City Postcard: Toledo, Spain Wednesday, Sep 19 2012 

Puerta de Bisagra

Puerta de Bisagra

The last few days, I posted about squares, gates and palaces of Madrid. Madrid is obviously one of those cities where you can spend endless weeks sightseeing, soaking in the culture and food. Nevertheless, although my visit was only about a week long, I wanted to take a quick day trip to some of the landmark sites outside of the city. I settled on a quick visit to Toledo, attracted by its ancient architecture.

Toledo Cathedral

Toledo Cathedral

Toledo is some 50 miles south of Madrid, in the very center of Spain, and is a capital of both province of Toledo as well as of the autonomous community of Castille-La Mancha. If you’re a literary buff, you may have perked up at the mention of La Mancha – the region is known for Don Quixote, and most of Cervantes’s book takes place here. Toledo is pretty proud of this, and Don Quixote (and his loyal servant Sancho Panza) can be found all over the city, in various forms, from miniature statues to paintings and beyond.

Toledo is an ancient city, built on a hill overlooking the river Tagus which makes a big bend around the city. Most of the streets are essentially canyons – very narrow and rarely straight, so they are sometimes difficult to navigate. I was fortunate (or had enough foresight) to have purchased a map, despite of which I took a few wrong turns.

Does it look like the Chrysler Building?

Does it look like the Chrysler Building?

I entered the city through Puerta de Bisagra, pictured on top of the post, a tall stone gate which reminded me of Dubrovnik in Croatia. That’s not an accident – both Dubrovnik and Toledo were named UNESCO World Heritage Sites, within a few years of each other.

The most prominent of these landmarks is surely the Cathedral, or as the Spanish call it, Catedral Primada Santa Maria de Toledo. Massive Gothic tower is 300 feet tall and shows numerous intricate details, some of which are in the Mudejar style. There’s a little bit of an art deco look to it, too, so one of the local art galleries compared it to the Chrysler Building in New York City.

I’m not so sure about that. What do you think?

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Gates of Madrid Tuesday, Sep 18 2012 

Madrid architecture reminds visitors at all times that Spain used to be the most powerful country in the world once, and Madrid needed to convey that sense of grandeur and scale.

Puerta de Toledo

Puerta de Toledo

One of the ways this is evident is in the gates, or arches, that dominate certain points of the downtown area. They are remnants of old city walls and were erected to celebrate different events or rulers. Their locations indicate the spots where major roads would leave the city.

The one on top is Puerta de Toledo, aptly named because it is on the road leading south to Toledo. These days, the easiest way to get to Toledo is by train; we’ll talk about that more in a few days. If you’re in that area, check out the flea market that goes on every Sunday in a neighborhood just a few blocks away.

The other photo is of Puerta de Alcala, a gate on the east side of town, at the end of Alcala street. That part of town seems a bit more high-end – Ferrari store is just a few blocks away, for example.

Puerta de Alcala

Puerta de Alcala

One thing these gates have in common is that I had meals in the immediate vicinity, with great views of the gates. As far as experiences go, I highly recommend that.

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