Monday, 13 November 2017

Toledo

Alcatraz from the river
Tiles in Santa Cruz
El Transparente, a skylight to bring shafts of sunlight into the cathedral
Dome of San Blas chapel in the cathedral
Cathedral of Toledo
Moorish buildings
Alcatraz

After 4 days walking the streets and parks of Madrid, we decided to take a train to Toledo. It is a mere 32 minutes away on the impressive high-speed train run by the state-owned Renfe Operadora. The popularity of the trip was apparent when we found that all the morning trains fully booked. We had to kill two hours before the midday train left. This is no problem in Madrid, the Parque del Buen Restoril is across the road from the Ashoka station and on a bright Saturday morning it was throbbing with people of all ages doing all sorts of fun things in the park from cycling, roller skating to skulling with all types of informal games being played by groups of families and friends. Several street bands were playing, the solo saxophones were purring and the hawkers were selling.

We returned to the station with 10 minutes to spare but all travellers for any train had to be security screened so we spent 15 minutes queuing and then running to catch our train. Dozens of others had been caught out as well so the train was held up for twenty minutes to allow the security channels to be cleared. As the train eased southwards we witnessed the ever-expanding developments on the outskirts of Madrid. It was blighted with lots of commercial developments, housing schemes, new roads, pylons and beyond the city, the yellowish plain of Spain was mainly lacking any rain. Toledo arrived quickly, the impressive Moorish inspired railway station echoes the architecture of the ancient city built on the hill. We had a mile or so to walk, cross the bridge over the river and then climbing numerous flights of the steps to the fortress-like pyramid of buildings.

Toledo is known as the Imperial City and was the capital of Hispania following the end of the Roman empire. It is now a World Heritage Site and like all such tourist meccas, was buzzing with weekend visitors. We visited the Museum of Santa Cruz with its collection of El Greco paintings and after a drink in one of the many plazas, we headed to the magnificent gothic cathedral of Toledo. The diversity of architectural styles, as well as the influence of different religions, meant it required a couple of hours to absorb the many splendours. We walked around the densely developed streets before s navigating across to the Alcatraz, now a military museum.

We retreated to a nearby terrace for a drink and to watch the sun sink below the horizon before sauntering back to the station. Toledo had been worth the visit but like so many tourist haunts the ambience was too hurried and manic to absorb the full impact of its history. 

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