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Visiting surrounding

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Just a few kilometers from Madrid you find the city of Toledo.
The historical center of Toledo is found elevated on a hill, situated on a rock that is almost completely surrounded by the meandering Tagus River. The old walls of the city were raised by the Romans, although today only some of the primitive wall remains. The ones seen today are of Arabian origin reconstructed by Alfonso VI.
The path of its streets enclose an important historical-artistic legacy.
More than two millennia of history have made for an authentic cultural mixture, an urban focal point filled with evocations of Arabs and Jews.

The Romans raised a fort on the place where we find the current alcazar (fortress/palace). The Visigoths made Toledo its capital in the 6th century, a focal point of splendor in the Muslim era, prime quarters and center of the empire in Christian times.
Moors, Jews and Christians lived together in the age of al-Andalus, a state that endured to the times of the Christian Conquest and culminated under the reign of Alfonso X.

Although the harassment and the persecutions of the Moors and Jews ended in such a state of bliss, its mark still lives on.
The impact that this mix of cultures had on this city's development was not understood until much later.

The legacy that this mix of cultures left has turned it into a Patrimony of Humanity of today.

Where to go  

From Madrid it's easy to get to Toledo by train, bus or car, and, once there, the best thing to do is tour the city on foot.

In order to really see the main places of interest, you will need at least two days. Our recommendation is to visit the city mid-week, that way you can avoid the large crowds that make their way there on the weekends. It will also allow you to enjoy the city by night or simply give you the chance to take a pleasant nighttime stroll.

Your visit to the city can start from any of the doorways of the city wall. You can enter from the 16th C. Renaissance Puerta de Cambró; The Puerta de la Bisagra, of Muslim origin but reconstructed in 1550 in a Plateresque style, and the main entrance to the city and location of the 12th C. Medieval neighborhoods; or, if you like, the 13th C. Mudejar Puerta del Sol.

Without going too far into the city, you encounter the first stop, La Ermita del Cristo de la Luz (Hermitage of Christ of Light), a small Arabian mosque that dates back to 1000 A.D. Although today it is not possible to go inside, it deserves a look from the outside, as it is a good example of Islamic art from the Califate era.

Our next stop takes us to the Iglesia de San Román, which houses a museum relating to the Visigoth past of the city. Right beside it, you find the Iglesia de Santo Tomé, where you can admire El entierro del Conde Orgaz (the burial of Count Orgaz), one of El Greco's masterpieces and perhaps the largest painting of 16th. century Spain. (Mr. Orgaz was an important art patron of the church and financed a large part of the building. The painting represents the miraculous apparition of San Agustín and San Estebán at his burial.)

Without having to travel too much, we find the Synagogue of Santa Maria la Blanca, the biggest and oldest of the eight synagogues of the city. Nothing about its outside would make you suspect the extraordinary beauty that it holds within. Formed by five white naves separated by horseshoe arches that rest on pillars with beautiful Classic spires, this is a clear example of almohade art in Spain.

The other synagogue which has resisted the passing of time is the Sinagoga del Transito, the most splendid display of Toledan Mudejar art. It was built in 1357 by Samuel Ha-Leví, Jewish treasurer of Pedro el Cruel. The Casa-Museo del Greco is just to its side.

Another important structure is the Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes, its construction begain in 1447 to commemorate the triumph of the Catholic Kings (Ferdindand and Isabel) in the battle of Toro, which had taken place one year earlier.
Combining flamboyant Gothic structures with Mudejar roofing and ornamentation, the gardened plaza that lies before the monastery is a lovely vista point over the Tagus and the country houses with orchards (cigarrales) so typical of Toledo.

El Taller del Moro, a Mudejar palace, is an old workshop for the craftsmen who built the cathedral. Today it is a museum of Arabian and Mudejar ceramics and tiles.

The route now takes us to the Cathedral, for many, the most beautiful monument in today's Toledo. Built on the location of a Visigoth cathedral and a mosque, this cathedral is one of the largest in Christianity. The Gothic altarpiece, the work of several artists, grazes perfection.

Its dimensions are spectacular, the richness of its naves and chapels is simply awe-inspiring.

The Cathedral is a reflection of its history as a spiritual heart and principal quarters of the Spanish Church. Today it still holds Muslim masses, with permission from the Pope.

Construction started in 1226 and lasted three centuries until the completion of the last vaults in 1493.

This long period of construction explains the fusion of styles: pure French Gothic on the exterior and different Spanish ornamentation- such as Mudéjar and Plateresque- on the inside.

Once inside, of special interest are:
El Campanario/ The belfry
La puerta del Mollete
La Custodia/ The Tabernacle
La capilla Mozárabe/ The Muslim chapel
La puerta del Perdón/ The door of Forgiveness
La puerta de los Leones/ The door of Lions
La capilla de San Ildefonso/ Chapel

Finally, to end this visit, we recommend going to the Alcázar, a fortress-palace that was ordered to be constructed by Emperor Carlos V in 1535 and which was erected on the site where once stood the old Roman, Visigoth and Muslim forts.

The Alcazar presents a severe rectangular-squared profile. It suffered the effects of fire on three occasions before being almost totally destroyed in 1936.

Under the dictatorship of General Franco it was converted into a symbol of military heroism.

In the center of the Renaissance patio, there stands an interesting statue of Emperor Carlos V standing over an infidel.

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