Sorry for another super dense post but Toledo was so beautiful! The last time I was in Spain we didn't make it to Toledo but I had always heard how pretty it is and how awesome it is because of all the history, so I was really excited. It definitely did not disappoint. We were supposed to begin the day with a Panoramic view of the city but this time of year Toledo can be very foggy and it was far too foggy to see anything so we went straight to our walking tour.
Our tour guide Mario was incredible. He spoke very good English and did the tour in a very good mix of English and Spanish, switching easily between the two and making sure everyone understood what he was saying. He was hilarious (and he has his own tour company, if you are ever in Toledo, I would definitely recommend him for a tour). Toledo has two parts the new part of the city and the old part of the city, which has a big wall around it. Toledo used to be the capital and has a very rich history. Toledo is famous for its historic mix of cultures, Muslims, Jews, and Christians, co-inhabited Toledo peacefully for years, so there is a great mix of architecture throughout the city.
We began by touring the old royal church of Los Reyes Catholicos, Fernando and Isabel, the king and queen who united spain back in the 15th century. It was really beautiful, and surprisingly pretty small because it was considered a church instead of a Cathedral, (the Cathedral is a whole separate building on the other side of town.) The church is now home to Franciscan Friars and it had the most intricate Nativity scene I had ever seen, complete with running water in a small river.
We walked through the Jewish quarter of town and toured a Synagogue that embodied this mix of cultures. It was I believe the oldest Synagogue in Spain and Portugal and one of the oldest in Europe. It was built by Muslims so it had a very Moorish architecture style, though it was used as a synagogue. But there was also a cross inside and at one point it was likely used as a church as well.
We also went into a section of an old church that holds one of the most famous paintings by "El Greco" ("The Burial of the Count of Orgaz") who lived in Toledo for a majority of his life. There was no photography so I don't have a picture but the painting was of a rich man who did charitable works being received into Heaven. I'm going off on a tangent but the most interesting thing to me is that he included his son in the picture and put his signature where he painted his son, dating it not when he completed the painting but the year his son was born, as if to say that his son was his greatest creation.
We didn't tour the big cathedral but we got to see it from the outside and it was incredible. We ended our tour in the center of town and then had free time to have lunch, shop, and explore the city. We shopped a little bit and then found a place where we could see the views, as the fog had finally cleared up, it was picturesque, exactly how you would imagine the Spanish countryside. Overall I liked Toledo much more than Madrid because it felt much less like a big city and you could really feel the history there.
|Outside the historic city walls.|
|The Iglesia "Son Juan de los Reyes"|
|Just look at this Nativity Scene|
|Mario our Tour Guide|
|Here you can see the cross (at top of the picture in the middle, and the arches represent a Moorish architecture style, combining the three religions/cultures cohabitation peacefully centuries ago in Toledo).|
|Toledo is full of very narrow streets ("calles estrechas").|