Holy Toledo!

March 22, 2018

(No, not that Toledo, but would it be eternal Damnation if I admitted to craving Tony Packos?)

The 10:20 to…well

   I was not trying to be cute or trite with the title. It would not be an uncommon reaction to your first glimpse of this almost golden city on a hill. Here is what Michener had to say about it:

   “The city of Toledo, a bejeweled museum set within walls, is a glorious monument and the spiritual capital of Spain; but it is also Spanish tourism at its worst. Anyone who remains in this city overnight is out of his mind,…”

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   That sounds like July and August to me. But this was March. And I was not staying overnight. In my case, though, one good look at the hill Toledo was set atop, and following my own more or less unprintable expression of awe, I quickly decided to ride rather than walk. I  boarded the first tour bus parked outside the train station.

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   The station itself was something to gawk at. With its stained glass windows, I thought it might have been reimagined from a church. It had not, but had been designed with a church in mind.

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   Toledo’s most breathaking views are best viewed from the bus. The audio narration that accompanied the tour was informative without being useful in any meaningful way. The background music in between the spoken.  revelations of arches, bridges, and churches (that I saw with my own eyes) was haunting. It sounded like what you’d hear in a high-class porn flick (so I’ve been told).

   I hopped off the bus at the bullring, noticing I was the only tourist aboard. I cut the narration some slack, knowing now my tour had been a private one. An hour later, though, I still couldn’t get that background music out of my head.

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   The bullring, or Plaza de Toros, was empty, but the main gate was open, so I wandered in. Thanks to Hemingway, I knew what I was looking at. The protective wooden wall I stood behind at the floor of the ring is the barrera, the circular aisle I was standing in is called the callejon. This is where the bull ring service staff, food vendors and security stand helpfully in attendance. It is also where I, were I a matador, would have spent the entire bullfight.

   Yet as I stood there level with the ring, I got a sudden, overpowering feeling for the energy, drama, tragedy and PETA outrage that would fill the corrida on fight day. Hemingway saw bullfighting as a tragedy and not a sport. He would, wouldn’t he?

   A very unusual event, for me anyway, occurred on the train back to Madrid. I slept. Not nodded off, dozed or faded for a moment. Slept. The sleep of the righteous.  Now mind you, it was only thirty minutes, but I did not recall leaving the Toledo station, and when I did awaken in Madrid, I was practically the last passenger on board. So this is what its like to feel rested. There was a bounce in my step all the way back to my apartment, and a trilling melody played in my head.

   It was that dang background music from the bus again.


  1. Florian Gohn says:

    Reid, I love your writing. I just now realize that you are also an inspired photographer.

  2. Bonnie Cramond says:

    I love your enthusiasm for this beautiful city, but you didn’t even mention the El Grecos!

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