Toledo and Cultural Differences

This past weekend was our first excursion with Nebrija outside of Madrid. We went to Toledo for the day! It was beautiful and ancient, with a pleasant mix of old building structures and modern interiors. Some buildings date back as far as the 8th century. Try and wrap your head around that! One thing I found interesting was that amid the Arab architecture, there is an ancient Roman road. Toledo is known as the “City of the Three Cultures” because Muslims, Christians, and Jews peacefully lived together.

A fair amount of the architecture is Arab, and dominated by horseshoe shaped doorways. It’s repeated throughout the entire city. We entered a former mosque, that then became a church, and it has conflicting architecture because the Christians added on their style of things, etc. It’s basically like HEY WE ARE CONQUERING THIS AND MAKING IT OURS. The outside of the mosque still has Arabic written on the side. It’s pretty neat.

A former mosque in Toledo

We also visited this HUMONGOUS cathedral. It’s beautiful and still in use. The cathedral has a treasure room, and for major holidays, some things are taken out and used. Baptisms occur in the bath used when it was built. It surprised me that every aspect of the cathedral is still utilized. There are TV screens throughout the cathedral for when large services are held. I found it to be an amusing mix of eras.

This is the Hai tile that marks the Jewish Quarter

After the cathedral, we visited the Jewish quarter which I was so excited to go to! The areas of the quarter are marked by tiles of the Hebrew Hai, menorahs, and the word Sephardi in Hebrew. Sephardi refers to Jews from Spain. But the synagogue we visited was SO disappointing. It was like nothing! It was a synagogue, and then was taken over and became a church, and then it became a hospital for prostitutes to repent (yes, you read that correctly. I made sure I heard right too), and then it was a warehouse for storage, and then it was left empty for many years and now it’s a museum. The synagogue is called Santa Maria la Blanca, no joke. I went to comment on the hospital for prostitutes because really, it’s like what?! and I accidentally called it a hospitute, which sounds like a real word and everyone laughed.

We had a break for lunch and went to a bakery for mazapan (marzipan). It’s a Toledo specialty and OH MY GOD is it delicious. I told Maria, our tour guide, that my stomach was happy and she laughed.

Aren’t these drool worthy?!

After the lunch break, an optional tour was given at Synagogue of El Transito. It’s a Jewish museum now, and it was so cool to see Torahs and yarmulkes and a bunch of other Jewish paraphernalia (Google had to help me spell that). It was a nice way to end the day after being disappointed by the previous synagogue/church/hospitute/warehouse.

Saturday night, we went to Kapital. It’s a famous Madrid nightclub that’s 7 stories high. Everyone who’s been to Madrid has said to go, and the study abroad advisers recommended it too! There is nothing like it and it was so much fun! Our apartment went out and we ran into other people from the program, too. It’s very easy to get lost inside. I didn’t get back until 6:30 am the next day! It’s as though time in Spain is on pause and when it feels like an hour has gone by, it’s really been 5. Guess we’re officially madrileños!

Gators do Toledo!


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