In many ways, our day in Toledo seems like the emotional center of our travels. It’s a city characterized by diverse architectural styles, drawing from the Jewish, Moorish, and Spanish traditions that existed peacefully alongside of each other for many centuries when the city was the capital of Spain. It’s also a city marked by winding, narrow streets where every alleyway contains the potential to lead to new and often unexpected discoveries. It’s also the city where we found ourselves torn between glancing down at a map and embracing the experience of getting lost and wandering aimlessly, and more often than not, wandering aimlessly won.
We arrived at the train station in Toledo mid-morning, and through the combination of busses and taxis, found our way to the top of the large hill where the old city is located (the old city is a half-hour hike, uphill, from the train station and the newer parts of the city). The train station itself was an architectural curiosity, built in the 1920s in the Mujedar style, combining Neo-Moorish and other older elements to allow the station to fit neatly into the fabric of the old city, and after checking into our hotel, which provided us with an impressive view overlooking the Tagus River (which winds around the city on three sides), we checked out a number of the city’s old cathedrals and its key museum, where a number of El Greco’s paintings are housed.
One of the more impressive paintings is housed in the Church of Santo Tome, where you can see The Burial of Count Orgaz, but I think both of us were also pleasantly surprised by the unexpected beauty of the Church of San Roman. The Museo de Santa Cruz certainly reflected its transitional status, but there were some impressive tapestries and paintings there, even if they were a little difficult to find. We also spent some time touring the city’s shops. Especially fun: chatting with a guy who sells handcrafted swords and knives, a Toledo specialty. He demonstrated two different kinds of swords, showing the different strengths and weaknesses of various sword designs. And, as usual, we enjoyed some people-watching time in the Plaza de Zocodover. A delicious dinner, I believe at this restaurant, topped off a long day of walking in a quiet, intimate, and romantic setting (followed by some yummy mazapan, also a Toledo specialty).
But I’ll remember Toledo most because it’s where The Best Girlfriend Ever and I found rings for each other, a pair of similar silver rings with a slight weave pattern. We’d made the decision before we left for Spain to look for rings, and Toledo, with its many jewelry shops and finely-crafted rings, seemed like the perfect place to buy the rings that would be an expression of our commitment to each other. Add to that the romantic setting, the breathtaking architecture, and a romantic dinner, and it was, in many ways, a perfect location for finding rings. Our commitment ceremony a few nights later on a bridge in Seville cemented things, but the moment of finding the rings will always be intertwined with the ancient Spanish city on a hill.