Upon leaving Cordoba and Andalusia, we drove about 3.5 hours to Toledo, which is close to Madrid. After a quick picnic lunch, we walked around the casco viejo (old city) especially the Jewish quarter.
The streets of Toledo are very steep – lots of up and down. And there are tons of churches, many of which are obviously converted mosques. Also in abundance were shops selling swords, knives, and scissors, as well as many bakeries selling marzipan cookies and creations, another local specialty.
Our principal aim in stopping here was to visit the Sinagoga de Transito, which also houses the Sephardic Museum, and the Sinagoga de Santa Maria La Blanca. The only two Synagogues left in a town famous for being a multicutural city with Jews, Muslims, and Christians. Neither Synagogue is in use – the Sinagoga de Transito is now a Sephardic museum, and the La Blanca was converted into a church. Although the decorative elements are restored to how it looked as Synagogue, there are still some Christian elements remaining.
It is sad to realize that in these museums Jews are effectively an historical artifact, like the Visigoths or some other extinct group. interestingly there are numerous Jewish related gift items in many shops here and in Madrid, so I guess they get a good share of Jewish visitors from the USA and elsewhere. At least you can go home with a menorah from the country that tortured and booted out your co-religionists more than 500 years ago.
From Toledo is was less than an hour’s drive on get to Madrid.
Driving cross country in Spain is easy. There are excellent roads, good signposting, and pretty sights to see on the way. But once you get to a city, it is a whole other kettle of fish. In the old towns, there are narrow winding streets, almost all of which are one way. It is difficult to navigate and you can quickly loose your sense of direction when you can’t see familiar landmarks.
Big cities are maybe worse, as they have very busy traffic and in most places you can’t make a left turn. They have a kind of layby on the right hand side of many junctions whereby you actually bear right to line up to make your left turn (once your light turns green).
We rolled into Madrid no problem and found our hotel pretty quickly, but it is on Gran Via, the main road of Madrid and there is no parking, and no stopping nearby. Also we were on the opposite side of the street so we had to drive a few streets down until we found a turning circle and could come back. We ended up putting the car in an underground parking lot, which was thankfully only a few blocks from the hotel.
After checking in, we located a gas station (we hadn’t seen any on our drive into town). Once we made it there we filled up the car one last time before turning it back in to the rental agency. About US$100 to fill the tank of a compact car. Getting from the gas station to the rental garage was another adventure, but we finally made it without any damage, except perhaps to our nerves. The car is now disposed of after 4,000 KM (2,500 miles) of driving, and we are now pedestrians in a city that thankfully has a great transport system.