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A nycelharpa is a relatively rare Medieval instrument with roots from Sweden. We found this lady outside of the Toledo Cathedral playing the most magnificent version of the theme from the Last of the Mohicans. A small crowd was gathered around her because the musical sounds resonating from the instrument were so unique.
The nycelharpa belongs to the same family of instruments as the French Vielle or English hurdy gurdy. The instrument works by having wooden keys that slide under the strings and have little elements set perpendicularly to the keys that reach up and stop (shorten) the melody string. It’s sort of like moveable frets that move to meet the string, rather than pressing the string against a fingerboard or frets. A short bow is used by the person using the instrument. In this case the lady who was demonstrating it was remarkably skilled at using this nycelharpa. We learned that this instrument is sometimes called a moraharpa even though it is not related to the harp.
Written May 15, 2012
I know it sounds obvious, but I wonder how many people who visit Toledo actually do this?
The town retains its Medieval street layout and is a warren of narrow passageways. Spend some time wandering these. Yes, you may get a bit lost because even the Tourist Office map isn't perfect and not all the tiny streets have clear names...but you will never get *very* lost because olf Toledo is surrounded by its walls. Eventually you will find your way to part of the wall, and so you won't be lost any more!
But why bother? Well, it is very easy to assume that all the oldest and more interesting parts of well-known places such are Toledo are well-signed and obvious. This isn't the case. Ancient settlements are ancient settlements, and you may come across evidence of that history anywhere you walk.
I couldn't tell you exactly where each of the photos in this tip was taken: I just wandered the streets, changing direction at will. But I never once walked a boring street; there was always something to catch my eye.
If you have time to spare, I suggest you do this too.
Updated Mar 3, 2012
If you walk down to the Puerta del Sol you'll pass by the beautiful, and ancient Mosque of Cristo de la Luz (see tip). Exposed at the side of the mosque's entrance (a modern monstrosity, I'm afraid) you'll see a fair expanse of Roman road lying exposed, with the classic Roman stone slabs in place.
In the mosque's entrance area is a Roman drain, also exposed in fairly-recent excavations.
I bet there is more visible evidence of Roman Toletum still around. I spotted at least one re-used column in a Medieval building exterior. But on this occasion I didn't have chance to find any more. Perhaps you will?
Written Mar 3, 2012
Toledo, like Madrid, has buildings covered in balconies.
It took me a while to notice that the bottoms of these balconies displayed lovely tiles. I thought that was such a nice idea...not just having tiles for the owner's pleasure but using them to add attractive details to those passing below.
I didn't notice this so much in Madrid..perhaps it is a Toledo tradition? Or perhaps I just wasn't looking in the right places in Madrid! :-)
Written Mar 3, 2012
Toletum was a strategically important roman town, so it is not really surprising that any excavations will uncover evidence of the ancient settlement. I hadn't realised anything much remained to be seen until I checked the free map I got from the Tourist Information Office in Plaza de Zocodover.
The extensive 1st and 2nd centrury baths lie underneath Plaza Amador de los Rios, and were only uncovered in the mid-1980s. Only a tiny part of the baths is visible, although there is a superb arched tunnel and evidence of wall-paintings. Entrance is free, via a spiral staircase.
I had wanted to visit the Cuevas de Hercules site as well, but unfortunately it was not open at a convenient time. This nearby site contains remains of several different periods.
Although I did not know it at the time, there are other truly ancient bits of toledo which are accessible (albeit at varying hours and dates). The leaflet linked below tells you about them, in English.
Something more for me to explore on my next visit! :-)
You will find Plaza Amador de los Rios to the north-west of the cathedral...but you will need a good streetmap to navigate Toledo's Medieval street layout!
Written Mar 3, 2012
One of the beauties of Toledo is the combination of the old and the modern. Take the time to just walk and wander the streets for a fascinating experience.
The people are friendly and happy to help if you need directions, but you can't really go wrong.
Toledo is built on a hill, so if you just go downhill from anywhere you will end up at the city wall and can then walk around to one of the gates.
Updated May 1, 2010
Castilla-La Mancha country covers the sprawling plains of the central part of Spain and well known as being Don Quixote country. You will find anything from the odd homestead dotted around the countryside, windmills, castles to the bigger cities such as Guadalajara, Cuenca, Ciudad Real, Albacete and of course Toledo.
Written Sep 8, 2009
On the lower hillsides driving through La Mancha country are groves of olive trees. The area is the 2nd most important region of Spain for olive growing and production and producing almost 15% of Spain’s olive oil. The oil is known for its very high quality.
Written Sep 6, 2009
In Consuegra there is a restored castle on a ridge near a row of windmlls. It is thought that the original castle was constructed by Emperor Trajan although there is nothing in the records to substantiate this. According to historical facts the fortress or castle was built by Almanzor.
Location: Cerro Calderico Hill, Consuegra
Written Sep 6, 2009
Originally there were 13 windmills and these were handed down through the generations – father to son. Inside there are two levels. The heavy sacks of grain were hand carried to the top floor. The Windmills all have a name and they stopped being working windmills in the early 1980’s. Now restored, they are considered the best examples of windmills in Spain.
Updated Sep 6, 2009
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