A side Trip From Madrid To Toledo

I know.  What does this have to do with Toledo.  Nothing as it turns out.  However, I found it interesting that "Dunkin’ Donuts” all over Europe is known as “Dunkin’ Coffee”.  My question is how do you dunk coffee?

I arrived in Madrid at the same train station, Atocha, when I arrived here almost eight years ago.  Every bit as beautiful as it was back in 2006.  My hotel was about a 20 minute walk from the station.  However, it was all up hill so I worked up a sweat pulling, although it felt like I was dragging, it up Calle Atocha.  Anyway I made it up there and checked in the hotel and then had some lunch.

Yesterday I decided to take the day off from major sightseeing and just spend time hanging out in Madrid.  I’m glad I did that because I was tired.  This morning when I awoke, I felt pretty refreshed so I decided to go on the first of two side trips from Madrid.  I planned to go to Segovia today.  When I looked at the Renfe schedule I thought it said that to get to Segovia and Toledo I had to leave from Atocha Station.  Well I got there and went to the ticket counter to get my ticket and was told the trains to Segovia left from St. Martin Station.  So I went to Toledo instead which is just a 30 minute train south of Madrid

I knew it was going to be hot today so I applied sun screen and took a hat plus I purchased 2 liter bottle of water.  Toledo is quite beautiful and quite old and it’s a very steep climb from the train station, about 2,150 feet, to the city.

Some facts about Toledo.  It was already an important pre-Roman settlement, and was eventually chosen as capital of the post-Roman Visigothic kingdom. After being taken by the Moors in 711, the city rapidly grew to become the capital of an independent Arab taifa, which is a small kingdom, and the center of learning and arts in Spain.

Alfonso VI marched into Toledo in 1085 and, shortly thereafter, the Vatican recognized Toledo as a seat of the Spanish Church. Initially, Toledo’s Christians, Jews and Muslims coexisted tolerably well. However, the eventual convert-or-get-out dictates issued to the Jews and Muslims stripped this multi-faith city of the backbone of its social and economic life. Once Felipe II chose Madrid as his capital in the mid-16th century, Toledo went into decline.

Today, even though it is one of the smallest of Spain’s provincial capitals, Toledo plays a very important part in Spain's history and consciousness as a religious center, mainstay of the Spanish church, and the once-flourishing symbol of a multicultural medieval society. The Old Town today has many churches, museums, synagogues and mosques set in a labyrinth of narrow streets, plazas and inner patios high above Río Tajo.  Many, many souvenir shops with all kinds of knives, swords, antique guns and medieval military uniforms.  It also has many store devoted entirely to “The Lord Of The Rings” which I found interesting.  It was precious.

Since I only had about nine hours here I decided to see three things.  The first was Alcazar fortress built in the 10th century which is now a very large military museum.  All the guide books say it is a must see so I went there and discovered it is closed on Wednesday’s.  Oh well “I’m over it."

Next on my list was the Catedral Primada.  the guide book say that Toledo’s cathedral reflects the city’s historical significance as the heart of Catholic Spain.

From the earliest days of the Visigothic occupation, the current site of the cathedral has been a center of worship. During Muslim rule, it contained Toledo’s central mosque, which was destroyed in 1085. Dating from the 13th century and essentially a Gothic structure, the cathedral has many styles, including Mudéjar and Renaissance. The Visigothic influence continues today in the unique celebration of the Mozarabic Rite, which is a 6th-century liturgy that was allowed to endure after Cardinal Cisneros put its legitimacy to the test by burning missals in a fire of faith; they survived more or less intact.

The heavy interior, with sturdy columns dividing the space into five naves, is on a monumental scale. Every one of the numerous side chapels has artistic treasures.

Guess what?  I didn't like it.  The place is mammoth, it cold, and not the least bit inviting. Everything in the church has these massive gates that make it hard to see and grasp what is behind the gates. Oh it has many art treasures and you will see just a few in the photos I post but I was totally unmoved.  Maybe I’m getting “churched out” or maybe it was the heat.  It all seemed so over the top with more gold and silver than I’ve ever seen in one place before.  Anyway I spent about 90 minutes trying to wrap my head around the place.  

I also climbed the bell tower and saw what is the largest bell in Spain.  The large bell which isn't rung anymore because it has a large crack it .  Still it was pretty impressive.

After some lunch I headed toward the Jewish quarter to visit the Sinagoga de Santa María La Blanca.  This pretty Mudéjar synagogue has five naves divided by rows of horseshoe and multi-foil arches. Originally the upper arches opened onto rooms where women worshipped, while the men worshiped below.

The other synagogue I wanted to see was Sinagoga del Tránsito.  However, even though it was supposed to be close to the  Sinagoga de Santa María La Blanca it was not on the map I received from the tourist office and after wandering up and down through the Jewish quarter and asking various people where the the synagogue might be they all kept directing me back to  Sinagoga de Santa María La Blanca.  Finally after walking up and down on very rough and narrow stone streets and becoming increasingly tired, hot and running out of time I gave up and actually caught a bus back to the train station.  It’s the first time on this trip I was actually exhausted.

One brief paragraph about the train station.  It’s simply beautiful.  Construction began in 1915 and was placed in service in 1920.  It’s a gem.  I’ll post pictures of Toledo and Segovia by Saturday.

I’m using the Lonely Planet Guide To Spain for my facts.

1.Louis.skypala@verizon.net © Louis M. Skypala 2014