2005-12-29: Toledo

29th December 2005, Spain Day 5

I woke up half an hour after I'd planned. Edyta has already been up for hours expelling liquids from her body. She still wanted to go to Toledo today so we set off for the train station. On the walk to the Metro stop it almost started snowing on us. Frozen flakes fell from the sky, but nothing more than minor drops. I was hoping for snow that day for myself, and warm weather for Edyta. In the end warm weather won, as by lunch at Toledo the day was fine.

To get to Toledo we were going to catch the train. We found the train station and then found a line to stand in. When I got to the front I asked for tickets to Toledo and got waved in a different direction. I went to another area and stood with the crowd wondering where the line was. Then I noticed everyone had tickets for their place in the queue. I found the ticket machine. While getting a ticket a Spanish lady gave me hers as they must have sorted something else out. First bit of good luck for the day. When I got to the queue I asked for Toledo only to be shown it was all booked there and back again. Edyta and I weren't the only ones affected by this lack of trains. We went to the bus station and got a bus to Toledo instead (lucky, for otherwise we had no way there). We saw some people from the train station also at the bus station trying to get tickets.

Every stabby weapon is available

Toledo is a medieval Spanish city that was once in competition with Madrid to be the capital of Spain. Madrid was selected and since then Toledo has remained a smaller city about an hours drive from the outskirts of Madrid (which are an hours drive or so from the centre of Madrid too). Most the people of the town now live in suburbs (where suburbs are high rise buildings) and the centre is empty of all except artists and students. And tourists. Of which we were. The town is also very vertical which wasn't on Edyta's list of preferred things to do for the day given all her muscles were aching and she was tired and still very sick. By this stage she was blaming the prawn she had in Barcelona, the only bit of food we didn't share.

After walking the long way around a big building and information booth appeared. Armed with a map of Toledo we walked up the mountain. The town is still surrounded by the city walls, which cause all sorts of problems for traffic, as does the fact in the town all but the main road are narrow and one-way (and crowded with tourists). As well as the normal Spanish tourist shop stuff this town was full of places selling swords. The town is the centre of Damascus blades in Spain and a few stores showed very expensive examples of this type of metal work. Most just offered the swords you see in Smokes and Things or knife stores. We grabbed lunch at McDonald's again for Edyta's sake (trying hard to find a section not full of smoke). The McDonalds was at Plaza de Zocodover, a place where once the Inquisition used to have a good time burning witches (the river is all the way at the bottom of the town and was probably too much of a walk).

Over-awed by the narrow winding streets

Next we went around Alcazar, a large square building once holding Arabic forts, then destroyed during the Spanish civil war before being rebuilt by Franco (not personally, just by his subjects). It didn't look interesting enough to go into, instead we went for the views of the military academy and old castle on the next mountain. We then went past the old church Museo de Santra Cruz, now a museum. A free museum (though we still had to be given a ticket to enter). There was a display of Don Quijote stuff in there, plus a courtyard littered with old Egyptian stones (why Egyptian I don't know). It also has one of Edytas frequently used toilets. The building had a very intricate wooden ceiling (on both floors) and as typical for buildings of importance in Europe was bigger than really needed.

Up the hill and back across the plaza we found the main cathedral of the town. This was where a king and queen were to be buried, but then they beat up Muslims in Granada and decided to get buried there instead. We came into an entrance free of beggars and ticket booths. Inside we discovered it was only a sample of the church, a fence locked you in (and was probably meant for people who actually wanted to worship but was mostly used by cheap or lost tourists). >From our little fenced off area we saw that the church was huge, very Catholic (read= lots of decorations and wealth, a good example of why Puritans and Protestants formed). Having seen enough of other churches we didn't feel the need to pay to walk around inside. We walked outside the church, found another free corner that was fenced off and then had a rest. At this stage Edyta was struggling with every step so we planned to leave.

This is really over the top inside

On the way out we found another church that allowed you to climb to the top of its towers for a small fee. Edyta sat on a bench while I went up to get the photos. It looked like she was sleeping and people kept staring at her as they passed so I rushed back down. She was fine and amusing herself with watching a guy press a button to lift up a row of bins to reveal more bins underneath them. He then loaded direct into these bins and then pressed a button so the bins lowered back into the ground. It was a good use of space for a city with so little. The rest of the walk down involved passing a few things worthy of a photograph and nothing else and accusations by Edyta that I was leading us in circles (I wasn't, I was taking the most direct route, it was just that the city was laid out in circles).

On the bus back to Madrid we saw one of the famous Spanish black bulls on the side of the road. These are large bill boards once used as an advertising campaign. When a law was passed making it illegal for road side bill boards they were all painted black (by then everyone knew what the bulls were marketing). When the Spanish government then wanted to make changes to get rid of the bulls altogether people made a big fuss and now the bulls are protected. The history is more impressive than the statue though. There were also a group of Hispanic American girls on the seat behind us, as well as some Africans living in Madrid. The African guys said they wanted to live in America, the American girls wanted to live in Madrid. Edyta and I couldn't imagine wanting to live in either. The African also made a pathetic attempt at a pass at the girls and was shot down in flames. At least it kept him quiet the rest of the trip.

Tea that night was Pan sandwiches. We ordered an extra to use for breakfast in the following morning as we had an early flight from Madrid to Malaga.

Prevents "Honey I Shrunk the kid" problems