So after arriving in Madrid on Wednesday night, we packed our bags and headed to Toledo, about an hour bus ride south of Madrid, early the next morning for a 3-day orientation.
Carmen and Elihu went with me on the metro to the Fundación, where we were all meeting. I was incredibly relieved to have them with me - I´ve barely ridden a school bus, much less navigated a subway system. At one point there were more people on the one metro car than in all of Metamora. That just about gave me a heart attack...
The moment we arrived in Toledo I knew I loved it - it was like something out of a storybook, with cobblestone streets that all go up or downhill (the women there must have great legs) and plenty of beautiful stone buildings and gorgeous views. And it was completely lacking the immense hustle and bustle of Madrid that had completely freaked me out two hours earlier! ¡Qué perfecto!
That afternoon we visited the cathedral in Toledo. Though it is not the biggest cathedral in Spain, it is apparently the most important. It was beautiful, though they didn´t allow pictures. Lots of pretty shiny things and freezing cold marble. And dead bishops under the floor, with their hats (or whatever they are called) hanging from the ceiling above them. Most interesting.
That night a small group of us went out in search of a somewhat tranquil bar to sit down and get some tapas, perhaps have a drink, and succeeded mostly (ok, entirely) in getting ourselves lost for an hour. This probably had something to do with the fact that we asked for a suggestion of where to go at the reception desk of the Fundación building in Toledo and the nice man proceeded to give us directions along the lines of, ¨Take this street out here, it´ll go down a little, turn to the left, that street will go down a little, turn right, that street will go up, it should be to the left but I can´t remember the name.¨ Most helpful since every single street goes up, down, or a combo of the two. We did eventually find our way back, however, much to my relief.
The next day, Friday, we spent the afternoon taking tours of several buildings. We started at the Sephardic Museum, originally a synagogue. Toledo is known for have three main cultures (Jewish, Christian, and Islamic) and for having been a place where at one time these three cultures lived together peacefully, so this museum and synagogue was an important place for us to visit. We then made our way to a small church were El Greco´s ¨El Entierro del Conde de Orgaz¨ (The Burial of the Count of Orgaz), one of his most important paintings, is housed. Then we trekked over to the Monastery of San Juan of the Kings. This place was built by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella with the intent that they be buried there when they died. As such, much of the carving inside of the building is dedicated to them - including the royal family crest and F´s (for Ferdinand) and Y´s (for Isabella) all over the place. Ironically enough, however, they didn´t end up getting buried there at all. Guess that´s what happens when you build a church in your own honor...
Meanwhile, in Madrid, it was snowing more than it has in something like 30 years - they ended up with at least four inches of snow and everything was closed down, causing us to wonder if we would be able to get back today. We did, luckily, and I was able to successfully take the metro back to my house, by myself, without any problems! (This was after much studying of the maps of both the city and the metro). I needed to pick up a few things - shampoo, notebooks for my classes, etc. - so Carmen told me to go to El Corte Inglés, which is basically like a big chain of about a million types of stores. There is one just a few blocks from the apartment and you can get almost everything there. The salesladies were extremely nice and very helpful to this ignorant American (my new favorite method of approaching natives is to start everything with ¨Por favor¨). I was even able to pick up a watch so I would finally know what time it was! Amazing! I was rather dismayed, however, to discover that contact solution, though a rather large bottle, was going to cost me 16 euro (over $20). What could I do - I need to see!
On my way back to the apartment I was incredibly elated to discover a Sephora store right next to my metro stop! ¡Qué buena suerte! My excitement was quickly dissolved, however, when I immediately realized that I had lost my only map of Madrid! ¡Qué mala suerte! I remembered having it at the watch counter in the store, however, so I hightailed it back there and, praise be to the Jesus, there it was! ¡Qué buena suerte!
Classes start on Monday and tomorrow is a free day. Perhaps some exploring of the city is in order. We shall see.