Non incautus futuri

A Washington & Lee junior and Marine Officer Candidate in Spain

Day Trip to Toledo

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Man, I’m beat. It’s been quite a day.

I got up early this morning to take a train to Toledo, a small, very historical city located in La Mancha (home of Don Quixote and Manchego cheese!). Toledo was once the political and cultural capital of Spain: it was a medieval melting pot of sorts, a place that achieved an incredible fusion of Christian, Islamic, and Jewish culture. The city is also world renowned for its swords. It seems like every block has a store where you can buy a broadsword for 50 Euros. I wonder if the Marines will let me carry a broadsword instead of a Mameluke sword for ceremonies?

It’ll be just like this. Funny, I didn’t see that lava monster at OCS…

Anyway, I arrived in Toledo around 1000, and hit the ground running. Or walking, rather. There were taxis and buses right there, but I had seen a map that looked pretty straightforward to me. Cross the bridge, work my way through town, good to go. OR SO I THOUGHT. Turns out city planning in medieval times wasn’t so hot, because the whole city is an intricate tangle of winding, poorly marked, narrow streets. And my half-page-sized map in the Lonely Planet tour guide was less than adequate. I sort of just wandered around for an hour, getting progressively thirstier and more annoyed. Lesson learned: next time I’m taking a taxi. I may have gotten a 100 in Land Nav at OCS, but that was in the woods. Apparently my skills don’t transfer well to cities.

In Toledo, this is actually a pretty wide street.

Oh look, the road splits AND THERE IS NO SIGN.

Here’s what I did in Toledo:

Museo del Ejército: Spain’s Army Museum used to be in Madrid, but it’s presently housed in Toledo’s Alcázar, a medieval fortress. I wanted to love this museum, but it was only okay. The halls of the museum were even harder to navigate than the city streets (it’s built in the Mudéjar style so there are lots of windy, circular passageways). And the presentation of the museum’s content seemed kind of tepid. It almost seemed as if the Army took more pride in its contributions to science and the arts (seriously, there were like 10 of these exhibits) than in its leaders and fighting men.

That's the Alcázar on the right side. At least the building was cool.

Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes: I sort of just wandered in here, but I’m so glad I did. This is one of the most beautiful religious buildings I have ever been inside…the pictures do NOT do justice to the enormity of the place. You just get this feeling like you’re small, but part of something much bigger at the same time. And there was a quote I liked engraved on a golden crucifix: “OYE LA VOZ QUE TE ADVIERTE QUE TODO ES ILUSIÓN MENOS LA MURTE” (Hear the voice that warns you that everything is an illusion, except death).

Sinagogia de Santa María la Blanca: Thanks to Ferdinand and Isabela, and centuries of the Spanish Inquisition, there are only three Spanish synagogues that remain intact and more or less in their original form (e.g. they were not converted to a church). Two of them are in Toledo (and I went to both!). This synagogue was really neat, it was another example of Mudéjar architecture, but there wasn’t much inside except some Jewish art displays. Oddly enough, a nun was selling the Jewish art.

El Museo Sefardi: This was that other synagogue I was just talking about. It’s also a museum for Hispano-Judaic culture. I liked this museum, but it took me a painfully long time to read all the signs. I read much slower in Spanish than I do in English, and this was one of the few museums I went to that did not have translations available.

El Museo del Greco: The great Cretan painter, El Greco, lived in Toledo after his failed bid to become the Spanish court painter. This museum is actually housed in a restored 15th-century Mudéjar house, which was really neat. I don’t really love El Greco, but the museum definitely answered some questions I had about him. And it tied in really well with the Greco paintings I saw at the Prado earlier this week.

Anyway, this is the last day of “vacation,” as it were. Tomorrow I take a RENFE train to Alicante and begin orientation for my program. Wish me luck! And pray they don’t actually adhere to the luggage weight limits. They say 20 kg for everything combined, but I’ve got 4 months worth of stuff…if they weigh it, I’m in a jam.

My next post will be from Alicante. ¡Hasta luego, amigos!

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Written by Lee

September 2, 2011 at 09:10

Posted in Spain

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