15 Jul2010

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We decided to go on a half-day speed tour of Toledo, thinking a bus ride through the arid countryside, would be less taxing on the pedi-impaired Teen. Oops, not. Thank goodness there were escalators (from the drop off point) for much of the ride up to this small but extremely interesting and historic town on a hill above the Tagus river, but there was still quite a bit of walking involved in this tour. The Teen managed reasonably well, and in just a couple of hours, we were able to take in the highlights of Toledo, the former capital of Spain (before Madrid) and site of wave upon wave of various conquerors over centuries and a mish-mash of Jewish, Christian and Muslim religions. One of the coolest tidbits we took away from our guide that day? That Sephardic Jews originally hailed from Spain until they were booted out in the late 1400’s… and the Teen thought it so poignant that the Sephardic Jews took along the keys to their homes when they left, always believing they would be allowed to return home. “Sepharad” is the modern Hebrew word for Spain.

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With stunning and historic buildings, places of worship, monuments, narrow alleyways, gorgeous art, and a thriving local community of residents, this was a bit reminiscent of our visit to towns like Sienna, Italy a few years ago. It boggles the mind that such ornate edifices and stunning churches were already being made just about the time that the Philippines was being “discovered” by Magellan!

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This wonderfully balanced building, so appealing to the eye, was the seat of local government, if I recall correctly. Didn’t manage to jot down the name, as between taking photos, listening to the guide, helping the teen navigate with her cast, and wanting to stop at the window of every pastry shop, I was trying to avoid getting left behind. It was a beautiful day, with clear blue skies, some 70F around lunch time, and perfect walking/touring weather.

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Mrs. MM and I were bowled over by the decorative designs on many of the doors, some of them dating back hundreds of years. I think humans are by nature prone to embellishment and visual stimulation, and it’s wonderful that something mundane and yet passed through so often, would be made to look so extraordinary…

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Built on a hill, a natural and more readily defensible site, the town was constructed with several small passageways or streets and even smaller pedestrian alleyways. It’s all quite well preserved, and definitely like visiting a living museum.

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I did manage to leave the group for a moment to snap these shots of sweets (look at those yemas and paciencias!) in a window of a fairly large patisserie, but had I gone in and purchased anything, I would have been hitchhiking back to Madrid…

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…more baked goodies in the window…

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…and here at another store, my jaw dropped open as I realized this church facade was done completely in marzipan or almond paste. It was stunning. Simply stunning. Made my gingerbread creations look like stick drawings compared to this masterpiece…

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A view of the Tagus river, a natural defense against raiders or enemies…

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We managed to see El Greco’s masterpiece, The Denuding of Christ, in the Toledo Cathedral, as well as other sites such as the Sinagoga del Transito, Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes, local museums, etc.

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And on the side of the church, this odd array of shackles or ancient handcuffs were hanging, apparently to remind everyone of the time the Christians were held captive by the Muslims in the Southern parts of Spain.

Toledo is roughly an hour from Madrid by bus, totally worth a half-day visit, stay a day or even overnight if you want more time to explore.

 

COMMENTS:

  1. Roelm says:

    Hi Marketman,
    Just a possible correction… Sephardim refers to the Jews originally hailing from Spain but Sepharad, I believe, is the name for Spain itself.

    Jul 15, 2010 | 3:15 pm

     
  2. terrey says:

    great travel post again MM…more please!

    Jul 15, 2010 | 3:18 pm

     
  3. Marketman says:

    Roelm, you could be very right on that one, I wasn’t taking notes… thanks, will edit.

    Jul 15, 2010 | 3:37 pm

     
  4. bearhug0127 says:

    Simply beautiful. Thanks for sharing MM. More pics, perhaps?

    Jul 15, 2010 | 3:44 pm

     
  5. Mimi says:

    I always think of weighing scales when I see ‘Toledo’. Funny thing my sister went to Toledo to see the Toledo painting of El Greco, only to find out it was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC, where she came from. She says that her Spanish was useless as the locals have a different accent/dialect and she could not understand them.

