La Vida Toledana: Week 6

     This will have to serve as my last blog post for a little while as we are approaching our Spring Break this weekend and I’ve taken it as an opportunity to travel. I’ll be embarking on miniature tour of Europe, starting with a visit to Rome with Hannah, Sadie and Siobhan, continuing solo by train to Stuttgart, Germany and Paris to see friends and ending in Amsterdam where I’ll reunite with the trio of chicas. I’ve long wanted to see Rome and visit Germany and I’m excited to see good friends and the bike infrastructure in Amsterdam.

     Needless to say I’ll be taking many photos, but I’ve plenty to share now before I leave.

     This last weekend was Carnaval in Toledo and Austin visited to see the city and take part in some of the festivities—and what a weekend it was to be in Toledo! Friday was deceivingly dead in the historic district, with a few events in the surrounding burbs, but in retrospect many were probably saving energy for the weekend. Saturday featured an extensive parade and a influx of people to the center for the night’s festivities and Sunday was la Sardina, a lighthearted funeral procession for a massive fish (sardine) effigy that ended with fireworks. It might be my favorite abroad experience thus far and I suppose truly put the ‘fun’ in ‘funeral.’

     Saturday, I bored Austin with ruins from the first century through the fifteenth, visiting some places I had been and some new sites and sights as well. We checked out la Iglesia de Santo Tomé, where one of El Greco’s master works, “The Burial of the Count of Orgaz,” has drawn people to the church since it was commissioned in the sixteenth century. We climbed the towers of la Iglesia de San Idelfonso to get a great vista of Toledo from within the old walls. Next we hiked up to el Cerro del Bú, a Bronze Age settlement that predates the Celtiberan arrival to Toledo. The four-thousand-year-old hallowed peak also serves as another spectacular view of the city, this time from across the canyon. 

Austin zooming back to Roman times at the circus.

Inside la Iglesia de San Idelfonso.

Foundations at el Cerro del Bú.

Austin in all of his glory, featuring Alcázar

La Santa Iglesia Catedral Primaria de Toledo in all of its glory.

Herons and rivers are yet two more similarities between Toledo and Athens.

Some rappel down to the river’s edge, others fly.

Spiny footed lizard.

     There was a Carnaval parade Saturday night, which was long and boisterous. We watched the first 21 of who-knows-how-many groups in the procession, waiting to see my host mother and her students. Her groups theme was Toledo’s history and featured kids dressed as the cathedral, Alcázar, El Greco and members of the king’s court. 

     It was a fabulous parade, but we had to leave to get ready to head to the historic district that evening as there would be two large stages, one of which would be at the plaza of the city council building—and immediately opposite the impressive facade of la Santa Iglesia Catedral Primaria. Obviously we didn’t want to miss this. 

     It was a fun time and even very reminiscent of Athens’ Halloween Block Party, only with fewer partied-out college students and this celebration happens to take place in a UNESCO world heritage site… so there are maybe some nuances. Even if the party part of Carnaval felt as though it lacked in originality, the finale certainly didn’t.

     Sunday we marched with hundreds behind the funeral procession for a sardine effigy as part of el Entierro de la Sardina. There were two wonderful bands and equally beautiful costumed dancers. My favorite part of the parade were the children who surrounded the effigy who would whack spectators with a padded stick and demand that they “llora!” (“cry!”) in respect for the dead fish. As far as I can figure, the fish represents the past and societal establishment and, by burning it, we can all move on to bigger and brighter things—like fireworks!

     These are moments I wish I could go back to; the ambient was one of bliss. I will cherish these photos for many years and released the shutter each time knowing that. It was probably the most pure festival or cultural event I’ve witnessed, much less taken part in. I’m glad Austin chose such an a lively weekend to visit and happy to have shared the weekend with so many of my fellow Athenians. 

     Spain continually is proving to have an inexhaustible variety of life and culture and I’m loving every minute of it. But now it’s time for me to sign off for a week and a half and tour Europe. I’ll see you all on the other side with plenty of images to share! ‘Ta Luego!

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