Photos and story by Dana Bohince
Your sense of time may disappear as you walk through the city of Toledo, Spain.
Point Park University students experienced this first hand on a trip to the medieval town. With it being a short trip from Madrid, Toledo proved to be an interesting and valuable day trip for them. They learned that the old location, which is now a popular destination for tourists, had been important in Spain for centuries. After all, it has been inhabited for 3,000 years.
Toledo entered into history with the Romans. They came to Toledo in the third century B.C. It was a Roman city for 700 years. After the fall of the Roman Empire, Moors from Northern Africa captured most of the Iberian Peninsula. They took rule of Toledo, although Christians and Jews still remained in the city and co-existed with the Muslims.
Eventually, Alfonso VI of Castile took control of Toledo with Christian forces. The cultural and historical heritage was preserved even with an economic decline in the once flourishing city. Because of its rich history and culture, Toledo was named a UNESCO world heritage site in 1986.
Layers of civilization literally emit from the land. The entire visible city is built over older remains.
When first driving up, visitors will see the city set on a hill surrounded by the Tagus River, making it a natural fortress. The river runs the whole way around the city, like a moat, making it an excellent place for people to live throughout its historic times. Not only does it surround the city, but also it is the longest river on the Iberian Peninsula.
“If you get lost in Toledo today, take a boat on the river and you’ll be in Lisbon in five days,” Mauricio Macarron Larumbe, the group’s Spanish tour guide, said.
The precipitously steep slopes give the town a sense of protection and seclusion from the rest of the area. A massive cluster of old walls, stony bridges, and beige facades and rooftops can be seen. The large cathedral and castle are easy to be picked out on the landscape. The ruins of an Arab bath remain near the steadily flowing river.
“The only way to see Toledo is from the outside,” Macarron said.
The houses and buildings are packed so tightly together that roads can barely be made out.
As visitors start walking through the winding, cobblestone and sometimes-steep streets, they will feel the timeless atmosphere the town has to offer. It also has a calm ambience. The narrow streets are quiet as many birds circle above chirping songs.
Besides its pretty scenery and prominent history, Toledo is famous because of the many crafts produced within the walls of the city. Steel swords, daggers, damascene and jewelry are all favored crafts and popular souvenirs. Shops around town sell marzipan confections, a popular treat for citizens and visitors alike. Students got the chance to see live demonstrations of the sword and damascene crafts. They tried marzipan, walked through the streets and toured the gothic cathedral, named Primate Cathedral of Saint Mary.
“I was taken aback by the beautiful cathedral we visited in the town,” Alicia Green, junior journalism major, said. “I couldn’t believe how huge it was inside and all the detail.”
“My favorite part of the church was definitely the stained glass. I felt like those told little stories to create an overall picture,” Green said.
The cathedral also houses a popular painting by famous Spanish Renaissance painter El Greco who lived in Toledo. The masterpiece, titled “The Disrobing of Christ,” hangs in the high altar.
The many alluring establishments and historical and cultural diversity of Toledo make it the gem that it is.