Living in an El Greco Painting - My Family Travels
Castle of San Servando
Puente San Martin
Cristo de la Luz Mosque

My name is Mackenzie and in the summer of 2013, I was lucky enough to travel to Spain, England, and France with my family. The city that impressed and fascinated me the most was Toledo, a lively, vibrant, and historical city in central Spain (in the La Mancha region). Toledo is famous for harboring three coexisting and peaceful religions: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.  This ancient tolerance was visible as one walked past a mosque, small church, and Jewish temple all on the same street! I stayed in Hostel Alcazar, a small hotel that looked ancient on the outside with a brown, crumbling brick façade; it was on a cobble-stoned street but was nonetheless clean and modern on the inside. I only stayed one day in this city, yet the impression it left on me was unforgettable.

I started off the morning (we drove from Segovia, Spain) by admiring the Catedral de Toledo, an immense and almost “heavy” looking Gothic cathedral. The interior was dark and foreboding, yet strangely inspiring and spiritual. One of the most educational parts of my stay was visiting the Iglesia de Santo Tome, a little “hole in the wall” church that had one main attraction: the Burial of Count Orgaz painting by the Cretan mannerist artist, El Greco (whose real name is Domenikos Theotokopoulos).  Since I love art history, viewing this 16th century masterpiece and subsequently explaining the meaning to my parents was amazing. The stormy colors on the canvas, the way the Count is lowered gently into his grave, and the ethereal light coming from the top makes this painting one of my favorite.

After being stunned by the complex mastery of El Greco, I walked to Puente San Martin, an incredibly antiquated bridge, complete with metal doors with intricate keyholes, wooden mantles displaying a long-forgotten coat-of-arms, and stone turrets. The only downside to my Toledo jaunt was the heat; it was uncomfortably hot and at times unbearably steamy although I was wearing shorts and a tank-top. However, the weather wasn’t so awful considering I was in Toledo, once the capital of the Visigoth Empire and a remarkable sink of European culture. After lunch (I had a delicious margarita pizza), my family and I walked back to our rustic hotel for a Spanish “siesta.” Walking all morning, absorbing the heat, and being stunned by the creations of those who have lived before me can be wonderfully exhausting.

After our rest, we trekked to the Alcazar of Toledo, a castle/fortress; although the actual Alcazar was closed, I was able to appreciate the image of the sun slowly sinking in the sky and casting its warm shadow on the side of a hill dotted with green and brown shrubs. The hilly terrain basking in the glow along with a view of the Castle of San Servando made me feel like I was actually in an El Greco painting. Being able to experience an artists’ work in reality or “3D” was a transient, out-of-body experience that will be hard to forget. The event was further enhanced when my family and I had drinks at a restaurant on the edge of the cliff opposite the setting sun; the small bar, Delf in Taller Del, was so inviting and calm (one of the best feelings). We ended our day by slowly ambling back to our hotel; it was 9:15 p.m. yet it was still light outside! Toledo was definitely my favorite city in Spain and visiting it (and the other El Greco paintings there) again is on my bucket list. 

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