March 12, 2003 - Toledo 119k, 66m***

Yesterday and today Charlie and I rode east through rural south central Spain. Once you get past the small scale farming, the everlasting stone construction of all but the newest industrial buildings, and the occasional ancient castle or bridge to the side of the road, it’s pretty much just rolling hills. The castle at Oropesa, a rural town of less than 3,000 people, where we stayed last night, dates to the 16th century. Here’s a view of it as we left (riding on a highway at 9:30AM) this morning, followed by a plaque from inside the castle that explains things.

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After the exterior photo it was 35 km of highway followed by 80km of 2 lane rural roads punctuated by Charlie asking a guy on a donkey for lunch restaurant suggestions, then lunch at a small village called El Casio (sp?).

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Then another 65 kilometers of more ruralness, then all of a sudden, Toledo. Every town/city should give a first impression like this. Every river crossing into a city should look like this.

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The Spaniards (and Portuguese) had their hey day before the Dutch, French and British. In the 14th-17th century, Toledo was a happening place, all full of Muslims, Christians and Jews. As the center of the Catholic faith in Spain, they decided in the 14th century to build a cathedral there, still – “one of the biggest in Christendom”, It’s really too big for pictures (and they stopped me inside after only one interior shot (not allowed)), but here’s an exterior and interior view.

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This place is maybe the size of 4 or 5 football fields inside. The interior view you’re looking at is one of the side halls, for lack of a better word. The cathedral has 26 (or was it 29) chapels, enough art and statues for a few museums, gates protecting some of the chapels that are made from 100% silver (many silver and gold things in there), and the overall historical significance and ornate-ness of the place dwarfs its size. How, both the wealth and construction techniques, they built this 500 years ago is astonishing.

You could spend a couple days, easy, checking out the sights in Toledo. Unfortunately, we’re way behind schedule due to stuff like this. Most of the streets in the old city, which is still exceptionally vibrant, were made way-pre-automobile. Among other things, we walked past a woodworking shop that wouldn’t have been out of place a few centuries ago – this is a real working shop, not a tourist attraction.

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We went back into town to have dinner at a nice restaurant where the dining rooms seemed to be more like catacombs. As I say, fun, fun, fun. For more on Toledo, look it up online or come here yourself. Parting shots for the day are the front of our hotel, the view from my room, and the fountain on one of the three terraces you walk up to the actual hotel building.

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Did I mention that this was the cardinal’s home? Or that you don’t need a watch around here because of the church bells? See my bike at the left of the fountain?

Next two days are really rural. We have issues with both places to eat and places to stay – in fact, just places. We are going to get up early and try to cover some big ground.

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