Thursday, 20 March 2008


It's Holy Week (Semana Santa) in Spain, so MamaDuck is off work and after spending three days more or less asleep and recovering from the rigours of the last term, is now bright and breezy (and blogging profusely). So we went for a day-trip yesterday, to Toledo.

What an amazing place! Toledo is about 80 kms south of Madrid. It used to be the capital of Spain, and is known as 'the City of Three Cultures': there is Islamic influence, there are two synagogues, many churches and a Cathedral. The old city sits on a high promontory surrounded on three sides by the Rio Tagu. It is exceptionally well-preserved/well-reconstructed, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

If you ever get to Spain, and can make a day available (actually two or three would be better), get thee down to Toledo. I promise you, you will love it. We went by the Avant train from Madrid. This is a fast train, not as fast as the AVE, but it gets you there in 30 minutes in total comfort. One of the things I love about Spanish railways is that they are incredibly reliable, and when you buy your tickets for inter-city journeys, you get reserved seats. If there are no seats left, the train is full and you can't go on it: no standing in aisles allowed! Simple. The fares are reasonable, and if your train arrives more than five minutes late, you get your money back (this never happens).

So, here's a bunch of pictures of Toledo. I took about 100 pics, but this is all you're getting!

I did a web search for info on Toledo and found a very useful piece of advice. The railway station is outside the old town. You can walk it, but unless you are a glutton for punishment, you would be better off taking the number 22 bus from outside the station. It's 90 centimos well-spent, and delivers you at the top of the mountain in Plaza Zocodover - a good reference point.

Alcazar dominates this end of town. It's actually not that old, but it is important.

Moving into the centre, you'll stumble upon the Cathedral. It isn't the prettiest building ever constructed, but it is huge, and has had lots of additions and extensions over time. I found the neo-classical portico entrance on one façade to be particularly anachronistic on a mostly Gothic building: then again you might find a late 20th-century plain granite-faced addition on another façade to be equally weird.

It's not possible to get the Cathedral into one shot, unless you brought your helicopter.

Toledo is very much a Medieval city: winding, narrow lanes, mostly closed off to traffic. It's also hilly, and we were grateful for our acclimatisation to this in Madrid: if you arrive here as a car-driving couch-potato who doesn't do exercise, you might find Toledo challenging.

Toledo is in Castilla-La Mancha, the setting for Don Quixote. Wherever you go in Toledo, you see images of DQ, and there is a wonderful statue of Cervantes, the author.

Toledo retains a real sense of a walled city. The walls still stand in many places, and they are incredibly tall. The old city could be accessed only by two fortified bridges.

Amazing, amazing, amazing.


BuJ said...

Lovely pictures... I think I've had a chocolate bar called Toledo :)

Cairogal said... of my favourite cities in Spain! The cathedral is one of the best in Europe. You should head down to Cordoba for more if you liked Toledo.

dubaibilly said...

Nice photo's Keef. Of course, hilly Dubai where everyone walks everywhere would be perfect preparation!

I love the colour of the sky in your pics - it is yellow here at the moment, I'm sure you remember the exact shade quite vividly.


leftbanker said...

I went to Toledo quite by accident back in 2004. It is a jewel. I have a fantastic picture of the whole city on my webshots screen saver.

the real nick said...

Btw, another marvel in Spain: Oviedo up in the North - if you ever get the chance.

Keefieboy said...

Buj: Was it lumpy?
Cairogal: Cordoba is definitely on the list for longer trips.
Billy: We get that blue sky all the time (yawn) - you having a shamal?
LeftBanker: Tell us about your accidental visit!
Real Nick: Oop north is also on the list for longer trips.

BuJ said...

no clue! i think it was crunchy not lumpy :)