What a difference a day makes. Whereas it was pouring yesterday, the sun is brilliant this morning as I walk to the Atocha train station to catch my ride to Toledo:
You can buy tickets online well ahead of time as some routes do sell out quickly, especially during high season and if you do not get a pre-assigned seat, but at this moment the station is only mildly busy…
because most people have already caught the earlier trains. Me? This is as early as I can get there after a late night…
You could very easily take the bus to Toledo from Madrid, but depending on traffic that might take up to 1.5 hours. If you don’t get motion sickness, sometimes a bus ride is the best way to see a new city. On the incredibly efficient, highspeed AVE (Alta Velocidad EspaÃ±ola) train system, which is RENFE’s (Red Nacional de los Ferrocarriles EspaÃ±oles) new network connecting Madrid to Seville and now Barcelona, however, you will get there in 30 minutes. The train, even in coach class, is extremely clean and comfortable. It costs at least twice as much to travel by train than bus but convenience always comes with a price.
Before I can finish deciphering an article in the local Spanish paper about fashion for the upcoming award season (I find it funny that I can’t escape Hollywood even here in Madrid), Toledo is already in sight:
I’ve wanted to visit Toledo for a very long time, for 3 reasons: El Greco, Don Quixote, and la convivencia. Well, OK, maybe 4 reasons: marzipan. More about food in another entry.
La convivencia refers to the co-existence of the Catholics, Jews, and Muslims in certain towns of Spain where religous tolerance yields to multicultural exchanges. Toledo, in its golden age when it was once the capital of Spain, epitomized this philosophy of acceptance, and its remaining beautiful architecture is a historical manifestation of such interplay of religions and cultures. This magical city high on a steep hill is truly one built for the ages.
As the passengers disembark, the Toledo Train Station–a stunning Neomudejar-style building–greets us in all its Moorish splendor. The tourists, myself included, are in a tizzy. Holy Toledo, Batman! This place is gorgeous!
But it’s the historic city center that I’m here to see, and it’s up the hill. There are doubledecker tourist buses that wait outside as the trains arrive but I’ve just missed them because I’m too busy taking pictures. But no worries, there are about 3 other city buses that I can take. Let’s meet there tomorrow: