For me, Easter break began at 7:00 p.m. on the 11th. After a car ride to Madrid filled with conversation about Morocco and a stay in a super cheap hostel, I made my way to the Toledo bus station. Not to be confused with the bus station I go to to get to Soria OR the main bus station.
There, I discovered that A) they don't sell buses for particular times/seats, which was perfect for me because I didn't know what time I'd want to leave and B) the discount for buying a return ticket only applies if you're returning the same day. Lame.
But the 2 extra euros were totally worth the extra time in the city.
I set out with the intention of buying my pass at one of the further sites. Somehow, I ended up going in completely the wrong direction, despite having a map, and ended up at the other end of the city. So I bought my pass, really one of those stick-on paper bracelets, at the Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes. It felt weirdly validating to wave my braceleted wrist and pass up the ticket booths at each of the monuments.
[Side note: I tried to keep the bracelet as a souvenir but ended up losing it. That's a story for later though.]
This monastery was smaller than others I've visited but absolutely beautiful inside. It was founded by los Reyes Catolicos [Isabel and Ferdinand] after they won some big battle...clearly my knowledge of Spanish history is still quite incomplete. However, I do know that Queen Isabel was a big fan of this particular St. John.
I walked a block down the street to reach the Synagogue of Santa Maria la Blanca. The Santa Maria part of the name comes from the Christians taking it over after they kicked the Jews out of Spain. It was the main synagogue when it was built in the 12th Century and was my first introduction to the beautiful arches that would appear in so many other buildings in Toledo [and later Cordoba].
I was planning on going to Santo Tome next, but being an El Greco site and this being the 400th anniversary of something El Greco related, there was a super long line. So I skipped it for the time being and went to the El Salvador Church instead. Reading my tourist bracelet pamphlet, this was originally a mosque from the 9th Century but in 1159 it was Christianized. In further Isabel and Ferdinand connections, their daughter Juana was baptized here.
Continuing down the road, I found the San Ildefonso Church, also known as the Church of the Jesuits. It's the newest building; they only started building in 1569, although it was apparently not finished until 1765. I lovedlovedloved this church. After seeing so many in all the different styles, I'm a little desensitized to how awesomely beautiful they are, but for whatever reason, this one brought back that feeling. Plus I got to go up into the tower for some amazing views of the city.
I was really looking for somewhere to eat, but being notoriously indecisive, I managed to wander over to the next site without stopping. The Cristo de la Luz Mosque, like the Synagogue, was reconsecrated by the Christians, but I think it happened a lot earlier. There was a legend that the Queen, when entering Toledo after it was conquered [so like, 12th Century], felt a wind almost knock her off her horse as she passed by the mosque, so she insisted it become a Christian church.
At that point, I'm pretty sure I gave in to my growling stomach and found somewhere to eat. And then I toughed it out in the line for the Santo Tome Church. Which as it turns out, was just there because people were crowded into a small space to see El Entierro del Senor de Orgaz, the El Greco painting in the church. And when I say people, I mostly mean tour groups that stood and talked about it for-freaking-ever and made it difficult to get up close and see. So I spent a few minutes marveling at the actual church before pushing my way to the front of the crowd to look at the painting.
Then, because I had time and things are on their summer schedules and therefore open later, I went to two museum. For free!
I started at the El Greco Museum. It's housed in an old house that was built by a Jewish treasurer or court official or something like that in the 1400s. A couple hundred years later, some rich guy bought it because El Greco lived there at some point and restored it to create this museum. I didn't end up getting to the Santa Cruz museum [the bigger El Greco museum] so I'm glad I got to see this one, because those paintings are incredible to see in person.
Plus the rose garden smelled wonderful.
After that, I headed across the street to visit the Sephardic Museum (in the former Synagogue El Transito). It consisted of the main worship room - are they called sanctuaries if they're Jewish? - a rememberance garden, and a few galleries with historical objects, including the Women's Section that looks over the main...sanctuary.
I took a lovely walk across the San Martin bridge and saw the panoramic photo spot, but decided it was too far and I'd had enough walking. I admired my view until it got too cold and windy, so I bought myself a Nestea and headed back to my hostel. Mmmmm Nestea.