Last month, I have been in vacation to Madrid for a week. We had it all planned out, the visiting time, the shopping time, the unwind time, till one evening when we met a friend who recommended to take a day-trip to Toledo, a town 70 km south of Madrid. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986. There is great architecture, loads of El Greco’s paintings, so SOLD! The next morning, we took the train from the Atocha Railway Station (Renfe), only to get to Toledo thirty minutes later and to discover some of the beautiful things I will recount below.
We walked from the station to the central market called Plaza Zocodover, although the road is uphill. If you are a skittish youngster in your thirties, there will be no problem getting there. We went because of the Zocotren, a little tourist train that was supposed to take us to the main sights. I was a bit reluctant of the idea (it looked almost like the ones in some malls that take the kids for a ride), but we decided to go with it as it was all packed and leaving in 2 minutes. It was one of the best decisions we have made because the train not only showed us the city’s attractions but the ride took us along the road above the Tagus river all round the city. A perfect way to see the surroundings and find a bit of the town’s history. And a wonderful ride for photo opportunities.
After the ride, we took the city by foot and the next stop was Catedral Primada Santa María de Toledo, built on top of a Moorish mosque, between 1227 and 1493, one of Spain’s most impressive Gothic cathedrals. Some say it is the most important in Spain because of its history and because most of the Catholic prelates have resided here – actually, there is a room with the portraits of all of them, the Chapterhouse or Sala Capitular.
There are many things to say about the Cathedral of Toledo, but I’ll stop by saying that it is a place where the great masters of painting, sculpture and woodcarving met along the centuries. So, you can see here in the Sacristy of the Cathedral one of the most famous paintings of El Greco’s, The Disrobing of Christ. But there are also many masterpieces by Goya, Titian, Rubens, Bassano, Morales, Caravaggio, Van Dyck, Zurbaran and 16 paintings of the Apostles by El Greco.
Toledo is also known as the “City of the Three Cultures” because of the co-existence of the Christians, Muslims and Jews along the years. The Jewish community is a strong one with a rich influence on the city. Strolling on its streets you can see tiles with Jewish symbols stuck on the pavement. We got to visit Santa Maria la Blanca Synagogue which is also a museum. At the time, it was being renovated, but this is good news as it is considered the oldest synagogue in Europe still standing. The synagogue is also an important landmark because of its stylistic heritage as it was created by Moorish arhitects in 1180 under the Christian reign for Jewish use.
Enough said about beautiful Toledo, I hope I persuaded you to go and visit it. One last thing, 2014 is the year Toledo commemorates the forth centenary of El Greco’s death so there will be lots of exhibitions and activities in his honour.