If you listen closely you can still hear the sound of horses trotting down the cobblestone streets as men are mounted atop them, dressed in armor with a sword strapped on their hip. In a high tower over looking the city rings the church bells and a man climbs the steps to sing the adhan to call Muslims to pray. In the homes of the city are poets, writers and scientists that are hard at work, developing new ideas for things that have not yet been discovered. This is Toledo.
When we arrived in Toledo, it felt like we had gone back in time a few hundred years. The city is very picturesque and has a lot of charm and history. For centuries in this city, like many different cities in Spain, the 3 religions, Christianity, Islam and Judaism, lived together in harmony and each had a great influence on the architecture and culture. Many different iconic buildings in Toledo show how the architecture changed over the centuries as each religion built their level on top of the already existing building. Unlike the US that is always tearing down buildings to construct new ones, Spain has always had a history of not destroying what was there but rather adding to it. To learn more about the city, my friend and I took a guided tour which gave us a place to start.
The tour bus picked up tourists from the center of the city and took a drive through the Jewish, Muslim and Christian quarters and along the perimeter to show off everything the city has to offer. On our tour bus there were people from all over the world and luckily the audio phones are offered in over a dozen languages. We did have some obnoxious people that would not stop talking and were pushing to take pictures, but I suppose you can run into that wherever. The best part of the tour was when we stopped for a few minutes to take pictures of the landscape. From this point of view I could see where El Greco got his inspiration to paint View of Toledo.
When we came back to the starting point we went off to do our own exploring. We came across a museum that was tucked away on a narrow side street that had an exhibit on the inventions of Leonardo da Vinci. They made models of his inventions and explained the concept behind each one. There were copies of his notes and sketches and you could see how he was a great thinker, far beyond his time. After touring the exhibit, we must have had low blood sugar as we began to joke about cracking the Da Vinci code, so we looked for a place to have lunch.
I am always up for a good deal and more than ever there are excellent lunch deals in Spain. We went to a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant where I got a 1st plate, 2nd plate, dessert and half of a bottle of wine for 10 euro. You can’t beat a deal like that! Yes, the menu is fixed to only be a few items but the food was delicious and filling which is exactly what I needed. If I remember correctly I had judias verde con jamon, tortilla española, and flan. My mouth is watering just thinking of it now.
I was in Toledo for my second to last day before I had to head back to the US and I still had some souvenir shopping to do.What should you buy when going to a medieval city? A sword of course! I had seen swords in other tourist shops in Madrid but I knew that they are manufactured in Toledo. I searched around the town in many souvenir shops and finally encountered one that was not only in my price range but most importantly would fit in my suitcase. This one looked unlike any others that I had seen, as its style reflects the North African influences. The family that I was staying with later joked about how I would be able to pack it and get past TSA, but I luckily didn’t have any problems. The sword may be the best souvenir I have ever bought.
As we started to make our way back to the train station to take us home, we passed a monastery where the nuns made and sold marzipan. I could smell the sweet scent from the street of sugar, almonds and honey and knew that I had to purchase some. Now these were not sweets that were shaped like little fruits, like the images that we commonly see, but it was almond paste cut into different shapes, that might have used a cookie cutter and topped with a sliced almond. This made for a perfect little snack for the train ride back, to the future.