Toledo, Spain

On the first morning of the tour we set out for the city of Toledo situated along the River Tagus.  Toledo had its origins in a Roman settlement on the banks of the River Tagus in 190 BC. The arrival of the Arabs in the 8th century, together with the presence of Christians and Jews, made Toledo the city of the three cultures” and it is now a  World Heritage Site.  It is famous for its Damascene steel swords, which have been crafted here for centuries.  After stopping for some lovely views of the city (photos), we visited a Damascene workshop to see artisans practising this craft handed down by the moors centuries ago.  While the workshop specializes in jewellery, they continue to make swords as a curiosity, and for use in Hollywood movies (photos). We then walked through the old city to visit the Church of Santo Tomé, housing El Greco’s famous painting, ‘The Burial of the Count of Orgaz’.  This masterpiece is said to be one of the three best in the world. Unfortunately no photos were permitted. However, here is a link to a copy on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Burial_of_the_Count_of_Orgaz.  A 14th-century Mudejar tower stands above the rest of the church, which dates from the 12th century and has Visigothic elements on its main façade.  As it was a Sunday, many buildings in the city, including the Cathedral (photo) were closed to visitors. However, there was a religious procession for Our Lady of Sorrows, which attracted the negative attention of a group of communist protesters all of which which made for an interesting spectacle (2 photos).

We then carried on to Grenada. Here too, there was a procession for the Virgin from the Basilica of Our Lady of Sorrows, located next to our hotel.  As she is the patron saint of Grenada, the procession is a special event in Grenada and it was announced by 15 minutes of the ringing of church bells and then fireworks. The statue was paraded through the city, to be viewed by throngs of people for several hours, and then returned to the Basilica about 11:00 pm.  After a service, there were more bells and fireworks at midnight.  I did go out to see the early part of the procession and I include a photo.

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