On our first day back in Madrid, on our way home to Australia, we took ourselves early to the Prado, a palatial building, four stories high with colonnaded walks looking down onto a large central garden. The Prado had also been our first port of call when we arrived in Spain, not realising until we got there that it was Labour Day and the museum was closed! Second time lucky, we enjoyed our fill of art, then caught a train to Toledo, about 75 kilometres away or 33 minutes by train.
Toledo is an ancient fortified hill town , almost encircled by the Tagus river. It was established by the Celts more than 2000 years ago, and followed the usual pattern of being occupied serially by the Romans, the Visigoths, the Moors from the 8th century to the 11th century, then the Christians (Iberians?)(I’m not sure). It was the seat of Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor in the mid 1500s. Toledo was famous for the peaceful coexistence of Jews, Christians and Muslims for centuries. It’s also, famous of course, for the quality of its steel, much sought after for weaponry from Roman times. Every second shop in Toledo has swords and knives on display!
It has a very impressive gothic cathedral, (closed when we were there) and numerous other churches, mosques and synagogues, including El Cristo de la Luz, a small mosque built in the 900s, later converted to a Christian church. We visited the Synagogue of El Transito, also a converted mosque. The Alcazar, a 16th century fortress looms massively over the city.
The most wonderful historical building, we thought, was the Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes, built by the Catholic monarchs in the late 15th century. It has an exquisite cloister and wonderful sculptured pillars.
We lingered into the evening, enjoyed a relaxed dinner after most of the day-trippers had departed and caught the last train back to Madrid.