May 3, 2018
Best get yourself a beverage, or two before you sit down to read this novella! Lots of details and history…
“Toledo was founded as the Roman city Toletum in 192 B.C. by Marco Fulvio Nobilior. In 411 it was conquered by the barbarian Alanos and in 418 by the Visigoths. The Visigoths made Toledo their capital in Spain and their first king was Leogivild. The Arabs arrived in 711 and the period that followed was one of tolerance between the Arabs, the Jews, and the Christians, which produced an enriched culture. In the 11th century Toledo became a Taifa kingdom, but in 1085 King Alfonso VI conquered the city. The 16th century continued to be prosperous for the city until King Felipe II decided to make Madrid the capital in 1563. The city then suffered a very slow and lengthy decline, but managed to conserve its historic patrimony. In 1983 Toledo was named the capital of Castilla-La Mancha, so it has again become important politically and economically, as well as culturally.” From: Trip Advisor, “BennyMalaga’s Travel Tips for Toledo”. Soaring towers and mammoth fortifications testify to the strength of a city that’s maintained its borders for well over a thousand years.
Today I slept in a little and Hubby Bill slept in a lot which gave me some time to catch up with my blog, photos and email. Eventually we ambled out and found a great outdoor restaurant, Virtudes, to enjoy café con leche (for me) and café solo (for Bill) and dos “pan con tomate with jamon“ – a very popular, “desayuno” (breakfast) which is toasted bread rubbed with garlic and olive oil, topped with very ripe, crushed tomato – and on ours we had ham as well. Tasty (though I wouldn’t personally put it in the “Breakfast of Champions” category…)
We made our way through the narrow, winding streets down to Rio Tajo, the river that runs around this walled city. In fact, a considerable portion of the lovely shaded path was along lengthy sections of original walls built in the mid centuries. We had the well maintained, serene walkway virtually to ourselves, a far cry from the bustling hundreds of tourists within the walls!!
A glorious early afternoon, our exposure to the opposite hillside was gorgeous and our walk enjoyable, though it did include views of many a tour bus and their occupants stopping at Puente de San Martin, one of the few entrances into the ancient walled city of Toledo. “St. Martín’s Bridge is a late 14th century medieval bridge that connects Toledo to the west side of the river Tagus constructed to complement the much older Puente de Alcántara, linking to the east. Both sides of the bridge boast heavily fortified towers, the more recent dating from the 16th century.” oasisbackpackershostels.com
As we arrived into the city, walking from the train station yesterday, we entered through Puente de Alcántara or the Alcántara Bridge. “Early in the second century, the Romans built this fortified stone bridge over the river Tagus to connect the city of Toledo with the river’s eastern bank. The inscription the central archway, ‘Pontem perpetui mansurum in saecula,’ or, ‘I have built a bridge which will last forever,’ testifies to the strength of its fortifications.
It is of Arabic origin, as is shown by its doubled structure, although it was rebuilt in Christian times. The opening is of a horseshoe arch and is flanked by two square towers with lateral arrow slits. Its structure has been preserved until now because of being walled up from the XVI Century until 1911. The space between the door and the bridge forms a closed square with two other side doors.” (oasisbackpackershostels.com)
We decided to just walk along the town’s perimeter and see what we could see. It was again, a huge plus to be away from the masses and it was a really a fun walk! Also, there were eyefuls of colorful wild flowers to soak in!
We came back through an arch to the city after a lengthy switchbacked pedestrian walkway, with vistas of quite a populous outskirts and a grand statue of Jesus Christ. We continued to make our way north and after all of the steep and extensive ups and downs and with the sun beating down upon us we decided it was time for refreshment. We tucked into Cerveceria el Tito Bob’s, with its green neon lights and Spanish punk rock playing! Our local cerveza hit the spot – not so much the tortilla chips with what looked like “cheese whiz” (or what I call “fake cheese”, similar to what is lathered on ballpark nachos in the States).
Fortified, we continued by the Mesquite Cristo de la Luz, A mosque dating from 999 with a Romanesque-Mudéjar sanctuary added in the 12th century. We did not go in though it is considered to be one of the most important monuments in Toledo.
Moving ever onward we went through Puerta Cristal de la Luz and Puerta del Sol and out to a nice park with no signage but noted on the map as being Placa de Merchán.
Regarding the Puerta del Sol: “This medieval city gate can be found along the road from the Bisagra gate to Zocodover Plaza. The medallion above the arch of the gate depicts the ordination of the Visigothic Ildephonsus, Toledo’s patron saint. The name of the gate comes from the sun and the moon that were once painted on either side of this medallion.” (oasisbackpackershostels.com)
Next viewing, but no visiting inside, was the Hospital of Tavera – “The archbishop (later cardinal) Juan Pardo de Tavera ordered it built in 1603 in the Renaissance style. It was built to help the sick and also as the mausoleum of the archbishop. The altarpiece was designed by El Greco and constructed by his son, Jorge Manuel. There is a museum with valuable paintings done by El Greco, Ribera, Tintoretto and Lucas Giordano.” (Trip Advisor “Benny Malaga’s Travel Tips for Toledo”)
Then we made our way through the Puerta del Cambrón, walked down the Paseo de Recaredo along more well preserved sections of the city walls. Next stop – the old Bisagra gate or Puerta de Alfonso VI, dating from 838 and considered one of the purest Moorish constructions.
