If one thing should be understood about Spain, it’s “Spanish Time.” Everyone goes slow and starts late. Wake up and have breakfast in the late morning. Lunch between two and three in the afternoon. Sleep for a few hours. Dinner between nine and ten in the evening. Anyone who’s inclined to go out at night would be lucky to find anything before two or three in the morning. This is the natural order of things in Spain and, after nearly two weeks here, it’s become our natural order as well. So, the day was pretty much doomed to be a tough one from the moment my phone alarm started buzzing before it was even six in the morning.
We emerged from our rooms, bleary eyed and carting our heavy suitcases behind us. In some cases (including mine), we downed as much coffee as we could. The sun was only beginning to peek out from behind the horizon as we loaded onto the bus that would take us to the station.
We arrived in Toledo at one o’clock after five long hours of travelling on train and bus (it felt like far longer than that) from Seville via Madrid. That left us three hours to kill before our tour scheduled for today. The need for food ultimately trumped the need for sleep, so we hesitantly stepped into the burning sun of Toledo and discovered a terrible thing.
I had been hoping we had left them behind in Granada. Alas, it was not to be.
On the bright side, I am really beginning to develop some considerable calf muscle.
In all fairness, however, Toledo is a beautiful city. It didn’t look much like anything we had seen before. It had once been a bustling city on the Iberian Peninsula and the capital of Spain under Ferdinand and Isabel due to its advantageous position on the bank of a river. But, when the capital was moved to Madrid, Toledo became frozen in time. Everyone moved away to the new center of Spain, and Toledo was left to sleep in stasis until tourism woke it back up again.
For our three hour tour (it felt like far longer than that), we hit the Gothic-style cathedral first. It is not the most impressive cathedral out there. Even our tour guide was less than impressed with its design, and he made it known, pointing out the imbalance between the towers and the way the choir blocked the view of the main altar.
Still, walking into any cathedral, you have to stop and think about how this would have looked to the average person when they walked in on some Sunday morning more than half of a millennium ago. The ceilings would have been so high above them, music would have been bursting out of the organs, light would have been entering brightly from the east: it would have truly felt like the House of God. It was a building three hundred years in the making. It took longer to finish this cathedral than the United States has been an independent country. With all that in mind, despite its imperfections, it’s still pretty impressive.
It also helps to put my aching feet into perspective. At least I’m not the one hauling stone up to build the cathedral ceilings. And three hours is nowhere near as long as three hundred years, no matter what it felt like.
Our other main stop was at the mosque. Like the one we saw in Córdoba, it had once been a Visigoth church, abandoned and converted into a mosque when the Muslims took over the city from the Germanic tribe, and then converted back into a church when the Christians from the North stormed through on their “Reconquista.” The fact that it had ever been a mosque had been lost to the ages until Arabic writing was rediscovered on its front. Although that may seem ridiculous to us now, when you look around Toledo, you often cannot tell a mosque from a church from a synagogue until you see the sign (with the exception of the Gothic cathedral, of course). Those who worshipped in this chapel would have had no inkling that it used to be a mosque. It had been a forgotten place inside of a forgotten city for years.
To try and wrap your head around such things is difficult under the beating sun, twelve hours and some change after opening your eyes.
After the tour, we grab a quick dinner at seven o’ clock. It’s way early, but we’re starved, and all we really want to do is crawl into bed and pass out until tomorrow. My penultimate day in the south of Spain ends at ten-thirty at night. My eyes close and I am gone instantly. That was the only thing that day that didn’t take forever.
Emma Paquette, Communications