Prior to researching Toledo for our 2013 European trip, my vision of that city was based, for the most part, on a landscape scene depicted in a painting. As a very young child growing up in New York City, often Sunday afternoons were spent ambling through the galleries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was at the Met, I was first introduced to a place called Toledo, when I stood before the masterpiece, View of Toledo. The size of the painting overwhelmed me, as much as, those roads winding through the lush green terrain leading to the city on the hilltop, being hovered over by such fierce, ominous clouds, intrigued me. Did such a place really exist? I wondered.
The history behind the painting by the 16th century master, El Greco (Domenicos Theotokopoulos), I discovered much later, in the textbook, Art Through the Ages, by Helen Gardner, then, considered the bible for art students. At the time, I was about 14 year old, in a high school art survey class, and in reading the assigned chapter 23, High Renaissance And Mannerism In Northern Europe And Spain, I came across that painting of Toledo, again.
Since Toledo, a city we found steeped in the unique beauty and history of three major cultures, sharing and cooperating through centuries, I look back fondly at our 5 days there. I didn’t anticipate my emotional attachment to the place, or expect to take away a trove of gems, big and small—notable memories; vivid, and distinctive images.
One event in particular that continues to evoke warm recollections, was when Gitiim, her adventurous and curious spirit guiding her, happened upon a small restaurant at the foot of a precipitous hill. The cathedral—our intended destination—closed, it was during an impromptu, late afternoon walking tour of Toledo’s old Jewish quarter, and as I waited on higher ground, Gitiim ventured down the narrow, winding, cobblestone street, Calle de la Cuidad, and discovered ALQAHIRA.
At four in the afternoon, we were the only guests, and probably interrupted what the owner expected to be some extended break time before the evening dinner hour began. Nevertheless, the smiling, soft-spoken proprietor greeted us graciously, and patiently guided us through the halal menu featuring Egyptian-Middle Eastern cuisine. The meal ended with Baklava, Turkish coffee, a little picture-taking, and hugs.
— Window detail – Plaza del Consistorio, Toledo