Toledo!

Well things went much smoother yesterday than I thought they might. Nola and I had decided to meet at the train/bus station around 10 and decide from there the best way to get to Toledo. It didn’t take us long to agree that the AVE would be perfect; it leaves every hour, but the next train that wasn’t completely booked was at 12:20. It kind of seemed like a long time until then, but we had a nice breakfast and occupied the rest of the time engaged in very interesting political conversations. Before we knew it, it was time to find our platform and board our train. So the AVE stands for Alta Velocidad Española and cleverly, the word ave also means bird. Because we were traveling a relatively short distance (only about an hour and a half by bus), our train wasn’t one of the fastest and coasted at only slightly above 150 mph. It was ridiculous how quickly we got there. When they started to make an announcement after only about 25 minutes, I thought they were just going to remind us that smoking was prohibited or something, but it turned out we had arrived!

Like in Venice, we then had to find our way downtown from the station. It turned out to not be too bad though, and once we figured out the map, we set off on foot towards the city center. They had called for rain all day, but it was actually sunny and only slightly chilly, which was the perfect weather to do a lot of walking. So Toledo was actually the first capital of Spain, and I believe its one of the oldest cities. The architecture was very similar to that of Segovia and even Venice. The main difference was that there actually cars driving through the very narrow streets that were constantly packed with tourist. I could not imagine driving there because it seems like it would take forever to get anywhere. Seriously, every time a car came, we would basically have to stand with our backs against the wall until it passed.

I think the streets there may also have been even more difficult to navigate than those in Venice, so it didn’t take us too long to forego the map and just wander around the city. We ended up walking through a pretty quiet residential area and eventually found ourselves at a park overlooking the whole city and beyond. There were a couple of families there playing with their children, and the scene was extremely serene. Well I thought so at least; Nola, who goes to school in San Fransisco described feeling very uncomfortable and isolate in wide open spaces and explained that she felt much better in a densely populated area. We walked around for a little while and found a pretty quaint cafe to eat lunch. We tried paella, which is one of the most typical Spanish dishes, and sangria. It was good and priced reasonably well.

After lunch we continued wondering aimlessly and eventually found ourselves at an exhibition of mid evil torture devices! They had cheap rates for students, so we decided to check it out. It turned out to be just as awful as it sounds; I had actually heard of most of the instruments, but actually seeing them and reading detailed accounts about how they were used was gruesome. On the bright side, we actually learned some pretty cool things about Spanish history and the inquisition. Get this, when a person got accused of a crime, it was protocol to not tell them who accused them or with what crime they were even being charged! Men were mostly accused of practicing Judaism, drunkenness, or homosexuality, and women could be accosted for things like being a witch, a single mom, or trying to have sex with the devil.  It was pretty sickening to specifically imagine much of the things that went in this time period, and I’m grateful people are generally more enlightened these days. One of the execution devices, albeit perhaps one of the more mild ones, was actually still used until 1975! We walked out of the museum and realized that it had finally rained, so ironically, the torture devices actually spared us some discomfort! Following tradition, we got pretty lost finding our way back to the train station, but made it just in time.

Overall, it was a great day and a pretty fun weekend in general. Our school was closed today for a national holiday, but I’m not sure what it was celebrating. It didn’t really make a difference to me since I don’t have classes on Monday anyway, but I sort of used it to justify not getting much work done. We’re getting ready to eat dinner, and after that I am definitely going to focus on productivity…most likely.

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