Toledo, Spain – January 18, 2010
Today is Martin Luther King Day, so I had the day off. However, the kids had school. Leslie and I decided to drive back to Toledo, just the two of us. When we arrived we went to a small cafe to have a pastry and some coffee. While we were there we looked at our travel book on Spain to decide what we wanted to do. We decided we wanted to see the Museo de Santa Cruz (Holy Cross Museum).
We left the cafe and tried to go through one of the city gates. The police blocked our way and would not let us through. So we went around the block and tried to go down another street. The police had that blocked too. We went around another block and were finally able to get to the museum. We have no idea what was going on.
One of the things that really surprised me was that the museum entry was free! That quickly made it one of my favorite museums! Construction on the building began in 1494 as a hospital. The completion of the building occurred in 1514. We walked around the courtyard in the interior of the museum. In that space were many statuary, tombs, tombstones, and Roman era columns on display. These items had all been unearthed or found in and around the Toledo area.
On the second floor of the museum is a permanent display of various tiles and pottery from the area. Many of those items date from the 1500s. The first portion of that area of the museum is situated along the southern wall of the museum, the one that faces the Alcázar. There are several windows in the museum that have iron grills covering them. As I was looking out one of the windows toward the Alcázar on top of the hill, I noticed there were some bullet holes in the iron grills. After asking one of the guards, I discovered those were remnants from a pitched battle during the Spanish Civil War (1936 – 1939). Later, when we emerged from the museum, I walked along the southern side of the museum. Looking at the windows one could easily see all of the bullet marks in the stone surrounding the windows.
After leaving the tile and pottery area, we walked upstairs to the upper gallery. That is where they display some of their permanent collection, which is why we had wanted to go to this museum. They have several El Greco paintings on display, including the Immaculate Conception (1613). It is just amazing to me to see such spectacular and famous works of art.
The lower level of the museum has rotating exhibits. So one never knows what will be there to view.
Departing the museum, we made our way to the tourist information center on the Plaza Zocodover. There we picked up a map of Toledo. We used that map to navigate to the Puerta del Sol (Sun Gate). This is one of the most famous gates of the city.
We then began exploring many of the small, winding streets. On one such street, Calle Alfonso X, El Sabio, 2/Local 2, we walked into a shop named Artesania. As we entered we found ourselves standing on a very thick piece of glass. Through the glass, under our feet, we could see an old Roman cistern. In this shop, they made various articles in which they inlaid gold and silver. This artistry is known as Damascene. Leslie bought a beautiful bracelet there.
The lady that owned the shop spent a lot of time with us. She spoke English very well. She showed Leslie jewelry, plates, pottery, ceramic bulls, bookmarks, etc. It was all very beautiful. In addition, it was all hand made. We were able to watch the Damascene artisan as he was inlaying several crosses. Leslie talked him into making a special ring. Leslie asked her if she wanted us to pay for it now. She said no, she would call or e-mail us when it was ready. She also told us some background stories about Don Quixote. She was one of the nicest people we have met in Spain.
Part of what she shared with us was that the cistern was at one end of an old Roman bath. She directed us around the block, behind her store. Sure enough, there was a very non-descript entry with stairs that led down to the Roman bath. It was free. It was interesting to see that.
The owner had also given us two tickets to enter the Iglesia de los Jesuistas at a discounted price. We did go to the church. We have been to a lot of churches since we arrived in Spain. This was one of the most beautiful in my opinion. As part of the tour, we were allowed to go up into the bell towers. What a panoramic view there was!
When we left the church we were hungry. We stumbled upon a Chinese restaurant and decided to have lunch there. It was very good, but we thought it was ironic that we were not having Spanish food. However, we have both decided we really do not care for Spanish food.
After lunch, we found a candy store and bought some chocolate. Nearby we found a small knife shop. I did a lot of looking and finally bought a pocket knife. The steel is one of the things for which Toledo is very well known.
From there we walked back to the 4Runner and drove home. We arrived home about 30 minutes after the kids got home from school.