Spain Second Week – Toledo and Tapas

So here I am on the bus back to Salamanca from Lisbon, Portugal hoping to write this blog before I get too carsick. As promised I will tell you about the Toledo trip even though millions of new things have happened since. It was about a week and a half ago at this point when we woke up at 7am to get on a bus to Toledo, which was said to be one of the 3 most beautiful cities in Spain along with Salamanca and Granada. Seeing as how I have only been to 3 Spanish cities, I can safely say that Toledo is one of the top 3 cities I have been to. The city itself is not very big as we were able to tour most of it on foot. We spent the day walking around looking at monuments on a guided tour, and the history behind the city is remarkable.

Toledo is a city where three religions used to coexist; Catholics, Jews, and Muslims. For me it was most exciting when we visited the Jewish square, no offense to the other religious monuments, I just felt a personal connection to the 500 year old synagogue. It was a foreign feeling that I could not wrap my head around when the tour guide explained to me that it was a place of worship for Jewish people from around 1180 until 1492, and today what is left of it is exhibited in a museum. We got to the synagogue itself towards the end of the tour, and my friends could somehow tell that I was antsy to see it. The first thing the tour guide asked in front of the synagogue was if any of us were Jewish, which immediately narrowed our group of 55 to my friend Kim and I. She asked a few trivial questions about Judaism in general, like how to say Spanish in Hebrew or what you would call a Jewish person of Spanish descent etc… But when we finally got inside I was overcome by several emotions for a reason that I am yet to grasp. I was engulfed by a combination of a sense of pride, connection to the Jewish people, and a feeling of being at home. I was wondering how I could feel at home if I am so far away from both places I have ever lived, and I was surrounded by people that I have only known for a week or so. The answer is up in the air but I like to believe it has to do with an unspoken and undying bond to Judaism and what it stands for.

As I was standing at the altar (I apologize if its not called an altar but you get the point J) I was trying to read the inscriptions on the wall, and imagine what it may have been like to be at a service 500 years ago. I imagine it would be very similar to an orthodox service today, but I would love to hear from anybody if they know a difference. My friend snapped a photo of me at the alter because he is incredibly into photography and he said that out of the thousands of pictures he has taken on this trip he believed this was the most powerful moment he captured. I’ll be sure to post it as soon as I get it from him.  The rest of the synagogue outside of the main room where people prayed, was turned into a museum that held several artifacts that were preserved from the synagogue. They had old books, menorahs, and the one thing I was most enthralled by was the torah. The cover of the torah, which is always beautiful from what I’ve seen, was incredible. Not just because it was exquisite in itself, but because it is more than half a millennium years old.

The rest of the Toledo trip was also magnificent I just chose to write about my personal favorite part subjectively. If I were to set my bias aside I would say that aesthetically the cathedral itself is a must see and just the city in general. My friends and I found a view point—which was kind of dangerous to get to and we got a scolding from the tour guide—that I will also post pictures of as it was a view that is to die for. I have tons of pictures from Toledo I’ll probably post them on facebook so don’t worry you will see exactly what I’m talking about.

As for the classroom aspect of this blog, this weeks culture class revolved around the food of the Spanish people. We had a very interesting two hour lecture by a man named Augustine that basically told us the Spanish eat pork, wine, and cheese. He showed us their food pyramid and I wish I got a picture of it because it was quite comical. They have a whole section of the food pyramid for wine—a rather big one—as well as a whole section for pork and a separate one for fish. I did however write down the different combination of cheeses and wines that go together so my friends and I could try it out. So far we have tried Manchego cheese on baguettes with Rioja wine and it was indeed delicious.

However, the most interesting thing about Spanish food culture is not what they eat it is their eating style. It seems that the Spanish look at their meals from a social aspect rather than a survival aspect as when they sit down to eat it can take hours. A typical lunch—which is usually the largest meal of the day—consists of several courses that are served over an hour or so. This allows for families to eat together and create closer family bonds as well as stronger friendships. I realize that is kind of bold to say but I honestly believe its true. Another thing that I found interesting was that the Spanish people rarely invite people over for dinner. Augustine told us that this was because it seems illogical to invite people over when you can just go out for drinks and tapas at a restaurant. His exact words were “why would anyone want to do dishes for 14 people that just does not make sense.” Unfortunately his logic does not have merit in the states because people like to invite people to see their homes, as they are reflections of who we are. Where here the homes are merely a place to sleep and everything else is done in the city.

On that note I’ll post soon about the Portugal trip I just got back from I hope you guys enjoy this entry 🙂

And my parents are coming with my sister this weekend and I cannot wait to see them I miss them tons!! See you soon Ima, Bushy, and Tal you have no idea how much you’ll love it here.