Holy Toledo!

Today we went to Toledo for a tour, booked, as usual, with Tours By Locals. Beatriz G. was our guide, and she’ll be guiding us again tomorrow in Madrid – so it’s a good thing we really liked her and learned a lot from her!

It’s also a good thing we scouted out the railroad station in advance, because we got to our meeting point a few minutes late anyway. We had plenty of time to go through security and board the train to Toledo.

The Toledo station was small but interesting; we saw the first of many beautiful windows and ceilings with geometric patterns (inspired by Islamic art).

The station also had a very unusual clock.

Beatriz called for a cab to take us into the city (the temperature was already well into the 80s) and we got our first glimpses of Toledo from the cab.

We stopped at a viewpoint to get better photos; there were at least half-a-dozen buses there doing the same thing!

The cab left us in the Plaza de Zocodover, which was being decorated for the Corpus Christi procession on Thursday.

The city had put up shades to cover the streets the procession will use. On Thursday, the area will be filled with thousands of people.

We started our walking tour by leaving the central area and walking on smaller, less-traveled streets. We took a quick look inside the Circulo del Arte, housed in the former Iglesia de San Vicente, a 13th Century Mudéjar church.

We continued walking through the city, enjoying the decorations and the occasional shade.

There are nuns making and selling cookies to support themselves here in Toledo, too.

We visited the Visigoth Museum, housed in another 13th Century Mudéjar church.

There was some stunning artwork still in place.

We left the Visigoths behind to walk the narrow streets leading to the Jewish Quarter.

And here we are!

We walked up a hill and Beatriz recognized a friend who invited us into his home! It was an unexpected opportunity to see a non-tourist part of Toledo.

We returned to the narrow streets – you have to like your neighbors to live so close!

There are two former synagogues in the Jewish Quarter; the first, the Synagogue of Santa Maria La Blanca, was converted into a church after the Expulsion of 1492, and later into a barracks. It is now a museum, owned by the Catholic Church.

Our second stop was the Synagogue of El Tránsito, now the Sephardi Museum. It also had a variety of uses after the Expulsion before becoming a museum early in the 20th Century.

The architecture shows a lot of the three religions which have shared Toledo over the years; there are Islamic windows, Arabic inscriptions, lots of Hebrew, and many reminders of the building’s use as a church.

Hebrew books and scrolls were on exhibit.

Outside, there was a wall with Ibn Ezra’s Ancient Graves inscribed in Hebrew and Spanish.

The synagogue has been partially restored – you can see an old Torah curtain where it once covered the ark, and an old drawing showing what the building looked like when it was in use.

Of course, it’s impossible to go to Toledo and not visit the Cathedral!

The interior is stunning.

The monstrance will be used during the Corpus Christi procession on Thursday.

The Islamic influence is here, too, in the geometric designs and the ever-present arches.

We went into the Chapter House, where the bishop and priests discuss matters of importance.

Beatriz said this sign means “what happens here stays here”.

The sacistry has amazing artworks. El Greco’s “The Disrobing of Christ” and Caravaggio’s “San Juan Batista” are only two.

We went back into the main sanctuary; I have far too many photos to post. I was amused by the carvings on the seats in the choir, like this mermaid. Beatriz said some of the carvings are NSFW, but she didn’t point any of those out.

We had to leave Toledo and return to Madrid; before we left, we visited what Beatriz said was the best marzipan shop in town, Santo Tomé, and picked up a few treats for later. They do amazing work with marzipan – this model of the Toledo School of Translators is in their front window.

Tomorrow, we explore the Royal Palace and the Prado with Beatriz. It should be a great day!