Today I fell in love with a city. Who needs boys? Am I right?! Places stay loyal, never change and you will never find yourself in a sticky situation of unrequited love. The city that swept me off my feet today is Toledo.
Toledo is a 30 minute train ride from Madrid (so easy, quick and cheap). However, it is not as simple as you might think- don’t underestimate it. I ventured to Toledo with a group of 6 other girls, all from Tulane by coincidence. (yay I am making friends!) We decided to give ourselves a little under an hour to get to the train station, buy our tickets, go through security and get on the train. That was ambitious, especially for first time train riders in Spain and we found this out the hard way. We bought our ticket for the 10:20 at 10:12 (already cutting it close) and because we had never been to this train station before, we had no idea where to go. So naturally, we started running through the station asking strangers left and right and getting different answers everywhere we turned. We finally figured out where we were supposed to be going around 10:17. Ran through security and to the train and unfortunately, we got there just in time to watch the train depart without us aboard… like a scene from a bad movie. We looked like such typical Americans- running and stressing and being loud – it was humiliating and to top it off, we didn’t even make it on the train. Bummer. 10 euros I will never get back. So we went back to the ticket machine and bought new tickets for the next train that was departing in an hour. Lesson learned.
Anyways, once we moved past that little obstacle and got on the train, we were there in no time. It was such a pleasant, quick ride. The moment we pulled into the station, my heart skipped a beat when I saw just how beautiful the train station was. Look for yourself! Beautiful, is isn’t it?
Well it only got better from there. We hopped on a tour bus that drove us around the city and shared the history of the city with us, which I have learned many times before but it never gets old. Toledo is the city of three cultures: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Much of the Inquisition happened right there during the reign of Isabel and Fernando de Castilla, los reyes católicos. Driving around the city, I was truly in awe. I felt speechless. It felt like I was in Genovia, the land of Princess Mia from Princess Diaries. It was about a 30 minute drive of pure beauty. Warning: Pictures do not do it justice.
After the drive around the city, I already knew that I loved this place and needed to come back one day (looking at you fam- when you visit, this is a must). We had lunch and continued exploring the town that stole my heart.
We unanimously decided that we couldn’t leave without seeing the famous Toledo Cathedral, so that was our next stop. Let me tell you. I have been to Notre Dame, the Sistine Chapel, the Colosseum and more. But I have never had an experience just like this one. The only word that comes to mind to describe my time and impression of the Toledo Cathedral is sublimity. There were moments when I literally had my breath taken away and when I found myself oddly emotional and covered in goose bumps. I am not sure what it was about this very cathedral but to say the least, it was truly astonishing. I don’t know if it was because I have now taken an art history class and learned a lot about the architectural wonders of cathedrals and many of the works that were held inside. Whereas during my visits to other famous landmarks, I hadn’t and therefore didn’t understand the lingo like flying buttresses, vaults, the nave, etc. But WOW! That is truly all I can say. Such an amazing, unique experience. Pure sublimity.
After about an hour and a half in the cathedral, we journeyed into the old Jewish quarter of the city. It was fascinating and of course, beautiful. I felt more spiritually connected there than I had ever anticipated. It was so comfortable there and fun to look down and see menorahs on tiles on the street amongst the stones and hebrew on the street corners.
We also had time to go see a synagogue which was very special and again a surprisingly spiritual experience for me. At first, I was very conflicted: I wanted to go in to the synagogue, but being the Jewish girl that I am, I was struggling to justify paying the entrance fee. Eventually, I sucked it up and payed the fee of 2.5 euros to enter (haha I am so lame that I almost missed out on an opportunity… that is hardly a fee at all)! I am so grateful that I went. It was breathtaking and beautiful, of course. It was simple and clean and very different from the cathedral. It was modest and there were hardly any details on anything but the beauty was in the simplicity of it all.
Learning about this amazing historical city did not at all prepare me. I was completely blown away by everything that I saw, heard, and learned. Seeing my textbooks come alive is a much more interesting way to learn! I can’t wait to see more Spanish cities that I have studied in the past. I hope they can all live up to the high expectations that I now have from Toledo.
Speaking of textbooks and school, tomorrow I register for my classes and am oddly excited! Hoping to take a class in the Prado. How cool would that be?!! And also, just a little life update- I am moving into my real apartment tomorrow afternoon! Gonna be a big day!
PS- all the photos on this blog are taken by yours truly! Hope you enjoy them! 🙂