Holy Hot Toledo!
Trip Start Nov 13, 2010
91Trip End Jul 20, 2011
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Only a short 25 minute high speed train ride from Madrid and you are in a lovely ancient walled city with a real small town feel. I got lucky and found a brand new little hostel run by an adorable young couple - they have been open only three months and are working hard at introducing a cheaper alternative to a rather pricey town.
Most people, and now that it is high high season, come to Toledo from Madrid, just for the day. Scads of tour buses disengorge in the morning, spewing out frantic tourists into the twisty and turny tiny ancient streets. They run from museum to museum, and there are many (maybe 20 sites), checking off the El Greco paintings, the History of War, the Synagoes, the churches, ...eat some Marzipan (famous here), buy some engraved steel dipped in 24 kt gold and then carved, trinkets, get all sweaty and then head back on the bus. Toledo - check.
If that is your only alternative - do it - it is that nice. Because I have the luxury of time and am just starting to burn off the last of my days in Spain, and because I am too tired and lazy to fight the crowds and try and see Granada and Barcelona in a week, I am taking the Slow Toledo tour.
Sunday morning, being too cheap to pay the 7 Euro entrance fee to see the Cathedral, I snuck in the locals entrance to see if attending mass would get me into the main part of the church. I reconciled it with the idea that Jesus would be just happy for me to be at Mass. And I was truly rewarded with a surprising gift. OMG!!! First this cathedral is sooooo beautiful and massive massive - it is now on my top ten ....google it.....wow! No, there was more.
The mass was poorly attended - maybe 15 of us and 4 nuns, absolutely crazy in a cathedral the size of a small country.... but ohhhh, the priests!!!! Before you think creepy - there were about 14 really really old priests at the front - six on each side, dressed in white, and two guys, in fancy green frocks. The organ fired up and.......one of the old priests started to sing from the back row - you couldn't even really tell who was singing, but the sound of his voice filled the massive space and it was unbelievable. Awe inspiring unbelievably beautiful. Then the others answered his call and so it went. They probaly have been singing together for 50 or 60 years - the youngest was around 75, and they sang and sang and chanted and prayed and it was so amazing I wished I was Catholic and also wished I could understand the Spanish. The acoustics in this church, started in 1227, are beyond amazing. A couple of the guys did solos and you could tell how much they loved to sing. During the sermon I made my escape, hoping to slide out into the abyss of the massive space and wander around......luck ran out - busted by a Turkish inspired security guard. Apparently it wasn't his first day or first cheapskate and he efficiently returned me to my pew. God willing.
The memory of the sounds of the old priests harmonizing as they filled the 11th centruy masterpiece continues to make my heart soar even as I type this. The simplest joys I say, and the most unexpected.