Thursday, July 18, 2024
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Day 4: Madrid to Toledo

After three very full days in Madrid, the entire group repacked and left for our next destination, Toledo,  a very historic city that was once the capital city of Spain. Typically in Europe, one will find many cities on hills, so that they may be at an advantageous position to defend against possible invasions. Toledo must be one of the most dense cities ever built on a mountain. Streets are generally no wider than the width of a car and a pedestrian or two, with many streets even narrower. This particular site was selected because it is on a mountain with a raging river on three sides of the city.  A barrier wall was built on the fourth side to protect the city.  Toledo has the unique distinction of being the only city in Spain never taken by force by an enemy, in part due to this typography.

Another fascinating fact about Toledo is that the entire city is a huge labyrinth.  There is no street in the city that has a dead-end! Once in the center of town, it is virtually impossible to negotiate to the edge of town as a foreigner.  If any enemy were to invade the city, they would have a very difficult time to get to any destination with any certainty. Couple this with the fact that the entire city is like a walker’s version of our San Francisco, this makes this city very undesirable for any foreign invader.

The city appeared to be very high in the sky as we had to take seven steep escalators up the mountain just to get relatively close to the main section of the town. Then at the top of the escalators, we still had several levels of steps to climb to get near the lowest point of the city center.

We learned that in this city of eighty-four thousand, Toledo is known for its perfect combination of Jewish, Muslims, and Christian cultures. Many buildings contain architectural elements from all three cultures. Rather than these separate cultures just tolerating each other, this community embraces all their differences.

One of the major stops on our walking tour was to see the most beloved masterpiece of the most well-known Spanish artist, El Greco, who lived in Toledo for the last thirty seven years of his life. El Greco’s home is now a museum open to the public.

After the tour we had a group lunch, where once again we tasted foods that we had never experienced. This time, we were served partridge as an appetizer in salad which was very tasty. Many were glad NOT to know what they were eating until after the fact, and after they enjoyed their meal!

We only had two hours to check in to our hotel, eat, and return for our 8 PM concert. Tonight’s concert was at a professional theatre in Toledo – Teatro de Rojas, known for the many major artists who have performed over the years in this hall. This concert was sold-out.

The sound in this hall was far superior to our previous concert, which was in a large cavernous church with an underpowered amplification system for our concert and especially our brand of music. At the end of the concert, we were met with enormous applause and appreciation. The choir and I felt very good about the overall musicianship of this concert. After the performance, at least one hundred audience members stayed behind to congratulate the choir and ask for autographs and photos. So went our second concert of this tour.

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