The iconic picture of Toledo is a medina-like city with Alcazar and Cathedral punctuating the skyline, resting on a massive rock surrounded by the Rio Tajo. But for me, my instinctive memory of Toledo will always be a small group of tourists stood on a street corner, staring down with a confused look at the city map in their hands. Accurate navigation is nigh impossible.
Wandering around the labyrinth of narrow medieval streets and alleyways of Toledo is great fun. You spend a lot of time confused and lost, backtracking up and down steep steps, and studying maps, but this unpredictable journey always seemed to bring unexpected pleasures.
For example, one early evening we decided to try to find a wine bar recommended in the tourist information. After half an hour wandering around where the map said it would be, we gave up and headed back in the general direction of town. Taking the inevitable wrong turn, we were suddenly confronted by the completely anachronistic Livingston Bar. Strewn with pictures and memorabilia from colonial times in South Africa, the place was an eccentric delight. A decent wine list to explore, tasty free tapas and friendly bar staff – we even came back, deliberately, the next night. In fact the bar was about 250m from out hotel, and very near two excellent restaurants where we tapas-ed and dined.
The more predictable sights were as rewarding as expected. The stunning cathedral, with its chapels stuffed with El Greco’s, some amazing frescoes, and the odd little painting by some folks like Raphael. The (relocated) El Greco museum, the rebuilt synagogue, the charming little squares and dramatic views around every corner. (pics here) But most of all, Toledo’s charm lay in just wandering around a town that cast your mind back centuries, imagining what life must have been like, and what historic events had taken place in this maze-like town.