Separados and the invisible marzipan monks

Something magical happened in my second week in Spain, hard to believe I’m sure, but I had a friend to travel with, a real friend…not just a dog named Trevor or an overly protective cartoon starfish, but an actual human friend! Reading the rest of Nudging Wisdom may lead you to believe I’m a loser loner pants, but I do find the occasional person to travel with and I bloody love the company, so keep em coming!

For Sally-9

Our first stop was Toledo, an amazing city on top of a hill, surrounded by steep cliffs down to the river Tagus. It’s perched on its nest with a melting pot of Arab, Jewish and Christian history displayed in stunning churches, mouth watering restaurant menus and a history that makes your head pop with its age. The city is dotted with hand painted tiles which mark different religious districts through the history of Toledo. We were later told by a tile maker that they were only installed a couple of years ago for tourists like us, no historical value whatsoever. They’re pretty though.

On our first night we stumbled on our first church procession of our stay in Toledo, with a brass band playing sombre tunes and all the Catholic priests marching through the streets. We spent the evening in a small restaurant munching on yummy tapas and cheap but delicious red wine.

The many churches and Monasteries of Toledo

On the second day we were on our way to the Toledo Cathedral for a wander when our path was blocked by another procession. This time with the Spanish army, marching police, another brass band playing perky pieces and a collection of flags wrapped in bubble wrap (they stayed wrapped up the whole time, never to be unfurled). We had no idea what we had stumbled upon until a Spanish man noticed we looked bemused and started talking at us in Spanish and gesturing for us to follow him. In his broken English and with our extraordinary ability (thanks to Dora) to understand him, we realised he was trying to tell us what the procession was for. It was a marzipan festival, you read that right, marzipan, the goodness you put on Christmas and wedding cakes, and fashion into fake fruit. He kept motioning for us to follow, so like the sheep we are, we followed the Spanish man who just kept saying “marzipan” and “monastery.”

What’s the worst that could happen if you follow a guy saying cake and monks…right?!

Turns out, Spanish marzipan monk man was onto something. He took us to a monastery where they make the most detailed and exquisite gold jewellery, and it was only open on marzipan festival day for people to be shown how it’s created.  Gold leaves and thread are hand pressed into the metal frame by a group of men with waning eyesight from years of fine workmanship, each piece is individual and sparkles in the light. Thank you Spanish marzipan monk man, though we got no cake, or saw monks we did buy jewellery, so it’s a win in my books.

We eventually made it through the crowds to Toledo Cathedral, a 13th Century plethora of gothic glory. It’s immense, in every sense of the word. As you walk through the large imposing wooden and iron doors, you start to assume you have an idea of its size and style, but every nook and cranny, every corner revealed another remarkable piece of art, fresco, carving or statue.

Toledo Cathedral

The Cathedral, which was constructed on the site of a mosque in the 12th Century, is built with white limestone from the surrounding hills and holds 7 chapels and 5 naves, is 120 metres long and is adorned with large altars, massive stained-glass windows and art work by El Greco. It took nearly 200 years to complete and over the centuries further chapels and altars have been added. If the aim was to inspire awe and faith, then the builders gave it everything they had, with a cherry and a cherub on top.

Not all artwork is cheerful

After a couple of days exploring Toledo we road tripped down towards Seville, and on the way through the arid, stark landscape of Spain we stopped at BP petrol station for some snacks. We picked our sneaky sugar hit and went to the counter to discover the attendant and another man sitting sipping a beer. They started talking to us in Spanish and soon realised we don’t speak much (any) so started the international sign language of “we’re single, do you want to marry us?” by pointing at their ring finger and repeatedly saying “separado.” To try and seal the deal they went to great lengths to show that the beer drinking gentleman at the counter made BBQ furniture, which as the sign on the side of his truck said, was unisex BBQ furniture. None of that boy and girl furniture. Unisex.

After such an offer, we picked up our sneaky snacks and left with the Eagles song Desperado repeating in our heads for the next four days and a decision to re-evaluate our furniture choices.

Nugget of Wisdom

You never know what you’re going to find when you follow your gut, cake, monks or petrol. Never.


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