First off, I would like to say that I really liked Toledo. It was an awful tourist trap, and the streets were terribly narrow, but there was something about it that appealed to me very much. I think part of that is that it’s a really old city. I think that I remember being told that there was some sort of pre-Roman settlement there in the first few centuries A.D, and unless I misheard, it spent some time as the capitol before somebody decided that he liked Madrid better (and in retrospect, I think it was a good choice. I mean, Madrid was an odd spot for a capitol at the time, but Toledo is really a very medieval sort of city – river on three sides, wall of the fourth, little tiny streets that go up and down and sideways, only two bridges, and everything that might have been suburbs is taken up by summer homes of the nobility (which are now inns and stuff, and really much nicer as pretty old buildings on a hillside than as rows upon rows of suburbs). And the place isn’t very big; you could, I think, walk across it in half an hour. Actually, probably less if you knew where you were going and started on the uphill side.
All of the streets in Toledo were like this (well, some had fewer people). Which made things very interesting when the occasional car tried to creep through. Down the road in this picture, you can see the cathedral that we visited. We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside, but they probably wouldn’t have come out well anyway (this cathedral was also Gothic, but had lots of stained glass windows so the light wasn’t very good). There were bits of it that I liked a good deal, but I think I like Gothic better when there’s more light and less gold. And as for the one end that our guide described as “precious” . . . well, if I can’t say anything nice, I won’t say anything at all.
The treasure room was certainly interesting, in a wow-that’s-400-pounds-of-gold-and-precious-stones-and-silver-with-gilding kind of way. And it was certainly the most gothic processional piece that I’ve ever seen (actually, it’s the only processional piece . . . did I mention that Toledo is the religious capitol of Spain? And this giant bit of gold spired lacework gets paraded through the streets every year at Corpus Christi). Surprisingly enough, I actually found myself with much less of a feeling to scream, “less is more!” than is some of the less-heavily-but-still-heavily decorated parts of the cathedrals – I think that it passed the point of overdoneness into impressive and almost attractive again.
After the Cathedral, we wandered by the El Greco Museum (closed for renovations) and visited one of the two remaining synagogues (rather the worse for wear, but what do you expect when the original builders were kicked out over 500 years ago?). The architects were Muslim, so it had a lot of typically Arabic features, and I really liked the light and airyness of it. (But we couldn’t take pictures, and it was full of tourists, anyway.)
We also went to El Greco’s masterwork, El Entierro del Conde de Orgaz (the burial of Count Orgaz), which was a fresco and so not in the museum or out visiting like the rest of the museum pieces. I liked it, which is unusual; I’m not always appreciative of el Greco’s work. We may have done something else on the group tour, but I can’t remember.
Then they let us loose for the rest of the afternoon, and Vanessa-my-sometime-roommate and I wandered around and looked at the shops (did I mention that Toledo used to be one of the places to go for good swords? So swords and blades and armor were one of the big sell-to-tourist things) and the architecture, which, for the most part, was immensely old. In the course of our wandering, we got back down to towards the river, and I decided that that was probably a good a place as I was going to get to fly my kite, so I did the running-with-the-kite-almost flying thing.
While I was wrapping up the kite, Vanessa commented on the very large bees hovering around the nearby flowers.
After examining them for a bit, we decided that they were little hummingbirds only a little bit longer than an inch, and spent the next while trying to get decent pictures of them.
However, when I went home and looked up the Spanish for hummingbird (colibrí), google helpfully informed me that hummingbirds were native to America. So a little creative Google searching revealed that they were actually Hummingbird Hawk Moths. Note the antennae.
Vanessa was disappointed and wishes that I had never figured this out. I think it’s cool, and Hummingbird Hawk Moths have now been added to the list of moths that don’t freak me out.
This is just to give you an idea of the way all the buildings looked in Toledo – please ignore the graffiti and the yucky building in the front; this was the only spot that I could get far enough away to take a decent picture. There were bits of Toledo that were Medieval City in the best possible way – they looked period, but everything was clean and didn’t smell.
This was one of the parks towards the water. Vanessa and I hung out on a bench here for a while after we got tired of tromping around, but before we had to report back so that we could get picked up for the bus ride to Madrid.