A Travellerspoint blog

Seeking Don Quixote in Toledo

sunny 22 °C

When Miguel de Cervantes wrote about Don Quixote, the Man of La Manche, in 1605, Toledo was no longer the seat of the Spanish Crown. But the enormous castle cum palace that King Carlos V had occupied in the middle of the 16th century dominated the skyline as it does today...
We've written before about the castles of Spain because they are everywhere. While many are somewhat Disneyfied, Toledo's Alcazar is home to a very modern military museum and retains nothing of its regal splendour. However, Toledo's other castle across the River Tagus looks as though it means business...
This 11th century Castle of San Servando was home to the Knights Templar during the Crusades and even appeared in El Greco's painting of Toledo in 1604. Its name, it is claimed, is derived from the Cervantes family. So, while we assumed San Servando might be a major tourist attraction, we were surprised to discover that nowadays it is a fancy youth hostel that is reached by taking the Route de Don Quixote across a Roman bridge...
Never judge a book by its cover, or the quality of marzipan from its wrapper. We say this because Toledo was once a centre of silk manufacture, but today it is known for its marzipan. Half the shops in Toledo have marzipan for sale - often described as handmade using only the finest almonds...
All around the world we are assailed by salespeople assuring us that their products are handmade by their granny in the mountains, so we were more than a little sceptical and in the end we bought our marzipan from a nun in a convent...
She wouldn't lie - would she?

Toledo is a major tourist attraction and both the city and its tour guides are unlikely to let the facts get in the way of a good story. And so, while the author Miguel de Servantes looms large in the story of Toledo, he spent little time here and actually wrote about Don Quixote while in jail. The Man of La Manche is regarded as the western world's first real novel, where Quixote, (a minor aristocrat like Cervantes himself), imagines himself to be a chivalrous knight seeking to right the wrongs of the world while everyone else thinks he is crazy. This is Cervantes' statue in Toledo...
And this is where the fictional Quixote is said to have walked with his faithful servant, Pancho...
However, while the castle might be a youth hostel, the marzipan mass produced and Don Quixote a bit of a myth, there is a lot about Toledo to love. This is the patchwork of medieval tiled roofs as seen from our hotel balcony...
Toledo is an absolute maze of narrow streets interwoven with flights of steep steps. It is very easy to get lost, but equally easy to find the way out by climbing to the highest point - the Alcazar.
We are now nearing the end of this part of our European trip. We shall soon return to England and hope to take some of Spain's warmth with us. In the meantime, we will say goodbye to Toledo as we dine on our hotel's rooftop terrace and watch the sunset over the Cathedral...
Hasta luego desde Espana

Posted by Hawkson 13:28 Archived in Spain

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents


Marzipan!! Love it. Very clever buying from a nun; it has to be the real thing.
That is some narrow street! Doubt even a mini Fiat could get through it.

by R and B

Marzipan’ love it especially if it has a thick covering of dark
chocolaté. Wasn’t Toledo known for its sword making ?
Enjoying reading your progress thru Spain xx

by Christine Lloyd

Thank you for sharing your Spanish tour. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed el viaje!

by Heather P

Beautiful skyline, love that marzipan. Lucky you! Good thing that you are walking so much.

by Sue Fitzwilson

Impressive views of Spain. Thank you for the tour. I often wonder how we got here. Knights Templar settled in Bisham Abbey near Marlow. How many at that stage I don't know.

by Janet

Don’t remember the marzipan a decade ago. A newly “invented” tradItion or my fading memory? Touched, though, by the trust in the authenticity of the nuns’ marzipan! Vows of marzipan purity as an addendum to vows of chastity and poverty? Talking of nuns, I was thinking the other day of the expression “Holy Toledo “ , or rather Holy Toledo Man! How that crept into the vocabulary of small boys in Burnaby as an expression of awe and surprise must be a really interesting story. Sure suggests an outsized influence of that city at some point in it’s history. And of course, the wonderful story of Don Quixote’s travels is told and retold, most recently by Salman Rushdie in Quichotte plotting the lives of Indian immigrants in the U.S. A long way from La Mancha. Safe journey onwards.

by Tom Whalley

Mystery solved. It is an interesting story. Holy Toledo was used in the Batman TV shows with Robin frequently saying, Holy Toledo, Batman! More associated with Toledo, Ohio. Both Toledos equally unknown to small boys in 1950s’ Burnaby. Suggests an outsized influence of TV.

by Tom Whalley

Comments on this blog entry are now closed to non-Travellerspoint members. You can still leave a comment if you are a member of Travellerspoint.