When I visited Guanajuato in Mexico about 15 years ago I was told this was a very special town and there really was only one other town in the world like it. Toledo. Ever since this visit in Guanajuato I have wanted to go and visit Toledo to see what it was like if it truly was another amazing place like Guanajuato or if it was just something made up by some random people.
Toledo has a long history in Spain as an important town. It used to be a capital in an old Visigoth kingdom and when the Moors took over it became a capital in one of the different small kingdoms of the Moors called a taifa. When the Christian rulers took over again, Toledo was a capital for a short time but the Spanish court moved away from Toledo to Madrid after which Toledo became somewhat less important – but the town remain an important religious and cultural center for Spain and for a while it was quite a multicultural place where Jews, Muslims and Catholics lived peacefully side by side exchanging knowledge. Unfortunately this way of life didn’t last – the Spanish inquisition meant all none Catholics had to convert, leave the country or die.
We arrive in Toledo with a fast train from Madrid which only takes about half an hour. It cost €20 return per person. From the train you can see the impressive old town of Toledo – actually it might look better from the distance than up close where you are too close to get the full overview of the town. Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos from the train. After that we take taxi from the train station to the hotel and then headed out to explore the town a bit before dinner.
The road up lead through a gate and then up the hill to the old town. Just before the entrance to the center of the old town is a statue of a bike rider. It is the local hero Bahamontes who is also known as the eagle of Toledo – he use to hold the record for most mountain jerseys in the Tour de France and when a jury should find the best ever mountain rider in the tour they picked him.
We get into the city and it is a nice town with lots of old good looking buildings. As we walk along the narrow streets we notice a lot of flag like pieces of cloth hanging from many windows. I am not sure what this represents and it looked pretty weird. A nice feature for the summer is more linen hanging along from many of the streets – these are supposed to give some shade during the hot summer days. Unfortunately the designers hadn’t really taken into account it do rain from time to time in Spain – so they hadn’t made holes in the linen to let the water out – instead the water was just randomly dripping down from above when we walked along the streets.
After receiving a few drops from above we reach the biggest square in town which has some nice houses in addition to a few shops where you can try out the most famous produce of the town – marzipan. They do sell some very tasty cakes at the main square – though they are not particularly cheap.
From the big square we continue up the hill until we reach the highest spot in town where there are a castle like building. It used to be an army barrack – not that it looks anything like an army barrack. During the Spanish civil war the commander was a nationalist army colonel in a middle of a socialist controlled area – so the castle came under siege in the early stages of the civil war and was pretty much destroyed, so today’s castle is a reconstruction from after the civil war.
We wonder a few more of the narrow streets until we decided it is about time for dinner. There are many small places – and we decided to go for tapas – it is the first night in Spain. We find a little bar/restaurant which serves tapas. The dishes are actually prepared beforehand but they do taste very nice. And the advantage of the preparation is the service surprisingly very quick and we don’t have to wait for the many small dishes.
After getting pretty full we want to head back to the hotel – which is a bit more difficult than anticipated since we get a little lost and for some reason the GPS can’t really get a good signal in the narrow streets so it isn’t much help. In the end we find a way back down to the hotel at the entrance to the old town.