    Jul 15, 2010 | 4:57 pm

     
  6. rita says:

    Toledo is so awesome! Such a fun little town, and it’s only an hour south from Madrid. We drove down there for Christmas and New Year’s at Madrid. Would love to visit Toledo, again.

    You mentioned, Sienna. we love that town, too! i’m having an Italy-withdrawal now, and we were just in Italy. hahaha!

    Jul 15, 2010 | 6:16 pm

     
  7. Footloose says:

    As it turned out, those who were allowed to leave and left and settled in Islamic territories were the lucky ones. Those who converted and stayed shortly became the prey and victims of the Inquisition. The rest that spread throughout Europe were intermittently victimized, isolated and cropped until the so called final solution would consume the bulk of them. Meanwhile, in Spain, the consumption of pork became the ultimate badge of religious and ethnic purity. And there is the Market Manila connection, finally.

    Still in print and still an astounding read is Iberia, the best introduction to Spanish history and culture that James Michener wrote in the sixties. Unfortunately, it only takes you as far as Franco.

    Jul 15, 2010 | 6:51 pm

     
  8. Gina says:

    Hi MM. I found half a day didn’t do Toledo justice. Fascinating place, so much to see. The Monasterio de San Juan delos Reyes was built by Queen Isabela with the intention of making it her and King Fernando’s mausoleum, right? (although they were eventually buried in Granada). Would have wanted to thoroughly explore every nook and cranny of this place, but only got to see the inside of the church and the courtyard. I remember the lone orange tree that was teeming with fruit in April last year. That view of the Tagus River– did you take that from the vantage point of a small but very stylish modern art gallery perched on a cliff / mountainside? (I forget the name). Did you go to Segovia and Avila too?

    Jul 15, 2010 | 7:21 pm

     
  9. marilen says:

    Footloose, thank you, I find it worthwhile to re-read James Michener’s Iberia every so often. His passion for Spain shines through every time – the people, history and culture. Viva Espana, with Nadal’s win at Wimbledon, victory at the World Cup, I hope it will be a triple play with Alberto Contador to win the Tour de France. (Although the economy is in dire straits)

    Jul 15, 2010 | 7:30 pm

     
  10. kurzhaar says:

    I believe the building with the towers at each corner is the Alcazar. Which like many “Spanish” words beginning with “Al” is in fact Arabic.

    Jul 16, 2010 | 3:41 am

     
  11. Footloose says:

    This building looks more like the Ayuntamiento Kurzhaar. But you are close, the Alcázar has the same pyramidal tower roofs and square symmetry though considerably taller and far grander. From certain vantage points, it actually dominates the skyline of Toledo with the Cathedral tower running as far second.

    And right too about Spanish words beginning with al- such as our Filipino word for syrup, arnibal which we took from almíbar. Funny though, maple syrup is called jarabe de arce. Don’t know where that came from.

    Jul 16, 2010 | 4:25 am

     
  12. FestiveRebel says:

    Footloose, jarabe is syrup and arce is maple

    Jul 16, 2010 | 5:00 am

     
  13. quiapo says:

    My family went through several generations of being sephardic, but stayed in Spain during the expulsion in the 15th and 16th century. Many years ago, while having breakfast in a cafe in Copenhagen, it was thrilling to meet sephardic Eastern Europeans and find we still could converse in a common language.

    Jul 16, 2010 | 6:25 am

     
  14. kurzhaar says:

    Thanks, Footloose–on second look you are right that this is a much smaller scale building…presumably influenced by the Alcazar when it was built.

    Jul 16, 2010 | 7:31 am

     
  15. Jake Speed says:

    Beautiful architecture. This post reminds me of a book I read regarding the Spanish Inquisition of 1491, which recounts the dark days when Spain was besieged with ‘witch hunts’.

    Jul 16, 2010 | 5:54 pm

     
  16. isla says:

    the gothic cathedral of Toledo was the most beautiful I had seen. Definitely, Toledo is a must-visit town especially if one is already in Madrid. Another great place to visit is El Escorial. I couldn’t forget Valle de los Caidos- a landmark of Fascist Spain.

