Monday, December 12, 2005

Stuck in Toledo, lose a turn

In the board game Monopoly, the worst card to pick reads, “go directly to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200.” In the MAD board game (Alfred E Newman) the equivalent states, “you’re stuck in a bus station in Toledo Ohio, lose one turn.” Since my early experiences playing that game, Toledo has always seemed to be the butt of some joke. However, if you come to Spain, you learn that Toledo is also the name of a historically significant medieval city! Everyone MUST go!

On Thursday, immaculate conception day (no school), at 11:00, I met Landon and Ingeborg at the Atocha station, with the intention to spend the day in Toledo. We originally thought we would take the bus, because it costs 4 euros less than a train, but we had all been out late the night before, we were already at the train station, and we agreed that a train ride would be easier on our slightly “less than settled” stomachs. There was a 12:20 train. We stood in the long queue to buy train tickets, but alas, when we got to the counter, we noticed the sign flashing “completo” aka sold out. We could have bought tickets for the 1:30, but that just seemed too late, so we decided to go to the bus station. We headed for the subway.

20 minutes later we arrived and faced an even longer queue. However, when we asked at the information booth, the fellow directed us to the short line, and we quickly bought tickets for the 1:00 bus, hopped on and settled in for the ride. About half way through, Inge asked if she could go to the front. . . she wasn’t feeling well. She went. As we pulled into the bus station, Inge leapt from the bus. As Landon and I stepped off, poor Inge was stooped over, losing her lunch in the next bus berth. Welcome to the Toledo bus station!

After 15 minutes and 2 litres of cold water, Inge felt better, but expressed concern about returning to Madrid by bus. We decided to find the train station immediately and buy return tickets to Madrid. So instead of heading into the city centre, we walked around the city wall, over the Rio Tajo, to find the train station. Though it was a beautiful station filled with Islamic arches, again, after waiting in line, the flashing sign for the 3 trains in the early evening read again “completo.” OY, after all that walking and waiting, we would still have to take the bus home!

We walked back over the Rio Tajo and around the city wall again, and back to the bus station. Finally we secured tickets for the 6:30 bus, and we all said a little prayer for Inge.

Now it was 2:30. We hiked up the side of the city (it’s very hilly) and wound our way through the curvy streets to the cathedral, and what do ya know? another long line to buy tickets! However, we soon discovered that you could skip the line and go to a little holding pen where tourists who are too cheap to pay can look for free. I would have paid, but I didn’t want to wait in another line. Then we walked around the pheriphery of the catherdral which is massive and amazing and all sorts of other descriptive adjectives,

and then headed toward the Jewish quarter. Toledo is notable because of it’s importance in the Iberian penisula. First it was a roman city, then an Islamic city, then a Christian city, but there was a time, just before the inquisition, in the15th century when all different religions flourished and lived and studied together harmoniously. Oh joyous diversity!

Anyway, It was about 4:00, and Inge wanted some food so we stopped before we hit the Jewish quarter and we went to lunch. Landon and I split warm pisto (which is ground peppers, onions and tomatoes) and the typical tortilla Espanola. Inge had the congejo, (rabbit that Carolyn meant to order the other night!) they charged extra for bread.

It was 5:00, we had 1 1/2 hours left. We headed past the numerous sword dealers and dulce peddlers, into the narrow crowded streets of the Jewish quarter. We followed the signs to the 2 remaining synagogues, and stopped at the one that the lonely planet claims “should not be missed.” Honestly, I didn’t agree. Sure there was some Hebrew lettering and a few interesting windows, but mostly it’s a museum that tells the story of the sefardic Jews ancient history in Spain. I was talking with my intercambio friend Paco who explained to me that when Spanish people think of jews, they think of them as ancienct biblical people that lived long ago, not a current culture that thrives in other parts of the world. This museum certainly seemed to jibe with his observation. It was all ancient history. Supposedly, the other synangogue is not a museum, I didn’t get too see it though.

So it was approaching 6, and we needed to be back at the bus station before 6:30. On the way to the city gates, we passed San Juan de los Reyes, a franciscian monastery and church that looked massive and interesting from the outside. . . however it was closing, and even though we tried walking in through the exit, they wouldn’t let us in.

We hurried back to the bus station and found our seats just in time. Inge sat in the front, and we all arrived back in Madrid, safely, without sickness, at 7:30. I met Maria Jesus and Maria for dinner at 9:30 on the calle Cava Baja, a curvy little street in la Latina, filled with yummy restaurants. We had couscous, seared tuna over apple sauce and chicken racions with caramelized onions and corn mousse. Very nice. Then we walked toward the Palacio Real and they took me to the orient café for a coffee and dessert.

I was home by midnight, and I started packing.


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