Last weekend we "did". Toledo is a big once-holy stone of a tourist trap, and I admit I enjoyed being able to goggle at everything and take pictures without feeling self-conscious.
Toledo has a fascinating history which you can read about on Wikipedia, and many beautiful sights which you can find with a google image search, but I'll tell you this and I'll show you these.
This: Toledo has three cool religious backgrounds and a motto. Islam, Judaism, and Christianity all, uh, chipped in (I'm trying not to use the words "rich" or "melting pot") to make it a great old ancient, uh, place. I mean, nowadays it's very disneylandesquely full of shops selling suits of armor and punny t-shirts, but really, after my experience at Auschwitz* I will never be shocked by touristy tactlessness ever again.
[*My german class stepped off the bus, all grim-faced and ready to tour the worst of the concentration camps, and the first thing we saw?: "McDonalds Welcomes You to Auschwitz." They really, honestly made a sign saying that. Golden arches and all.]
Anyway, despite the plague of people such as me, there were also: really tall walls!
Roman author Titus Livius was the first to write about Toledo. He called it a "small fortificated town." I learned this from The Internet.
Anyway, narrative. We look up!
We walk around the corner and look up and across! Lo! A castle shineth forth! It is on the map, though not in the guidebook!
It is not in the guidebook because it is being used as a youth hostel! One cannot enter the garden without a key!
A youth exits, leaving the hostel door ajar. We trespass!
We look across the way. Why did we leave that beautiful place?
Why, to take better pictures! Right, I'm tired of the narrative! Here are pigeons in pigeonholes.
Toledo, besides being holy, is famous for its marzipan. We ate that box in one sitting, America.
It's about time to mention that the motto of Toledo is, and I learned this from María Jose's sister, "Either you crush the stone, or the stone crushes you."
Catchy! Here's Matt, crushed.
Here's Julia (hoo-lee-yah), fortified by marzipan.
There are two gorgeous 14th century synagogues in Toledo we wanted to go to. We made it to the first, Sinagoga del Tránsito, which contains the Museum of Sephardic Judaism. Informative! Here are the windows of the synagogue not letting you see anything else:
And here they are surrounded by their surroundings. Oh the difference, the difference between one step back and two steps forward:
The garden across the street from the synagogue Santa Maria la Blanca (terribly tragically clos-ed when we arrived), taken from the uh negative space of the wrought-iron fence keeping us out.
And here, the holiest part of Madrid: The Nun Café. We didn't enter, but this is my favorite part of the window display: a Mama Nun freaking out that her little baby nuns have been baked into cookies.
Lovely weird painting of Toledo by th' Greco. Off center because there was a tall man with his arms crossed Experiencing it for the whole twenty or so minutes I spent in that little room.
You see, kidsl, we have to leave beautiful places. That's the other half of traveling.
"Bye, man. Come by sometime, see the synagogue, you know."
Thankfully, there's an AYA trip to Toledo next semester, when I'll be the fluentesque cosmopolitan member of the group, instead of the one who's only had one year of Spanish and always loses her keys.