The title of my previous post was “Tantalising Toledo” – why? Because it dangled the prospect of visiting the Alcazar in front of us. We could see it rising from its commanding location as we looked out of hotel room window, but when we arrived at opening time we were greeted with a sign advising it was closed “due to staff issues!” What a disappointment, and the free entry to the military museum on site, frankly didn’t make up for it, though we did take a cursory look.
The Alcazar dominates from its postition on the highest hill in Toledo, and was initially built by Carlos V as a Royal residence, but was never lived in by royalty. Its history involves devastating fires and it was almost destroyed in 1936, with reconstruction beginning in 1940.
Plan B was now on the table, so we went in search of the Church of Santo Tome so that we could view the famous El Greco painting, The Burial of Count Orgaz. While checking our map to find our way there, we were accosted by a well-dressed and friendly chap, who said he could direct us to the church, though he did seem to be sending us in the opposite direction. As we continued on, feeling somewhat unsure of the gentleman’s direction and wanting to divert, he came running up to us again, urging us on, and sure enough we came to a workshop were visitors can view jewellry etc., being made, and can then purchase pieces… lesson learned!
We eventually found our way to Santo Tome, and found outselves lining up with tour groups, whereupon entering the church, we inched our way forward patiently while the first line of visitors stood before the famous painting, as their tour guides enlightened them and then off they went. The guide leading the group in front of us rattled on for some time, but finally we stood before the painting, duly admired it and the burial site of Count Orgaz. I must say the painting was impressive, but no photos were allowed.
In seeking out the El Greco Museum, we look our time to enjoy strolling through the shady lanes, looking at some of the attractive merchandise displayed,along the way – in particular a wonderful shop stocking local crockery which was like an Aladdin’s Cave – needless to say some euros were spent….
Having completed a little shopping spree we sought out the El Greco Museum and House in the Jewish Quarter. In fact it was not the actual house of El Greco (aka Domenikos Theotokopoulos), but a re-creation, and the separate Museum surely does hold some of his works, thanks initally, to patron of the arts, the Marquis of Vega-Inclan. It was an interesting wander through the house, cellar, gardens, and museum and after exiting to bright sunlight, we went to a nearby shady restaurant where we had a relaxed lunch.
After lunch Phil and I continued our exploration of the Jewish Quarter – and went to view the restored Synagogue El Transito and its Sephardic Museum. The Prayer Hall is impressive.
We continued our exploring after the Synagogue visit and came across the massive Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes, which we didn’t enter, but we certainly noticed the shackles on the exterior walls , symbolising the liberation of Christian prisoners after the Reconquisition.
On our return to the Parador, we decided to go back into the town to have a very nice tapas dinner. Toledo is a town full of amazing history, outstanding monuments, and I forgot to mention that apart from its famous steel, it is also famous for its Marzipan. We did enjoy it, but left feeling disappointed that we had not been able to see the much-vaunted Alcazar…