    Jul 16, 2010 | 8:13 pm

     
  17. Lizzy says:

    Very nice! I love Toledo and its magnificent cathedral, it’s one of my most enduring memories of my visit to Spain. The marzipan, wow!

    I remember my first view of the town from across the river, the enchantment was immediate. Very definitely worth the drive from Madrid, even for just a quick visit. I didn’t stay overnight either.

    Gina, I remember the orange tree laden with fruit. I think we were told it was a sour orange, like the Seville orange, maybe that’s why no one was picking the fruit.

    Jul 16, 2010 | 10:34 pm

     
  18. Lava Bien says:

    Nice one MM. I believe one of the many reasons why Islam was not included in the history of the Philippines is Spain’s history with the muslims and the moors and of course my people the Shepardic Jews (hence early native people from the Philippines are either called moros or indios as the word Filipinos mean Spanish people born in the Philippines). The Philippine History started with the Negritos, then the Indonesian then the Malays then the coming of the Spaniards, so you see they have to label Lapu-lapu a pagan instead of what he really was a muslim judge. I’m glad our history is now changing closer to the truth (thanks Gordon hehehehe)

    History does depend on who wrote it? why they wrote that way?

    I love having studied in Spain as I was able to kinda find myself there and to think that the Spaniards also do dunk (sawsaw) their toast or bread (pandesal) in their coffee or hot chocolate was kinda refreshing (we got it from them hehehehe) . They do have San Miguel Beer and no its not from the Philippines (it’s their own). 2 hour lunches and 3 hour dinners, gotta love Spain.

    To all the Filipinos: We can all legally become a Spanish Citizen (therefore also an EU citizen – better than a US or Australian citizenship))
    You need to:
    1. Be born in the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Cuba (or)
    2. Be a Shepardic Jew
    3. Stay LEGALLY in Spain for at least 2 years (legal work or school/university)
    4. Pass the Spanish competency when you apply for your Spanish Citizenship

    Tara na sa Spain!!!

    Jul 16, 2010 | 10:49 pm

     
  19. 4btiddy says:

    @Lava Bien – how can one trace if one’s famly has Shephardic Jew origins?

    Jul 17, 2010 | 6:35 am

     
  20. Jen Laceda says:

    Sadly, I’ve not been to Toledo. But thanks for sharing your lovely photos with us! Those yemas look delicious! This really reiterates the Spanish influence in Filipino cuisine.

    Jul 18, 2010 | 9:10 am

     
  21. dodi says:

    @Lava Bien Would love to experience being a Spaniard through the methods you accounted but my lineage goes back to the Gaddang tribe in Nueva Vizcaya, untouched by the Spanish but decimated by modernity. But I love Espana nevertheless!

    Jul 18, 2010 | 5:53 pm

     
  22. Lava Bien says:

    @ 4btiddy and dodi
    You don’t have to be a Shepardic Jew to be a Spanish citizen, just be born in either the Philippines, Puerto Rico or Cuba. Your mother has to be a jew for you to be considered a jew Most Shepardic Jew who remained Jewish moved to Morocco (the first country to ever recognize USA as a country – a muslim country). The muslims or jewish people who remained in Spain and Andalucia either were killed or converted to Catholicism. The converts loved to show the Castellños (from the area of Castilla y Leon) they love to eat puerco (Pig’s meat) to prevent any doubts that they truly converted to Catholicism for fear of reprisal from authorities. One can see this behavior in Mindanao also. Some people there get defensive if you think they’re muslim and would tell you “we’re not muslim, we eat pork ,we love lechon etc..) sad but true.. but I know Catholics who wouldn’t even touch any pork products….

    Cochinillo = a little cochino

    Cochino = “bastos” nasty, dirty no manners.

    hehehehehe you are what you eat!!!

    Jul 19, 2010 | 11:51 pm

     
  23. Footloose says:

    Not to be persnickety, h after p, not after s. You guys make it sound as though members of the flock are sheep herders.

    Jul 20, 2010 | 12:13 am

     
 

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