When I decided to come to Spain, my main objective was to experience life as a resident, rather than observing it with touristic distance. So, it’s funny that I should start my trip in one of the most touristy places in all of Spain.
Toledo, the former Spanish capital, is a small city atop a mountain. The city is a conglomerate of Moorish, Jewish, and Catholic architecture that embodies Spain’s rich and tumultuous past. Although there is a Jewish neighborhood, a Moorish neighborhood, and monasteries and Catholic churches scattered throughout, the influence of each religion and culture is present everywhere.
Because a law prohibits the modernization of building exteriors, walking through its narrow cobblestone streets feels like walking into the past, or it would, if it weren’t for the tourists and the cars that amble the roads in reverse anachronistic discomfort. One quickly learns to duck into a doorway or press against the side of a building to allow vehicles to squeeze past. It’s just a part of life, just as walking its steep narrow streets darting tourists and souvenir vendors is a part of life.
When I arrived at the train station, despite clouds and rain, the passengers took out their cameras and iPhones in a flurry to snap pictures of the railway building. It was only at that point that I realized what travel books mean when they say Toledo is a place that lives on tourism. Well, when among tourists, do as Spanish tourists do. Besides, the building is lovely.
Except for that one moment, I can’t say I’ve behaved like a typical tourist. I don’t eat at trendy restaurants with bilingual menus or feel the need to take a tour of the cathedral, the Army Museum, or any of the other smaller museums, with the exception of the Museo Casa El Greco and the Alcázar. I have always admired El Greco’s paintings and could not let this opportunity pass me by. And the Alcázar is a former Roman castle that now houses the regional library in its top floors. That’s were I sit as I write this. The Alcázar is a large square structure on Toledo’s highest point, and at various windows of the hallway leading to the main reading room, individual arm chairs have been placed so that one can sit and read or write while admiring the view of the city: Spectacular! The other thing that sets me apart from the average tourist, or from anyone around, is that, not owning a smart phone, I take all my pictures with my iPad.