Monday, January 28, 2008

Explorations of Toledo!

So, Toledo is absolutely amazing. This city is exactly what I pictured when I thought of Europe—well at least Spain. The streets are cobbled, narrow, and long. There are balconies lining the streets. The city map looks as if a child scribbled with crayon and they used that as the road plan. Everywhere I turned there was another picture begging to be taken. Everything was just so beautiful. Unfortunately, I couldn’t truly capture it. My pictures definitely do not do justice to Toledo.

We started out the day with a tour of the cathedral. It’s one of the top 3 largest Gothic cathedrals in the world and it is absolutely stunning. It doesn’t look like much from the outside—then again you can’t see a lot of it because it is constantly being blocked by other buildings. Everything was so extremely intricate and ornate. And it’s incredible that it was built without the use of modern construction technology. I walked in and immediately stopped in my tracks. I was stunned. I looked to the right and it was just gorgeous columns, and the ceiling was so extremely high up. It’s not like there were several floors, it was one massive room, floor to ceiling. The carvings in the choir area were incredible. I wish we were allowed to take pictures of the interior. Then again, they wouldn’t truly show the beauty of the cathedral. The only bad thing about the building was the temperature. It was freezing inside. There’s simply no way to heat a space that big, so they didn’t try—at all.

Once we warmed up, we explored Toledo for a bit. Mostly popping in and out of shops. Toledo is famous for its swords and metal working. Apparently the Rio Tajo which surrounds the city is the perfect temperature for cooling steel. It therefore made the strongest steel, and the best weapons, ergo, Toledo became the center for weapons and armor. They still make swords in the old ways and it’s incredible. Some of these swords were just gorgeous. I really wanted one, and it took me forever to decide. I ended out getting a dagger; anything else would have been a real nuisance to bring home.

Next we toured a synagogue. I’ll admit, after the cathedral, it definitely wasn’t as impressive as it could have been. It had been completely renovated, and they had kept one wall with intense carvings. I took some pictures, but since no flash was allowed, they didn’t really turn out. It had been turned into a museum, so we explored the exhibits and looked at the displays.

Then came more exploring. Most of the shops had the same souvenirs, but we explored them nonetheless, occasionally buying something. We definitely made use of our maps as we made our way back to the hotel. The city is like a maze. No street goes straight, and it’s just hard to find your way around. Although, by the end of our two days, we had explored enough that we could recognize streets and knew how to get around.

We found a mosque, and paid the 1.40 Euro to explore the ruins. Toledo was actually extremely tolerant of other religions back in the day. There were several cathedrals, mosques and synagogues that coincided peacefully for centuries. That’s really impressive for medieval Europe. Plus, the ruin was awesome, and it provided an amazing view of the city.

Night came and we ended out fitting around 25 girls in a room (just for talking purposes, we slept 2-4 in a room) and just talked for hours. I know it’s silly to sit around talking instead of exploring Spain, but it was night, cold, we didn’t want to spend more money or get lost, and we all enjoyed staying in. We all took turns telling embarrassing stories, and some of these were incredible. And then, we’re girls so of course it came up, we talked about awkward first dates—those were really entertaining as well.

Next day we walked around the city. And I mean literally around the city. It was absolutely freezing, but once we got walking we warmed up—some. It was absolutely gorgeous. I didn’t take many pictures simply because I knew it wouldn’t do the scene justice. It took us a couple hours before we found another bridge to cross back into the city. We then explored with a specific purpose: to find a “freakin’ awesome sword!” Both Chelsea and I succeeded. It was very exciting.

We went to a museum of modern art and sculpture. The building it was housed in was gorgeous just by itself, but then the sculptures were all incredible too. My favorite section was a wing dedicated to metal, wood, and stone mediums. They had a sculpture in stages as well as all the tools needed to create it. It was really interesting to look at.

Eventually, we had to leave Toledo. We made our way back to the train station and we found, through talking to people (I was very proud of myself!) a shorter way than our initial voyage into Toledo. In fact, it saved about 30 minutes. It was great! We rode the bullet train (that thing travels so incredibly fast! Around 120 mph—I think) with all our swords and daggers, and arrived back in Madrid safe and sound. That concludes my journey to Toledo. It was incredible and I loved it and it felt like a week when in reality it was only a day and a half.

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