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Alcalá de Henares, Madrid, Spain
I recently earned my Masters in History at NWMSU and am now working as a language assistant in a Spanish elementary school.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

You Sent Me to Toledo

This week I picked up another tutoring session on Thursday afternoons. I help the fourth-grade daughter and sixth-grade son of one of the school's janitors with their homework. It's an easy job as they both speak English very well and are quite well-behaved.

Yesterday Cody, Emma, Kevin, Jacqui, Tamara, and I went to Toledo, a nearby medieval town. We took a train from the Atocha station in Madrid. From there, it was a thirty-minute ride. Toledo is located in a more mountainous region than Madrid and its center is a walled city atop a hill. It's famous for swordmaking, marzipan, and its medieval architecture. Here are some street-views:
One of the first places we went was the Iglesia de San Ildefonso, a Jesuit Catholic church with a tall belltower from which you can view the entire city. Under the church were buried four of the church members who were killed in 1936 during the siege of Toledo in the Spanish Civil War. It was a beautiful church with traditional Spanish statues (painted figures of Jesus, Mary, and various saints). Here are some pictures of the interior of the church and the view from the belltower:
This is a photo of the Catedral de Toledo from the roof:
This is the Alcazar, or old fortress, of the city:
When we left the church we walked down the street near Catedral de Toledo:
We walked to the edge of the city wall from here and looked out on the river and the houses and castles on the other side.
The town of Toledo has a long history, being a Roman city, then the capital of the Visigothic Kingdom of Spain in the early Middle Ages. During the late-Middle Ages, Toledo was a prosperous city. The Caliphate of Córdoba took control of the city and a period of peace existed between the Muslims, Jews, and Christians of the area. The city was besieged during the Christian reconquest of Spain. We wandered upon a medieval church adorned with shackles. These were the shackles of prisoners of Islamic Toledo. When the Christian forces took control of the city, they freed the prisoners because they were Christians (despite the fact that the prisoners were all thieves and murderers). The chains remain a symbol of the reconquest of Toledo.
We then went to a bridge by the river famous for being mentioned as a travel spot of Don Quixote in Cervantes' novel. The locals also have a story about this bridge, which claims the Muslims took control of the city 712AD when the governor of Al-Andalus (Muslim Spain), Abd al-Aziz ibn Musa, fell in love with Egilona, the wife of the Visigoth King Roderic. The bridge is supposedly above the location of their tryst. A jealous Roderic supposedly then went to war against the Muslims and lost. The story is actually false as the Moors invaded Toledo while Roderic was gone. Roderic was killed in battle and Abd al-Aziz ibn Musa did force Egilona to marry him several years later. Nevertheless, many plays, poems, and operas have been written recounting the mythical saga of King Roderic.

Here is a picture of our group on the bridge. Left to right: Jacqui, Tamara, Emma, Cody, and I:
We then stumbled upon the home of El Greco (Domenikos Theotocopolous) the Renaissance painter from Greece who came to Toledo in 1577 to paint a commissioned alterpiece. He fell in love with the city and remained there for the rest of his life, painting scenes of Toledo.

We went to a restaurant which was decorated like a hunting lodge and ordered a menú del día. I had ham with green beans in garlic sauce for my first course, followed by calamari for the second course, and rice with milk and cinnamon for dessert. Outside the restaurant I saw this shop with a castle in the window made from marzipan:

We spent about eight hours in Toledo and returned to Madrid. We planned on going to a Guy Fawkes celebration (a British holiday on November 5 commemorating a failed attempt to blow up Parliament) in Madrid after that, but we were all so tired that we returned to Alcalá where we met later that night for tapas at a place called El Tapón. I had a skewer of spiced beef and a sandwich of fried pork.

Today a large group of us met for our usual Sunday afternoon lunch. We went to El Baserri where I had a soup made with a broth from monkfish head with potatoes and clams for the first course, chicken in almond sauce for the second course, and lemon pudding for dessert. We ate inside this time as the weather was chilly today (60 degrees). We then went for coffee at a cafe called El Hemisferio, a cool place that has a large Universal Studios film camera from the 1920s on display. Next weekend I plan on going to Madrid and visiting the Prado art museum and the archeological museum.


  1. Those shackles are scary! What a great post Eric. Your writing makes me feel like I'm right there with you. Cute girls too!
    Love and hugs,

  2. Looks like a blast. Hope to catch you on Skype soon. It's been a while.