Holy Toledo!

Days: 5 (9 March 2017)

Total distance travelled: 17,753.17 kilometres (11,026.81 miles)

Another day, another pre dawn rise.

Another day, another train ride.

Clear skies again greeted us, promising another beautiful morning, although clad as we were in our best walking shoes (our flip flops) at this point our feet were fucking cold!

And all this whilst we were still on board the fast train…

It wasn’t long and we were alighting, a handful of locals and a pair of Asian tourists looking as unsure as us in terms of which direction to now head.

First however, we allowed ourselves the opportunity to be distracted by the stunning Toledo station in which we now stood.


Toledo station, a beauty outside and in

Back out, we soon got our bearings, the main road leading on towards the city proper, and you’d have to be blind to miss the old town which dominated the skyline, the Alcazar (restored during the Franco regime) central with its commanding views over the river.

Whilst our Asian friends made a bee-line towards it, we stuck to the main road, a distant cathedral (at least that’s what it appeared to be) seeming as good an option, and the main town promising to offer more breakfast options.


The Alcazar stands watch over the Tagus River (we didn’t know its name at the time)

We found ourselves sticking to the sun when possible, its meagre heat feeling better on our frozen feet than the prospect of more time in the shade.

Even a breeze, as gentle as it usually was, felt icy!

The road took us uphill, so it was uphill we went, although my seemingly sound rationale that our dining options were likely better was thus far unfounded, and soon enough we also learned that what we’d considered a cathedral from afar, was in fact not.

It was still a religious building of sorts, a school of sorts, but open to us it was not.

Still, we did finally find a couple of options for breakfast, crap (but at least hot) coffee, and deliciously sweet churros with chocolate.

Where we dined was fairly common in Spain, somewhere between a cafe and a bar, on this particular morning, us its only customers (at least while we were there).

Fed and now slightly warmer, it was time to visit the old city itself, our entrance looking a little more grandiose than if we’d simply gone directly along the river.


Post breakfast, the old city beckons

Soon the cobbled road was taking us upward, our biggest concern the fact we were now both out of the suns rays and exposed to the now stronger and more biting wind.

Still, we were able to get decent views over Toledo itself.


Looking out over “newer” Toledo, complete with the not quite cathedral in the distance…

Eventually, we were within the buildings of the old city, and although still missing the sun, at least the wind was less of a concern!

Being so early in the day, it all felt a little listless, and with the high buildings all around, getting ones bearings was indeed a task.

Soon though, we were walking alongside the Alcazar, the odd coach passing by and forcing us to hug the nearest wall as the road and footpath (as in sidewalk or pavement) were at this point one.

We toyed with the idea of entering the Alcazar itself if possible, however a military museum was only ever going to truly appeal to myself, so in the spirit of not dragging Sarah to the edge of desperation and boredom, we instead decided to do our best to find that rather famous cathedral.

This proved a task easier in theory than pratice.

Instead, what we did was find ourselves wandering, mazing our way through the narrow streets, scurrying down even smaller alleyways to escape the next truck or car coming upon us from behind, it’s side mirrors seemingly missing the louvred windows or an ancient iron grill by mere inches.

Still, it was a nice way to see a bit more of the city, and eventually the cathedral, it was found.


The Cathedral of St Mary of Toledo… this wasn’t the tourist entrance

An audio guide was included as part of our entrance fee, and given the height of the building, we didn’t mind paying a couple of extra euros for a tower tour.

As we sauntered in, it was requested I remove my hat, and suddenly within the vaulted, cavernous space, I felt cold indeed.

Surprisingly, at least in lieu of the fact that we’d seen very few people about, the interior was packed, as large groups of Asian package tourists huddled before the various sights trying to get a little closer or a better shot.

Now in here, all that glittered was indeed likely gold, such is the wealth the church seems to hoard within this five to seven hundred year old cathedral.

We took some of it in, before leaving this huge interior for the adjacent cloisters where we hoped to take part in our tour of the tower.

It was cold inside, it was still equally cold outside, but at least here there were patches of sun in which I stood in the faint hope of thawing my feet.


Grand, opulent, decadent…


The tower, moments before we began our ascent

Eventually a handful of others assembled at the apparent spot, a guide unlocked a metal gate, and we began our ascent.

We’d expected to basically begin an ascent of the tower immediately, but our first climb merely took us to a balcony above the tree laden cloister, we walked its peripheries, carefully made sure to duck our way through a low doorway, before beginning our ascent proper.

A chilled morning, combined with thick stone (that hasn’t likely enjoyed the suns glow in hundreds of years) made for a freezing journey up those stairs, but eventually we were rewarded with some beautiful views… and a really bloody big bell!

Looking at the admittedly large, but incredibly old, weathered beams that supported this beast of a thing, it was difficult to believe that its weight is over two tonnes.


Navigating the cathedral roof (left) & Two tonnes worth of bell! (right)

Word is, when they had essentially completed the tower, the bell languished at its base for many years as they realised they had no idea how to raise it to its new, lofty home.

Finally a sailor, experienced in the use of block and tackle (and with the aid of a mountain of men), managed to raise the bell with some strong ropes, equally tough pulleys and a lot of sweat!

As for the crack, nobody is sure when this occurred…

Needless to say, the bell hasn’t rung truly since.


Holy Toledo

By now a little peckish, and having wandered our way back down to the river and across the, I was eager to find something to sate the appetite before we hit the station for a ride back to the capital.

We’d seen few dining options this side of town, but fortunately, remarkably similar to where we’d dined for breakfast, I found a place from which we could grab a couple of bocadillo’s, fresh bread, jamon (Serrano of course) and a lathering of tomato proving a delicious way to wait for a train back to Madrid.



* Our Eurail 2 country passes allowing 6 days of travel within 2 months cost us $96.00AUD per person (a special travel agents rate).

* An additional €8.00 seat reservation fee (per person) was required for our total journey from Madrid to Toledo return.

* Entry into the grand Cathedral of St Mary of Toledo is €10.00 per person, with an extra €2.50 required if you want entry into the tower.

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