WordPress is not being helpful vis-a-vis including lots of photos in the posts. If you want to see any, I recommend clicking on them. Sorry for the formatting.
Toledo and Segovia are both hill cities. Toledo covers an evenly rounded hilltop and offers equally stunning views of its verdant river valley no matter where you stand. Getting lost on the way to the town from the train station should be impossible, but Will and I did it with aplomb. Once inside, we found that Toledo’s streets are particularly twisty. All of them seem to loop and fold back onto the center cathedral so that if you walk without a map it feels like you’re tracing the edges of a flower’s petals, always returning to the bright center. The cathedral’s ceilings are splashed all over with vibrant paintings of angels. In the sacristy there is a wall sculpted from flagstone floor to distant skylit dome with angels in bronze, silver, and gold.
Naturally, there is a prominent statue of Miguel de Cervantes near the city gates. I lingered by it not because I’ve ever read Don Quixote, but because there is a similar statue on Peking University’s campus. The 1989 protests that culminated in Liu Si, or Tiananmen Square, began with a small group of students leading a rally at that statue.
If you are like me and you walk through various historical buildings in Toledo, you might notice one or two paintings attributed to a gentleman named El Greco and think the name is somewhat familiar. Then as you explore more and more of the city, you might begin to say to yourself, “This gentleman seems somewhat prolific.” Hopefully you will remember earlier than me that El Greco is rather famous and more than prolific, which explains why almost every single oil painting I saw in Toledo (and there were at least seventy five) appeared to be his work. (You might also feel abashed and apologize to your uncle, a historian of fourteenth and fifteenth century Spanish art, who has definitely told you a lot about El Greco.)
Segovia’s hill slopes gently down on one side and falls in a steep cliff on the other. Along the first side spreads the Aqueducto Romano; at the top of the second stands the Alcàzar.
Before I continue I must explain something about my elementary school education. In second grade I worked with a boy named Ned Pappin, who at the time spotted UFOs with regularity and who took my whole class in a stretch Hummer limo to see Chicken Run, on a project about Segovia’s Alcázar. We built a model. I still have it. It is a cardboard box, a cardboard paper towel roll, both painted a bland yellow. There is a scraggly “turret” made of black construction paper at the top of the paper towel tower.
When I was in third grade I did a written report on the Segovia Aqueduct, a Roman structure that is still in almost perfect condition today (though it no longer functions as an aqueduct). This was the first report for which I used a plastic report cover. I was very proud.
The real aqueduct has the simple majesty I associate with the Great Wall of China (though, of course, on a smaller scale). When you stand at its base and look up, it breaks the sky into even blue pieces. Its mortarless stones are rounded with age. In the center of its highest arch is a careful white marble statue of the Patroness of Segovia, la Virgen de la Fuencisla.
We were in Segovia for Easter, so there were jubilant Semana Santa processions. The marchers had uncovered faces and dressed in bright blue. Excellent trumpet music blasted through the streets.
Before we went to see the Alcázar, Will and I hiked down the steep side of the hill and wandered along another swift river that had swollen in the spring rains and now caught itself around the skinny trunks of budding trees. We walked up another ridge to see the Alcázar, Segovia’s cathedral, and a clock tower crowning the city. It darkened and began to rain while we walked, and even though suburbs and pueblos began about a mile from where we were it seemed like the edge of the world. Behind the city rose snow-capped peaks.
Then we went to the Alcázar, and I jumped around like an eight-year-old. I don’t have much more to tell about it. It was an old castle and I loved it. The rest would just be words.
tl;dr: Spain is pretty and I was pretty cool in elementary school.