Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Toledo: castles, underground tunnels, and a terrible steak

European students are incredibly lucky to have Erasmus, a scholarship/grant which pays for them to study abroad in another EU country. It's really common as well, and stemming from that commonality is a network of Erasmus students, called, surprisingly, Erasmus Student Network. It's really prominent in universities in Madrid, and I have been to several of the event hosted by the Carlos III ESN (as well as hijacking one hosted by another university ...)

A few Sundays ago, I went to Toledo with the Carlos III ESN. 9am on a Sunday morning is very early to meet, especially as I was still staying at a backpackers which was very loud that night! Only to be expected.

Unlike Madrid, which is flat (especially for a Wellingtonian), Toledo is very steep and hilly. The cobbled streets and narrow alleyways slope upwards or downwards, and around a series of hills. A river runs along the side of the city and you can walk on an ancient bridge.

The first photo opportunity in Toledo
One of the world's oldest cathedrals

This cat was just happily basking in the sun

Taken from one of the old bridges

Lowlight of the trip was getting served a very underwhelming meal at a very slow restaurant.

Highlight of the trip was when we were just strolling around and an old man came out of his house and spontaneously gave us a tour of the underground tunnels, where the Jewish people hid out during the inquisition. (NB, historical information may not be entirely accurate). Of course, not being a planned tour, we were a bit skeptical of his motives at first. Especially when we went through barred doors which could be locked from the outside. But out of respect for him, we tried not to voice our anxiety and instead listened intently to his stories. He inherited the house from his father, who had started restoring it and all the underground work. One part of the house had a 5 metre deep tunnel! It was an amazing piece of history. And this secret little tour was also completely free.

The Jewish Quarter

One of the underground sections

The really deep tunnel

Telling his stories

Another highlight was making our way up to a playground with a spectacular view and cute kids. One of the boys (approx 4 yrs old) exclaimed 'we're in paradise!' when he got to see the view.

That's a castle

In sum - good trip, historical, interesting.

The busses left from the bottom of the hill. But we didn't need to walk down - instead there was a series of elevators going down the side of the city. Very unique for a kiwi who isn't afraid of walking up and down a bit of hill!

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