Thursday, July 23, 2015 trip to Toledo continued. We found our way through the winding streets filled with tourist shops to the Cathedral. When we entered, however, we found ourselves in the small area set aside for people who actually came to worship. Back outside and around more byways to the door for tourists, but once there we had to buy a ticket across the street to get in . The cathedral in Toledo seems richer than the one in Segovia, with an altar backing more rococo than Segovia or even the Escorial. It does not have the quantity of paintings as does the Escorial, but it does have a number striking pieces by El Greco.
Back up the hill to the Alcazar, a fort made famous in the early days of the Spanish Civil War. After General Franco proclaimed his military coup against the democratically elected republic, the republican government demanded that the local military commander Colonel Moscardo turn over the regional military stores to them. He refused and holed up in this old fortress, which had been serving as a military training school. We happened to be visiting on the anniversary of the famous confrontation during the first week of the fighting. The republican government was being supported by militias associated with various progressive political parties. One of these militias captured the teenage son of Colonel Moscardo. The leader of that militia called the Colonel and demanded that he surrender the garrison or they would shoot his son. The Colonel told his son to die shouting patriotic and religious sentiments. Even though the Colonel did not surrender, his son was not immediately shot for his father’s refusal. Rather he was shot somewhat later in retaliation for an air raid by Franco’s forces on the town of Toledo. Colonel Moscardo and his soldiers were eventually relieved when General Franco’s army reached Toledo and drove the republicans out. By the end of the siege the fortress had been largely demolished. Most of the rebuilt structure that we visited has been turned into a museum for the Spanish military. The room where Colonel Moscardo received the call about his son has been preserved in its rough state during the fighting in 1936. The whole incident has become iconic for fascists and supporters of Franco. Franco was supported in his drive to power by Hitler and Mussolini. The military museum contained some interesting displays—striped concentration camp uniforms of republicans sent to Mauthausen, Nazi uniforms, battle maps showing where the Spanish Blue Legion helped in the Nazi invasion of Russia, and stars where ex-republicans from Spain fought against the invaders.
After the obligatory shopping for a pocket knife made in Toledo (for Anne Mei), Carlos drove us back to Puerto de Atocha train station in Madrid. It was a long week for him. Anne Mei and I will always be grateful for his hospitality and his friendship. The high speed train got us into Barcelona Sants earlier than our 9:20 pm scheduled arrival time. We were overjoyed to walk into the air conditioning in our hotel room. Nevertheless, we went out walking towards the night life of Las Ramblas. Anne Mei tried her first piña colada, and I had another lemon grandizado (lemon slushy). The air was hot and close, and rank at places as such party spots are and are best left not described.