Your first view of Toledo will take your breath away. A great brown spread of buildings on a rocky mound isolated on three sides by the looping gorge of the Rio Tajo. Every inch of this outcrop has been built upon - iglesias, synagogues, brown-roofed houses, ramparts and mosques. Most prominent are the cream-coloured spires of the catedral and the four-cornered fortress of the Alcazar looming over everything else. This is the city of the moor and the conquistador, of the church and the peasant. This is Old Spain, and a world away from the Costa resorts and their flamenco nights. If you want to experience the soul and heart of this fantastic country, come here.
To reach the city takes a strenous effort. Unless you get the bus from the station to Plaza Zocovodar a tough walk is called for at a great angle. This is the more authentic way to enter the city and one can imagine donkeys laden with baggage winding their way up the trail. It is also the quickest way from the train station, though I would not advise it to anyone who is unfit. Across from the busy Paseo is the banks of the Rio Tajo, and spanning the rocky cliffs of the gorge into the city as it has done for a thousand years is the Fuente de Alcantar. This cream coloured bridge with its high gatetower gives fantastic views of the gorge and the start of the trail into Toledo. Cars growl up steep gradients and the trail seems to go up and up until you finally spill into Museo Santa Cruz on Plaza Zocovodar.
From here the city spreads around you and the mazelike streets begin. You may have focus to your wandering, and I would suggest the Alcazar and Catedral as unmissable, but the fun is ducking into these little passageways to see where they would take you. Some of the alleys were so narrow I could touch them with outstretched hands (see photo)and every turning I took was lined with latticed brown buildings and hot cobbles. Cars have an especially rough time in Toledo. And every once in a while I would have to duck into a doorway as one would try and squeeze by. The narrow passageways showed no sign of life behind their shuttered doorways but once in a while but once in a while I could see a tiled courtyard or medieval balcony. Eventually you will blunder out onto a sight, because with every twist and turn Toledo offers something new.
I found the mezquita. Of all the peoples to inhabit Toledo the Moors were the ones who made it look the way it does today. They lived in the city until the reconquista of 1492 where they were expelled from Spain. Up to then they had been living side by side with their Christian and Jewish neighbours. The remains of the mosque could be seen, and it was still possible to see the oriental decoration and carved pillars. Then it was out onto the ramparts of the city for sweeping views of the Rio Tajo and the Castilean plain beyond. The atmosphere was so Spanish that you could almost hear the guitar strings of Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjuez" float above the rooftops. I fell in love with the place there and then.....