Our second excursión (guess THAT cognate!) of the semester was to the city of Toledo, about 70 km (45 miles) south of Madrid. Settled during the Bronze Age, it is known as a "three-cultures" crossroad, as it had large Christian, Muslim, and Jewish populations. It was also the home of one of my favorite artists, El Greco.
We were supposed to leave Madrid at 9 AM, but in typical VWM Program fashion, one of the kids in the group arrived at least 30 minutes late. Upside: I had time to get an iced coffee from Dunkin Donuts (yep, they have those here...). Downside: I woke up 30 min earlier than I needed to...and on this trip so far, sleep has been a highly precious commodity. Thankfully, the drive to Toledo went quickly, though not exactly pleasantly, since the tour guide spoke over the loudspeakers literally the entire time, repeating each sentence at least twice: "Vamos por la autopista. La autopista es financiado por el gobierno, y es gratis. Es gratis porque es financiado por el gobierno. Vamos por la autopista, que es gratis porque es financiado por el gobierno." ("We're taking the freeway. The freeway is financed by the government, and is free. It's free because it's financed by the government. We're taking the freeway, which is free because it's financed by the government.") Although we may speak it hesitantly, everyone in the group understands Spanish perfectly well. All of our tours so far have been in Spanish, and it was frustrating to have this woman think we weren't proficient in the language. But on the upside, she looked excatly like Anjelica Huston, which was more amusing than her repetition was irritating.
Our first stop in Toledo was to a hill with a spectacular view of the city--the exact vantage point from which El Greco painted this in 1597 (currently on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC--I wrote an essay on it last semester):
|El Greco manipulated the landscape to include all Toledo's landmarks|
|The actual view...I love how it still looks ancient, nothing modern in sight|
|Aaaaand a little tilt-shift action|
We started our tour in the Christian area, spending over an hour in the cathedral, which was my favorite we've visited so far. It was a beautiful mix of Gothic and Baroque architecture and ornamentation.
|From the outside|
|I love the vaulted ceilings and Gothic arches|
|An illuminated Bible, all drawn by hand|
|One of the few portrayals of a smiling Mary|
|My favorite part of the Cathedral; hard to photograph, but it's a series of reliefs/statues leading up to a skylight|
|Incredibly detailed reliefs of Bible stories|
|The most celebrated work of Baroque ornamentation in Spain|
|Paintings by El Greco in the Cathedral museum|
After the Cathedral tour, we had a free half our to explore a bit. I bought my first item of Spanish leather--a bracelet--and we found a convent that's famous for its marzapana (marzipan). The convent is closed, and you order the confections from a tiny white-washed room fitted with a sort of grated lazy susan. You tell the nun on the other side what you want and place your money on the lazy susan. The nun then nun spins the lazy susan around, takes the money, places the box of marzipan on the lazy susan, and spins it back around for you to take.
|Om nom nom|
|Allllll of the bracelets|
(photo stolen from Kat)
|Kat & me|
|Exploring the street is hard when you have to flatten yourself against the wall every 3 min to let a car pass|
|Orange marzipan the director bought for us|
On our way to the Muslim area, we stopped at the church of Santo Tomé to see El Greco's most famous painting, El Entierro del Conde de Orgaz. It's painted directly onto a wall in the church, so if you want to see it, you have to go to Toledo.
There were security guards everywhere so I couldn't take pictures, but I was extremely excited to see the painting, since I studied it in my art history class last semester. There's really nothing like seeing a work of art in real life...even though Vassar has a giiiiant screen and state-of-the-art HD projector, the painting was a thousand times more stunning en vivo.
|Photo stolen from Wikipedia|
|La Mezquita de Cristo de la Luz (Mosque of the Light of Christ)|
Since the bus had to be back by 8 PM, we had a gourmet lunch instead of dinner (every excursion includes a "gastronomical learning experience"...aka food at a 4 star restaurant. ME GUSTA). I felt highly out of place at the restaurant since I was wearing denim cutoffs and Converse, and I didn't like the food as much as the restaurant in Santiago, but it was still a very fun couple hours.
|Of course, Michael (program director) ordered bottles of champagne|
|Danielle, a very serious Nelson, and Sami|
|Me & Kat...we're pretty much always together|
After lunch we went to la judería, the Jewish quarter, to visit two synagogues. Since the restaurant is at the bottom of a hill and the Jewish quarter at the top, we took a series of five or six outdoor escalators, pretty much meant to cater to lazy tourists. It was weird to see something so modern in a city so old. Unfortunately, synagogues aren't as elaborately decorated as cathedrals (at least, the two we visited weren't), so all of the pictures I took were quite boring.
The last thing we did before we left was walk across an old Roman bridge.
|Danielle & me on ze bridge|
(photo stolen from Kat)