La Fundación José Ortega y Gasset. It is a small and very beautiful campus in Madrid. About a 20-minute walk from my home, and a quick jaunt on el autobus.
I was just blessed with the opportunity to spend the last two days in the city of Toledo. Toledo is about an hour outside Madrid and was the capital of Spain. It is a medieval city set atop a rock surrounded by a river; essentially, it is una fortaleza, or fortress. The streets are a labyrinth, modeled after many Muslim cities, narrow and cobblestone, and so very cool!
Our group of twelve students stayed in la Fundación’s satellite campus. It is tucked away in the labyrinth, and lucky for me, I only got lost once — some of my fellow students weren’t so lucky.
While there, we learned about Toledo’s long history, which dates back to Roman times. The city has layer upon layer of culture and history. It was first called Toletum Romano; then Toletum Visigodo, as the Visigoths took over; then it was ruled by the Muslims and Spain became known as Al-Andalus; next it became the capital of Sefarad, the Jewish name for Spain; and finally Christian, when the Roman Catholic Church took over. Although today it is the spiritual capital of Spain, remnants of its past religions can be seen in the synagogues, like La Sinagoga de Santa María Blanca (a beautiful synagogue with a white interior, hence “Blanca”) and in the minarets and a mosque, as well.
Aside from tours of the city and a class that provided great information on the history, we students were given plenty of free time to explore the streets and experience Toledo on our own. It is a tourist city, so we enjoyed looking at the different shops, enjoying the tapas and breathing the fresh mountain air.
It was a great way to begin our time in Spain, allowing us to ease into life in Madrid and Spanish culture. I am looking forward to getting settled into Madrid and starting classes next week (I’m the type of person who enjoys a routine! Don’t get me wrong; a vacation is absolutely wonderful, as well.) The adventure is well under way, and memories that I’ll have for a lifetime are already beginning to pile up.