One of the risks about traveling to any country in the “off-season” is that you might encounter unseasonal weather. For instance, going to Japan in the off-season and one is likely to encounter rainy days or going to Iceland in the “off-season” and one is likely to experience hail, rain, sleet with some sun in between – it is the still the only country, I have been to where I have seen the 4 seasons in one day.
Toledo in the “off-season” is not the greatest event in the world, if the weather is bad since touring Toledo requires a lot of uphill walking, which is great for aerobic exercise and health, but when one is battling windy conditions and some snow then walking uphill in rain is not the greatest idea in the world, although where can you see orange trees in the snow.
Bad weather aside, going in the “off-season” is a good idea, since a day trip to Toledo is included in the itinerary of most holidaymakers in Madrid, so inevitably the streets and monuments are often packed with national and international tourists. Avoiding the crowds is enough of an incentive for me to visit Toledo mid-week during a low-season month. The city has a long tradition of catering for tourists and has tons of hotels and restaurants, as well as the inevitable gift and souvenir shops spilling out onto the streets.
During the 13th century Toledo became one of the few places in Spain where Moors, Christians and Jews managed to live together and tolerate eachother more or less peacefully and because of this, one can experience religious and architectural overload, as the town has mosques, synagogues and churches. This mix of religious structures and history is one of the city’s unique characteristics.
As for me, after taking the bus uphill from the station (it is possible to walk up to the town from the bus station, on a clear sunny day and if you’re in excellent cardiac health – otherwise spend €0.90 and take the bus), I got off at the main square (which is fraught with tourist shops and an excellent tourist center) and got a map and it was off to the Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes. If you read the tourist paraphernalia, it will mention that is a well known example of Gothic architecture.
I was more fascinated by the orange trees in the snow, how quiet and lovely the silence was and by this creepy moulding.
As for the monastery/church itself, I thought was just average. When one is “churched-out”, which is the phenomenon of seeing too many cathedrals in your life to be overwhelmed by them anymore, they all seem to blend into each other.
After the church, it was on to the Sinagogue of Saint María la Blanca. One of my pet peeves with Toledo was the €1.90 – €2.30 fee that you got tagged with, to see every church, synagogue and temple. I know they have to make money to maintain these beautiful places, but it still irks me.
I could keep writing about the other synagogues, the Cathedral and the panoramic views from the bell tower, but in the end, it was a cold and miserable day.
After all the religion, all I could think about was some hot paella and tea. If you’re wondering what Toledo looks like in the winter or the off-season … look no further!
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Headed up to Toledo : 15th February 2010