I grew up hearing the expression “Holy Toledo” from my classmates. I was never sure of its origin but thought it sounded funny and instead of jokingly saying “Holy Moly” or other nonsense expressions, I replaced those sayings with “Holy Toledo”. You may be wondering, “why is she sharing this random information with me?”. Well, it´s because I got to visit thee actual Toledo this past March, and it´s in fact quite holy, the holiest of all the cities named Toledo in the world. Let me tell you why.
Toledo has a history that dates back about 2,000 years. During its time as part of the Roman Empire, the city had gone through a number of battles and conquests. It´s architecture is a combination of three different cultures, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim.
It may be difficult to believe that these three religions coexisted together but legend has it that they did. You don´t have to walk far to see the imprint that each of these cultures left behind. Within the city walls you can find a mosque, synagogue, and cathedral. Not only is the architecture stunning but Toledo sits on top of a valley, which overlooks the Rio Tajo, making it the perfect backdrop.
Aside from it´s physical beauty, Toldeo also has a rich history in art. One of the most well known works of Spanish literature, Don Quixote, written by Miguel Cervantes, takes place in Toledo. It was nearly impossible to get a photo of the Cervantes statue so the one below will have to do.
Toledo is located in the region of La Mancha and only a 45 minute bus ride south of Madrid. So close to the capital but yet this city really takes you back in time. My parents and I decided to visit on a whim on Palm Sunday and got through a majority of the city in five hour. The city is pretty small but has oh so much to see.
From the bus station you have to walk uphill about twenty minutes to get to the heart of the city. We took awhile to make it up because we kept stopping to take in the beautiful panoramic view.
One of the first landmarks you see as you near the center of the city is the Puente de San Martin, a medieval bridge that crosses the Rio Tajo. It was built in the 14th century and served as a path of entry to those living in the west. The bridge has a number of arches, the arch in the middle being the largest in size and span.
In order to enter the heart of the city you have to walk up a number of stairs. Once you do, you walk into a cute little plaza with red and yellow banners spread across a number of balconies. The layout has stayed relatively the same from medieval times.
You´ll pass a number of boutiques and shops, many with real swords. Toledo is well known for being a sword making and steel mecca since 500 BC. The steel here is one of high quality and some of it´s well known swords like the Iberian falcata and gladius were used by Roman troops in times of war.
The narrow streets were packed with tourist but somehow my parents and I would find ourselves in an empty corner in awe of how quaint the beautiful streets were.
Toledo is a UNESCO World Heritage site and it´s easy to see why. Tasty food usually compliments these heritage sites and Toledo was no different. In 2016 the city was selected as Spain´s Capital of Gastronomy.
Here are a few foods that Toledo is known for. Marzipan, a pastry staple and the most famous food in the city. It´s a sweet made of almonds, sugar, and egg yolks, you can never go wrong with a baked good. Ciervo en salsa, a venison stew, is also a staple in this region. The terrain is perfect for game and you´ll find a number of dishes that call for some tasty venison. Lastly, before you hop on a bus back to Madrid, order yourself some carcamusas, a hearty stew made of pork, white wine, peas, and tomatoes. Perfect for a chilly day.
We ended our day at the beautiful gothic cathedral. Being that it was Palm Sunday we figured a procession would occur but had know idea of where and when it would take place. We saw a crowd form and decided to stick around a few minutes.
To our surprise we began to hear trumpets and far in the distance we saw a group of children and adults holding palm leaves and a large statue of Jesus. It was so picturesque and a beautiful start to semana santa.
Our trip to Toledo was short but worth the 45 minute bus ride. On top of it all, the Palm Sunday procession was the perfect end to our enchanting trip.