here, because at every major location, once you buy a ticket, you get a small brochure with details and history. So if you want to get here than just ask for your language 🧐
In fact, I advise you to buy Toledo hand-in-hand A Practical Guide. It has all monuments in more than 1 page + tours you can do (a few hours or even day/night) + parking places but no toilets… Why no guide tells you where are toilets around?
So next stop should be a toilet, but where to find one…
Instead, I found an interesting monastery that had chains on the western wall.
The San Juan de los Reyes Monastery.
This monastery was built by (the order of) Queen Isabella in just 35 years (now compare it to the cathedral that took 270+ years to complete… This right here is a record-breaking.
The chains represent (as the legend says) an act of gratitude, that the freed prisoners did after they were no longer under Muslim control. Also, the same act, represents a national symbol of the Fall of Granada, the end of the Holy war against Islam.
Interesting act… to show freedom*.
And just like I said, it is truly remarkable that all this and much more was built in only 35 years. Also, this monastery is built in the middle of the Jewish quarter and was expanded in 1492 (with another Cloister and monastic quarters) after the expulsion of the Hebrew community. More and more examples of power.
Here we can also see (if we climb to the last floor) the symbol of the Mudejar architecture style. Among the many symbols on the wooden ceiling, on blue, we have the F for Ferdinand and Y for Isabella.
*Also, there is an interior garden with orange trees and flowers. Sadly they protected this area, by putting a white net on top of the garden, that is hagging from here, the last floor. And in it are birds that died captive, while trying to get to this garden but could not get free from the net. (hehe chains of freedom, net of subjugation)
But let us move on from this sad example of human achievement (killing birds that mess with Gods house) and we find ourselves now on San Martin bridge that sits over the Tajo river. This site is both beautiful and important. It even has a legend that is very romantic and you can read it here.
From here you could try your luck on a sunset photo… But, the sun will set behind you, behind the old Toledo. Anyway, the lights are gorgeous the view is fantastic.
Back inside the city’s narrow streets, we find this beautiful passage at Colegio Doncellas. Is like an old Rail Passenger Car got stuck between the walls. So now is a bridge.
Here we have a house that is built between two other buildings and sitting above the street. We seen this before, in Venezia.
My next destination was a gorgeous white church San Ildefonso, where you can climb in the tower and take a look over the Alcazar of Toledo and the Cathedral. Sadly you will be standing on a one-way bridge between the church’s towers, and people do not wait for you to get your composition right. But fear not, not so many people know about this secret place 🤫
One of the best ceiling photos that I did in Spain, so far is still at this church. See, is a great place to come and be amazed.
Right about now, if you visited any museum, your day must have been full. Add to this breakfast, dinner and other snacks and you have no time to see much more or energy. But I skipped a few meals so I had one more stop, before my train back to Segovia.
That is the Hospital of Tavera.
Beautiful inner court with many arches and columns, an interesting church that houses the tomb of the Archbishop of Toledo, Juan Pardo de Tavera and a pharmacy with the lab. Did I mention also El Greco?
You can visit them all and I suggest to take the private tour, since the people who do it, know English. And even though you will be the only non-Spanish, they will retell the whole speech so that you know who built the place, why and what is now.
From the chemistry lab to the dormitories of the patients, this place is full of history and decorations that speak of power (see that collection of rugs? Wait till you see the vaults).
Here I also saw the library where all the documents of all the patients that stood here, are stored and some, on display.
Like these big leather folders.
Maybe not so many know about this place either, In fact, me and my sister were the only to take the tour. I almost never had someone to block my image…
So let me have a long resume of what Toledo was for me:
- a great history lesson of how 3 major religions could and can coexist in one place (a small city);
- a beautiful example of how strategic location this was, even during the ancient Romans (several monuments can be found that date back to Roman period);
- this is the city of beautiful interior architecture, that shows the best of all worlds;
- it is a city that was visited by the famous Don Quixote;
- it is a city that offers a spectacle for tourists day and night
Also here are the top places that I visited (if I mentioned some but never featured is because I did not find them so interesting for my first trip):
- Hospital of Tavera
- San Ildefonso Chruch
- Santa Maria la Blanca synagogue
- Magic Museum
- The walk next to Tajo River from Alcantara to San Martin.
If you ever want to walk the adventures of Don Quixote or just see something more historical and romantic than Madrid, then you should come here (after visiting Segovia for two days).
See you next week, with my favorite city from Galicia, the White City.