Toledo has an amazingly rich history and every visitor leaves wanting to return. Its buildings and streets have changed very little over the centuries and you get the feeling that you have been transported back in time to a bygone era. It really is a museum in itself where the sky is the ceiling and the heavens the roof. The buildings are awe inspiring, the people friendly and you really know that you are in an oasis of something very special from the moment you enter through the old town walls. Coupled with the fact that the city has been given the title of Toledo Capital Española de la Gastronomía 2016, translated Toledo Spanish Capital of Gastronomy 2016 the town really is an amalgamation of everything we love here at Eat Play Stay Spain. Furthermore as the capital city of the region of Castila–La Mancha there is much more to tempt the visitor outside the city walls, from the vast vineyards and olive groves to walks in the countryside where a peaceful afternoon is not out of reach.
The town was granted its own arms in the 16th century, which by special royal privilege was based on the royal of arms of Spain. Toledo was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986 due to the extensive cultural and monumental heritage and historical co-existence of Christian, Muslim and Jewish cultures.
The city however has a much longer history and was mentioned by Livy, a famous Roman historian between 59BC and 17BC under its Latin name of Toletum as a urbs parva, sed loco munita translated to 'a small city, but fortified by its location’. In otherwords the surrounding terrain being the windswept battered plateau that is Castilla-La Mancha.
The city and its surrounding landscape remains a symbol of Spanish culture with its vineyards, olive plantations, sunflowers, mushrooms, windmills, of course its famous Manchego cheese, and not forgetting Don Quixote where it is thought this to be the region where Miguel de Cervantes based his famous Spanish novel.
Toledo is also known as the ‘Imperial City’ this is because the main court of King Charles I was held here. The city is also famously known as a city of ‘three cultures’ as thoughout history is has been influenced by a historical co-existence of Christians, Muslims and Jews and there is evidence of this everywhere you turn.
During Arab rule, even though Christians and Jews lived under restrictions, most of the time there was a peaceful co-existence. The three cultures also benefitted from each other and this brought about a degree of civilisation to Spain and Europe that matched that of the Roman Empire.
Alfonso VI nicknamed the Brave, El Bravo or the Valiant, was King of León from 1065, King of Castile and de facto King of Galicia from 1072. In 1085 he won the conquest of Toledo against the Arabs and proclaimed himself to be the most victorious king of Toledo as well as of Spain and Galicia ‘victoriosissimo rege in Toleto, et in Hispania et Gallecia’. Toledo became the first major city in the Christian Reconquista, a period spanning some 770 years in the history of the Iberian Peninsula, between the initial Islamic conquest of the peninsula in the 710s and the fall of the Emirate of Granada, the last Islamic state on the peninsula, to the expanding Christian kingdoms in 1492.
The Alcázar fortress in Toledo was rebuilt under the reign of Alfonzo VI and also Alfonso X and today stands as The Spanish Army Museum.
In the late seventh century, Toledo also became a main centre of literacy and writing in the Iberian peninsula. This was also influenced by Isidore of Seville, author and advocate of literacy who attended several church councils in Toledo.
Every building, everything you see in Toledo has a story. In the Jewish Quarter there are two buildings, one is a 16th Century house with a courtyard and a 20th Century extension to the building. The two buildings share a garden with the house having a courtyard. The building is now home to the El Greco museum that exhibits the many works by the man himself.
Toledo as such an historical site is a museum in itself and with such an antiquitous atmosphere it would make sense that there are numerous museums in the city such as the Museum of El Greco, the Sephardic museum, the Museum of Victorio Macho, the Museum of Santa Cruz, the Museum of the Councils and Visigoth Culture, the aforementioned Military Museum, the Hospital of Tavera and the Cathedral Museum. So if you are worried that you would be short of things to do, do not worry, you will not have enough time.
There is so much more to be said about Toledo but for now I will end letting you know that you will leave this place feeling like you have experienced something very special, that you have explored the streets of Toledo having followed the paths of Kings and Queens of times gone by and the historical importance that it holds for this very great country that is España.