The Puerta del Cambrón is “Near the Puente de San Martín, where a Visigoth gate once stood, this gate was rebuilt in the 16th century, and retains only a piece of the original structure on its outer façade. Originally a Muslim door, heavily altered. In its current version it dates from 1576, and was built on a square base, with an interior patio surrounded by four towers covered by slate capitals. Its name comes from cambroneras, thorny bushes that grew here. The structure has two gates and four towers and took on the nickname ‘Jew’s Gate’ for a time, as it linked the river Tagus’ western bank to Toledo’s Jewish Quarter. On both sides there are Renaissance entrances with coats of arms, that of the city on the outside and of Felipe II on the inside. Below this can be seen a fine image of Santa Leocadia, patron saint of Toledo and of this door, which is the only one open to road traffic.”
Regarding Puerta de Bisagra “Originally called Bab al-Saqra, the gate was built by the Moors in the 10th century. Rebuilt in 1559, it served as the city’s main gate and adopted the name Puerta de Bisagara Nueva. Two mammoth circular towers stand at the outer gate and two commanding towers at the inner gate make for an imposing and impressive introduction to the city.
It was totally rebuilt during the reigns of Carlos V and Felipe II, following the designs of Alonso de Covarrubias. It is made up of two bodies, between which is placed a “plaza de armas” (main square). The enormous exterior body is composed of a stone triumphal arch crowned by a huge imperial coat of arms of the city, with its unmistakeable two-headed eagle flanked by two large stone semicircular towers showing the figures of the seated monarchs, a symbol of the good government shown by the medieval coat of arms. The interior body is composed of a rounded arch flanked by square towers crowned with ceramic steeples, the imperial coat of arms of Carlos V appearing on one of them, the others being chequered. The monumental and not defensive nature is made patently clear by the investment in towers placed almost flush with the floor and rocks in relief crowning the towers.” (oasisbackpackershostels.com)
Another monument we walked by was the first (of Many!) monastery built in Toledo, Santo Domingo el Antiguo. El Greco, the famous painter from Toledo, is buried here and we understand that there are various artifacts of Visogothic origin as well as several El Greco paintings.
To conclude our sightseeing, we decided to stop by the Biblioteca de Castilla-La Mancha for a drink and tapas in the rooftop cafeteria. This building dominates the skyline of Toledo as you walk from the train station. In the 3rd century, it was used as a Roman palace. During the 1540’s, it was restored by Charles I and his son, Philip II. Today it houses the library and Military Museum. The tapas looked unappetizing to us so we just had a glass of wine and enjoyed the incredible views from three window reaching vast and far. Often in Spain when you order a drink it is accompanied by a dish of a snack item – usually potato chips (or like earlier today, factory produced tortilla chips with fake cheese drizzled on them). With our wine at the Library Café we received something very much like American “Bugles”, shaped like big “Captain Crunch” pieces but crunchier…
After our full agenda of sightseeing in this beautiful and amazing, historical city, we took a time out and rested as well as researched restaurant options.
We settled on Alfileritos 24 and we were Extremely impressed with the menu choices and service! The ambiance was great, too! Though the space was very modern and spanned four floors all visible to one another, it appeared to make use of original period construction from the building’s obviously historical past. Our local wine was inexpensive and Superb and man, oh man – our meals were Creative, Delicious and Satisfying – to say the least!! I had a salad to start and it was basically a whole small head of Bibb lettuce flayed open with carrot shavings, delicious and sweet tomato wedges, tasty pickle slices, an olive tapanade mixed in and cauliflower foam!!!! Bill had a delicious plate of local cheeses. My entree was an excellent venison filet, cooked perfectly and Bill’s steak tenderloin was also tender and cooked exactly as he likes it, accompanied by al dente broccoli, green beans and carrots. And the dessert was over the top – marzapane soufflé with cinnamon ice cream – My Oh My!!!!
According to Turespańa, “Toledo is the leading Spanish province in small game hunting and one of the riches for large game also. The cheese of the region is also exceptional. The renowned Manchego cheese, whether made purely from sheep’s milk, mixed with cow’s milk, or cured in oil, is always appetizing. Sweet lovers will find it hard to resist one of Toledo’s prize-winning delights, marzipan.” Local wines are extensive and delicious as well!
As much as we have seen in the last two days, there is still more to see tomorrow!!