Although Madrid was a spectacular beginning of my trip overseas, there was still much more yet to come, and my excitement was overwhelming. After a brief morning in Madrid, we were herded onto a tour bus by Jesus and taken towards the ancient city of Toledo, which became my favorite part of Spain the minute I stepped off the bus.
The hour or so long drive to Toledo was spent either listening to Jesus and his fun facts about Spain while gazing at the rolling countryside through the bus window, or if you were like me, sleeping. I’m not a morning person to begin with, and with the amount of walking, plus the limited sleep we received at hotels, I took any opportunity I could to get some shut eye.
Once we picked up the local tour guide (who I unfortunately cannot remember the name of), we began our drive up to the top of a nearby hill. Once at the top, we were allowed to exit, and what sat before us was one of the most breathtaking views I have ever experienced in my life. Before us was the entire city of Toledo, resting atop a hill with the Tagus River coiled around it like a snake. I instantly knew that this site would become the highlight of our tour of Spain.
Soon our group piled back onto the bus, and with such a fantastic start, I couldn’t wait to see what else this city had in store for us. As we hiked through the city streets, our guide explained to us that Toledo was built on the steep hill due to the protection it brought from the river and altitude, along with the hill being a perfect area for agriculture. We walked along the cobblestone streets, fascinated at the quaint structures that seemed as ancient as time itself. Our group stopped by a nearby shopping center, and it was there I purchased a handcrafted coffee mug for my Dad.
After our short shopping spree, we reached the Toledo Cathedral, probably the most prominent structure in the whole city, and I figured that out pretty easily even before our guide stated it. The structure was built at the top of the city, and its magnificent architecture dominated the skyline and made the other buildings seem of less importance.
The interior was even more impressive, filled with portraits, mosaics, sculptures, stained glass windows and much more. These artistic features were not only meant to be a casual eye-catcher, but according to our guide, they were actually describing the entire story of the Bible. I saw Noah and his Ark, Moses parting the Red Sea and even the Seven Days of Creation depicted in amazing craftsmanship. We were led to other parts of the cathedral before our guide led us to our next destination.
We walked around a bit longer and visited other religious structures, including the oldest building there, a Jewish Synagogue. Currently it is abandoned due to the Spanish Inquisition hundreds of years ago, but the people of Toledo are hoping that the Jewish population will soon return and reclaim the forgotten building. In the meantime, it has been used for by the people of Toledo for plays involving the Christian faith, but our guide told us that he is hopeful the Jewish community will grow once more.
Gradually we began our descent back to our bus, crossing the famous San Martin Bridge that hung over the river surrounding the city. We met up with our bus and driver and said goodbye to our guide. Before we left the city entirely, Jesus brought us to a local sword and jewelry shop where the items there are handmade by blacksmiths and skilled craftsman. Jesus explained that Toledo was a city known for its steel, which is its main export to not only Spain, but much of Europe. We were allowed to shop around, and although I didn’t find the antique swords particularly interesting, I did purchase some rings for my Mom and sister. I also bought a Kinder bar (kinda like a Kit-Kat, but with nougat) from a nearby vending machine and all I can say is, I wish they were in America.
Once everyone was satisfied with their purchases, Jesus herded us back onto the bus and we bade good-bye to the wonderful city of Toledo. This was by far the highlight of my tour, and I know that one day I will be back in Toledo, gazing at the beautiful skyline once more. Once you witness this amazing city, you’ll finally understand why so many people say, “Holy Toledo!”