After leaving Sevilla, we headed east to Toledo. The drive was a very beautiful, scenic drive, that was beautifully decorated with 100’s of 1000’s of acres of olive trees, produce and vineyards, as was so much of rural Spain.
Along the way to Toledo, we made a quick little stop at the olive museum or museo de oliva, since after all, we were in olive country. It wasn’t really what we were expecting. It was more of a store than a museum, however, I did really like this big vat used for storing olive oil. I go through a lot of olive oil at my house, and I think I could really use one of these big vats.
Toledo, like most of Spain, is yet another very old city with a rich and illustrious history. It dates back to the 1st century BCE, and was an important city to the Ancient Romans. The city of Toledo has over 2,000 years of history behind it and is still going strong today. The old, historic part of Toledo sits atop the hills, behind the walls that were built in the days of the Ancient Romans, overlooking the Tagus River. The modern part of Toledo extends far below the hills and the walls. It is 42 miles or 67 km southwest of Madrid. Particularly for tourists, Toledo is the old part of town, and this is the part to see. The new, modern part of town is more for the residents and the industry.
The sweetheart locks on the gates, overlooking the city below.
In 1085, Toledo was one of the most important cities of Spain, and was the political and social center of the Castile region. It remained an important city, as well as the capital of Spain, until 1560, when King Phillip II made Madrid the capital, and Toledo’s importance as a city declined.
The name Toledo means a mixture of Spanish and Jewish. The city was the scene of fusion between the Christian, the Jewish and the Arab worlds and thus became known as the city of three cultures. Today, Toledo is considered to be the city that is most representative of the Spanish culture. In 1986, Unesco made Toledo a world heritage site. The words to this are written in both ancient Hebrew and Spanish.
Toledo has been recognized as a place for traditional crafts, arts and steel making since the 1st century BCE. It is known for the craftmanship of its beautiful swords. Toledo is still known for its quality steel and steelwork even today.
This gentleman, Michaelangelo Lancha-Sanchez and his brother Juan, are painters of the old, traditional styles. They hand painted all these exquisite ceramics. Some were the “flat painting style” and others were the old, ancient techniques of painting in the “raised style”. Senor Lancha-Sanchez said his name is an ancient name that has a very long history.
I have always loved collecting plates and displaying them on my dining room wall. I have an eclectic collection from many places around the world. Some are old, while others are new. My dad used to bring them back from his travels, and the tradition just stuck with me. My newest collection comes from Senor Lancha-Sanchez and Toledo.
Another thing Toledo is known for is marzipan. Marzipan is a treat made of almond paste that is enjoyed all throughout Europe, particularly around Christmas and the holidays. The first recorded recipe of marzipan from Toledo dates back to 1512. The people of Toledo enjoy desserts and cakes with marzipan all year round though, and not just during the Holidays. Often times, it is formed into small animal shapes.
The main economic focus of Toledo used to be agriculture. Since the 1990’s though, that focus has shifted from agriculture to industry, particularly that of steel making, machinery, furniture making and the manufacutring of chemicals and electronics.
Toledo is a beautiful patchwork of very tiny, narrow streets and old structures and homes that wind all around and through the hills behind the walls. It is very much a walking town. Most of the roads are not wide enough for cars. Even the smallest of cars would find it very difficult to maneuver through the streets. I just love all the attention to detail that is lovingly associated with every old home, building and structure all throughout Spain. This is the tilework that was the front of someone’s home.
And of course, just like everywhere in Spain, religion plays a very important role in the lives of Toledo’s citizens. I cannot tell you how many Catholic Cathedrals we came across in this tiny area, but Senor Lancha-Sanchez said their were also 3 mosques and 2 or 3 synagogues located within the walls of the old city as well.
From Toledo, we headed back to Madrid, for one final evening before heading home. Out of all the meals we enjoyed all throughout Spain, this was most definitely our least favorite. Larry ordered a grilled pork dish that was delicious. Either I ordered wrong or the waiter did not understand me, but what I thought I ordered and I what I got were definitely NOT the same thing. Oh well, a minor complaint after a beautiful and wonderful tour all throughout the Southern region of Spain. Next stop London, then homeward bound.
Ciao for now!