Day 13 – Toledo

This morning on the way to Toledo, we spot fortresses, castles and towns built to defend Toledo. For many years, Toledo was the wealthy capital of Christian Spain.

Rows of olive trees cover the hillsides.

We take a panoramic tour around Toledo in the bus, passing by the Alcazar, first built by the Romans and restored under Charles I (Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor) and his son Philip II of Spain in the 1540s. In 1521, Hernan Cortes was received by Charles I at this Alcazar after Cortes’ conquest of the Aztecs.

On our walking tour, our guide tells us that these balls on building exteriors indicate that water wells may be found inside the building.

The coverings on the street have been installed for the procession of Corpus Christi.

Elaborate swords and daggers fill the shop windows. Toledo has been a sword-making center for thousands of years, back to the Roman times. Toledo is also known for Damascene, a metal-working style in which items are engraved and ornamented with metal (silver or gold) and black enamel. The work was brought to the area by Muslims from Damascus.

I spend some time observing this master craftsman.

He works without magnification. His eyesight has to be sharp and his hands steady.

We walk through the former Jewish quarter and see a former synagogue now a church. The Jews in Toledo had become the most populous and wealthy of any in Castile. Toledo was called the city of three cultures. For centuries, Jews, Muslims and Christians lived together peacefully. During the Inquisition, the Jews were made to choose between converting to Christianity, leaving their homes, or death. Our guide says that these brass plates inscribed with Hebrew characters placed every few yards on the main street through the former Jewish quarter indicate the presence of utility cables.

The Monasterio de San Juan de Los Reyes was built by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella to celebrate a victory in war against Portugal.

The chains affixed to the exterior were those used on Christian captives freed in the battle of Malaga and Almeria. The chains were brought to Toledo and affixed on the monastery’s exterior walls in gratitude and devotion to God and Queen Isabella for the victory.

A sky above Toledo.

The Tagus River is the Iberian Peninsula’s longest river. In September 2023 Storm Dana caused deaths and destruction throughout Spain. It broke the causeway across the river in Toledo.

We decide to take some group photos, as this is our last day together. Here are the ladies, all Aussies and Kiwis except me. Great bunch of travelers.

We head on to Madrid and our farewell dinner. It’s been a whirlwind, for sure, but full of complexity and beauty. Well worth an in-depth return, should the opportunity arise.

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