Monday, 11 April 2011

Toledo, Spain

I decided to take a day-trip to Toledo.

The great thing about Madrid is it´s proximity to a lot of fascinating Spanish cities like Toledo, Segovia and Valencia. 

When sister #2 was an undergrad majoring in Spanish and Journalism, she studied for two semesters in Toledo and all I ever heard for six months was ¨Rave, Rave, Rave, Rave, Rave.¨  So, I decided to visit Toledo myself to see what all the hype was about.

The Old City of Toledo is on a hill, surrounded by the Rio (River) Taja and walled-in.

Toledo was once the capital of Spain, and today it´s Spain´s spiritual center. 

There is a military fort called El Alcazar in Toledo which is supposedly quite impressive.  But there is an eight euro admission fee and since I´ve morphed into an enormous cheapskate ever since I landed in Europe, I decided to forgo the fort in lieu of the spiritual sites (many of which, incidentally, also charge an admission can´t win).

A wedding reception taking place in a plaza outside of the Cathedral of Toledo.

An interior view of the Cathedral. 

I was thinking yesterday about how interesting it is that no matter where I am in the world, I always seem to gravitate toward places of worship.  I see irony in the fact that I seek out Catholic churches first. 

Monasterio San Juan de Los Reyes.

Irony because I renounced Catholicism long ago.  Irony because after years of clawing my eyes out in boredom during Catholic mass, I realized that this was clearly not my path.  Irony because I believe that religious fundamentalism is one of the biggest threats to the survival of the human race.  Irony because some of the most hypocritical people I´ve ever met in my life call themselves ¨religious¨and practice acts of intolerance in the name of religion. 

But, yet, I go back there.  Because I´ve also met genuinely good people that call themelves ¨religious.¨  And because I now believe that many paths can lead to the same destination.  And for me Catholicism was the beginning of the ¨path.¨ It´s where it all began. 

It´s where my spiritual life originated.  And for some reason, even after all these years, the familiarity of a Catholic church in a foreign country is oddly comforting.

Iglesia de Santa Tome.

Not only did I appreciate Toledo´s spiritual side, but Toledo also made me appreciate Spain. 

I´d say that after traveling in India first and then in Israel, Jordan and Egypt (countries which, I think you´d agree, are more different from America than western Europe), I didn´t have that same sense of childlike wonder upon my arrival. 

I got lost in the maze of narrow, cobblestone streets.  But isn´t it crazy how getting lost always result in the best photo ops?

But in Toledo, I saw the warm hearts of the Spanish people.  I saw a newly married, middle-aged couple emerge from a church and dance in a plaza with complete abandon, while their wedding party cheered. 

In Toledo, I started to see why Spain deserved my love.  I started to see why Spain is so loveable. 

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