Saturday, June 23, 2007

Last day in Spain - Toledo

Well, I am happy to report that we arrived safely at home yesterday after a wonderful week in Spain. Our last full day in the country was Thursday, which we spent in Toledo. Toledo is about 70 km South of Madrid, in La Mancha...the land of Don Quixote. Toledo was founded by Jewish settlers in 540 BC, was later a Roman military camp called Toletum, and was captured by the Moors in the 8th century. It was recaptured by Alfonso VI in 1085 and was the capital until 1561 when Philip II moved the capital to Madrid. We took a high-speed AVE train from Madrid to Toledo, which got us there in only about 25 minutes. It was quite fun being on the train; that thing was cruising!

Toledo has been famous for centuries because of the fine swords and steel weapons it has turned out. The city registers are filled with swordmakers' guilds, and the city produces cutlery today using a steel and process as legendary as those of Solingen and Damascus. Toledo's swords have been prized by soldiers throughout the centuries, including El Cid, Columbus, Philip II, and Ferdinand I. Most of the swordmaking shops are located outside the city, but there is still one left inside the town, which we got a chance to visit. We couldn't take pictures of the whole process because it is quite secretive, but we did get some pictures. Enjoy!

Here is the wall of the shop we saw, displaying all the swords they make.

Here is a picture of sword blanks.

The swords nearing completion. The pommels and guards are on, all that remains is wrapping the handles and finishing the blades. All of their swords are hand made, forged out of a piece of Toledo steel, not stamped or cut.

Us with the owner of the shop, Senor Zamorano.

Alex holding up a BIG sword. Unfortunately swords this big were very expensive, but I was able to buy a small dagger.

Toledo is also famous for its inlaid gold work. We stopped in a shop to watch this artisan at work. 24 karat pieces of gold are cut, then inlaid into various items, then stamped and decorated with various shaping tools.

The finished products......

And a closeup of a finished vase.

I had thought Toledo was a busy metropolis. I was wrong. The streets are both winding....

And hilly.

But once you get to the top of the city you get a great view. This picture shows the three layers of walls that protected the city.

The local specialty in Toledo is its Marzipan. I'm not particularly fond of it myself, but I couldn't resist taking a picture of this cathedral built entirely of marzipan.

Toledo's most famous monuments include the Alcazar. The Alcazar is legendary because of the seige it withstood from the Communist forces during Spain's Civil War.

Here, you can see part of the Alcazar's wall, with this concrete column still pocked by bullet holes.

And here you have one of the four towers of the Alcazar, showing how much of it was destroyed by Red artillery. The mortar lines show what is the original Alcazar and what has been reconstructed.

Another view from the top of the city, showing the Tagus River and the plains of La Mancha.

And I'm not really sure which Castle this is, but here's a random Castle dotting the landscape.

As we left Toledo, we passed through this gate.

And into this train station. The train station is one of the most beautiful in Spain, famous for its Mudejar style of architecture.
Some of the tiles on the floor.
We left Toledo and got back to Madrid in the evening, had a wonderful dinner with the Victoria family and then packed our bags. Our flight out was at 6 am the next morning, so we got up at 3:00, screamed in Felipe's car to the airport, and landed in Rome about 8:20 am. Goodbye Spain!


Charlotte said...

You got up at three? You're joking right?
Great pictures.

Aggie said...

That train station makes Grand Central Station look like a subway station in the Bronx.