Day 8: The Land of Quixote and Toledo

Alas, Saturday, the 12th, was our last day for exploring in Madrid. We checked out of our hotel and walked to the metro with our bags. Two metro rides later and a 3 1/2 block walk, we arrived at the Hertz Rental Car facility where our small Toyota awaited. Unfortunately, they had no GPS available — and they had no maps! What kind of Hertz dealership was this! They assured me that any gas station would have a good map (Of course, the first one I stopped at had none.)

Our next hotel stay would be in Toledo. But, we took an indirect route through the area of Spain known as La Mancha. This flat, arid, yet fertile plain (2,000′ elevation) lies south of Madrid and southeast of Toledo. It is, of course, best known as the location for the exploits of the knight errant, Don Quixote, and his sidekick Sancho Panza. We set our sights on what is considered the epitome of Don Quixote Country, the town of Consuegra. Sans GPS and map, we were temporarily lost and spent 20-30 minutes riding on dirt roads through miles and miles of vineyards. Eventually, we found our way to the town and up to the castle and windmills above. We could imagine the literary knight jousting with these giants which stood before us.

"Look there, Sancho Panza, my friend, and see those thirty or so wild giants, with whom I intend to do battle and kill each and all of them, so with their stolen booty we can begin to enrich ourselves. This is nobel, righteous warfare, for it is wonderfully useful to God to have such an evil race wiped from the face of the earth." "What giants?" Asked Sancho Panza. "The ones you can see over there," answered his master, "with the huge arms, some of which are very nearly two leagues long." "Now look, your grace," said Sancho, "what you see over there aren't giants, but windmills, and what seems to be arms are just their sails, that go around in the wind and turn the millstone." "Obviously," replied Don Quijote, "you don't know much about adventures.”

“Look there, Sancho Panza, my friend, and see those thirty or so wild giants, with whom I intend to do battle and kill each and all of them, so with their stolen booty we can begin to enrich ourselves. This is nobel, righteous warfare, for it is wonderfully useful to God to have such an evil race wiped from the face of the earth.”
“What giants?” Asked Sancho Panza.
“The ones you can see over there,” answered his master, “with the huge arms, some of which are very nearly two leagues long.”
“Now look, your grace,” said Sancho, “what you see over there aren’t giants, but windmills, and what seems to be arms are just their sails, that go around in the wind and turn the millstone.”
“Obviously,” replied Don Quijote, “you don’t know much about adventures.”

We toured the 12th century castle which belonged to the Knights of St. John (12th-13th centuries) and is associated with their trip to Jerusalem during the Crusades. The view from the castle was amazing. One could see how a lord could dominate the surrounding area. It was one of several medievals castles that dot the plains of La Mancha.

Little people among giants. :)

Little people among giants. πŸ™‚

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β€œThe wounds received in battle bestow honor, they do not take it away...”

β€œThe wounds received in battle bestow honor, they do not take it away…”

Cindy's turn to battle the giants!

Cindy’s turn to battle the giants!

β€œDo you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them.”

β€œDo you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them.”

The Knights of St. John Castle

The Knights of St. John Castle

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The entrance to the nine-century old castle

The entrance to the nine-century old castle

One of the restored rooms inside the castle

One of the restored rooms inside the castle

The "restored" chapel of the castle.  You may notice at the upper left a support for a vaulted ceiling.  I suppose because of expense they had to settle for a simple wood roof. :(

The “restored” chapel of the castle. You may notice at the upper left a support for a vaulted ceiling. I suppose because of expense they had to settle for a simple wood roof. πŸ™

From Consuegra, we made our way back to the north to Toledo. Along the way, we passed by miles of vineyards on one side of the highway and miles of olive groves on the other. The scenic road eventually led us to the “city of three cultures,” where, for centuries, Jews, Muslims, and Christians lived together in relative peace. During the reconquista, the Jews and the Muslims were driven out, leaving Toledo a totally Christian city. It’s a beautiful place filled with narrow, cobblestoned streets barely wide enough to drive one car through (ask me, I know!). After dropping off the ladies and the luggage at the Hotel Eurico, one block from the Cathedral, I went in search of parking. Eventually, I found a garage several blocks away and found my way back to the hotel within a half-hour or so.

Driving in the narrow lanes of old Toledo!  You are always going up hill or down hill in this town (it seems like its always up hill!).

Driving in the narrow lanes of old Toledo! You are always going up hill or down hill in this town (it seems like its always up hill!).

Our hotel, situated less than one block from the towering cathedral.

Our hotel, situated less than one block from the towering cathedral.

Our sight-seeing in Toledo was light today. We strolled past the cathedral and made our way to the Santo TomΓ© Church, where, in a simple chapel, El Greco’s most beloved painting, The Burial of the Count of Orgaz is housed. It is still in the same church where the artist placed it 400 years ago. It was in Toledo that El Greco lived and worked, and the city is filled with his art. Count Orgaz was a very holy man who lived in 1323 and was buried in the chapel. The painting, commissioned in 1586, hangs above his tomb. The count was so saintly that Saint Augustine and St. Steven themselves (in the painting) have come down from heaven to lower him into the grave. An angel transports the count’s soul to heaven, where Mary and John the Baptist introduce him personally to Jesus. It’s quite a work of art. Pictures were not allowed in the chapel, but I’ve included an internet copy.

The Toledo Cathedral

The Toledo Cathedral

The interior of the St. Tome Church

The interior of the St. Tome Church

The Burial of Count Orgaz

The Burial of Count Orgaz

We then walked down to the San Juan de los Reyes Monasterio (St. John of the Monarchs). The beautiful interior is in the Flamboyant Gothic style. It was initially intended to be the burial site of Ferdinand and Isabella (hence, the name), but they were buried in Granada after the Moors were expelled in 1492. On the way back to the hotel, we stopped for drinks in El Botero Taberna, an eatery/tavern just around the corner from our temporary abode.

Another arched lane.

Another arched lane.

The San Juan de los Reyes Monestario, the intended burial plays of the Catholic Kings

The San Juan de los Reyes Monestario, the intended burial plays of the Catholic Kings

Beautiful interior of the monastery church.

Beautiful interior of the monastery church.

Inside the Cloister of the Monastery

Inside the Cloister of the Monastery

Notice the chains on the exterior facade: These are the manacles and shackles worn by Christian prisoners from Granada held by the Moors and released during the Reconquista

Notice the chains on the exterior facade: These are the manacles and shackles worn by Christian prisoners from Granada held by the Moors and released during the Reconquista

A lovely window

A lovely window

The site of our evening drink before returning to our hotel.

The site of our evening drink before returning to our hotel.

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