The past ten days, I’ve been absorbed in Madrid culture. To be honest, I forgot there were even Spanish cities outside of Madrid. But today I went with my Spanish family to Toledo—a town an hour away steeped in history, with Roman, Arab, Christian, and Jewish influences.
First in Toledo, the food! We ate in a large indoor patio, with grey stone walls and pictures from artists, such as El Greco. Spanish meals typically have two courses, and my first was the gazpacho soup. The soup combines tomato, melon, cucumber, and onion. Gazpacho is a cold soup—such a foreign idea for an American! But this soup is quite the refreshing summer appetizer.
For the second course, I decided to skip past the chicken options to try rabbit for the first time! As a kid, I had a pet rabbit named Flip Flop (RIP Flip Flop), so I had to quickly come to terms with that. Once I accepted it, what delicious meat! It had a lot of bones and was difficult to pick apart, but I liked it. For the desert, the tarta de chocolate (chocolate cake) was solid.
Then to the city tour! My friend’s dad is an architect, and what better person to introduce you to a city than an architect? The Toledo Cathedral is a gorgeous, Gothic-style cathedral built in the 13th Century and is rated by some as the top Gothic structure in Europe (1). Following that, we walked to Zocodover Square. At the time of the Muslim rule of Toledo, this was the market area where the merchants would set up shop. We passed by Cristo de la Luz. It was initially built as a mosque, but after the Christians regained rule in 1085, it was turned into a church (2).
We experienced the Roman, Arab, and Christian elements of Toledo culture, followed lastly by the Jewish section of the town—the Synagogue of El Transito. Finished in 1357, the synagogue was built by Samuel Ha-Levi Abulafia, who three years later would be imprisoned and tortured to death. In its seven centuries of existence, the synagogue’s functions have included being a monastery, military barracks, and now a museum.
Closing the day was a breath-taking view from Toledo upon the surrounding open plains. The vast openness, filled with the Toledo River and unique architecture will forever be in my memory. Thank you for a great day, Toledo!