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Valladolid: Lenten Town of Spain

2017_051321_5954_018Having learned that we are looking for something new to go to on Good Friday, someone in our group  gushed about the Castile town of Valladolid, assuring us that if only for its processions, the place is a must-see during the Holy Week. Bonus treats are the centuries-old churches and museums kept well-preserved within the city boundaries, as well as the strong Castillian vibe that the place is known for. Quite convinced, we signed into joining a small group that will travel to this town early Friday morning.

During the trip itself, I felt how time  seemed to have passed so slowly despite the fact that the distance between Madrid Valladolid is but all of two and a half hours. Perhaps I got used to the many quick 1-hour-or-so day trip destinations I had before, such as Toledo, Colmenares Viejo, Alcala de Henares and Manzanares el Real.

Did you know that Valladolid is not only famous for its religious processions, museums, and churches, but it is likewise associated with a number of popular historical figures? Popular names who were born or have stayed in Valladolid are Christopher Columbus, the world conqueror; Phillip II and Phillip III, former rulers of Spain; and Miguel Cervantes, the iconic Spanish writer.

First stop: Tordesillas

If you’re bound for Valladolid, it is a must that you stop by the town where the treaty between Spain and Portugal was signed. We only had 30 minutes more to Valladolid when we took a lull at this quiet town, made historic because of the 1494 treaty signed by the two most powerful countries during that time. The treaty divided the New World between the two countries.

It was just frustrating because we stayed in Tordesillas for all of 40 minutes, and not two hours like what was earlier planned. I decided by make the most of our stay there by rushing to the Treaty Houses, and the town’s Plaza Mayor to take some pictures.

Seeing Valladolid

Finally, we reached our destination after 25 or so minutes of travel from Tordesillas. One thing unique about this famous Castile town is the absence of mountains and hills, a topographic feature common in other Spanish towns and cities. It has no mountains to speak of — the only one in all of Spain. Another distinction is that it is completely surrounded by all other provinces belonging to the Castile and Leon community — these are Palencia, Zamora, León, Segovia, Burgos, Salamanca, and Ávila .

Holy Week in Val

Brotherhoods and groups of Catholic leanings are known to hold their own celebration of the Lent, interpreting the passion of the Christ through processions. Streets are filled with observers intent in watching the long procession that tells the story of the Passion and Death of Jesus. Most of the important processions are during the Easter Week itself.

If you want to experience the best that the town offers, visit it during Easter, since it is the time when religious processions happen, where spectacular and breathtaking religious displays and icons depicting Christ’s suffering and death are paraded. Religious fraternities that consist of members and leaders are garbed in robes of different designs and colors.

They carry beautiful, life-sized statues of Jesus and other religious personalities atop carriages to be witnessed and appreciated by devotees. Processions are usually accompanied by a band that plays somber religious hymns.

Stunning Photos

2017_051322_0449_702Santa Maria de la Antigua Church is a Catholic Church of  combined Roman and Gothic-style architecture, patterned after that of the Burgos Cathedral. In English, it is the Church of St. Mary the Ancient. It is so-called because it was built way back in the 12th century. As early as 1897, it was declared a national monument, a Bien de Interes Cultural.

2017_051322_1050_835The Iglesia Conventual de San Pablo, more popularly known as the  Iglesia San Pablo de Valladolid, is one of the iconic churches of the town and all of the community of Castile and León. It took builders more than 23 years to built, from 1445 to 1468. The church is the place where King Philip II and King Philip IV were baptized. It was said to have been visited by  French conqueror Napoleon Bonaparte.

2017_051522_4509_741Plaza Mayor of Valladolid have originated all the way from the Hasburg monarcy, and is recognized as a true Spanish Square. It is also is touted as the very first plaza of Spain. The grounds are vast and wide, intended to be so in order  to hold shows and sports events. This vital spot in the town hosts most of Valladolid’s public events, including the Holy Week’s presentations and processions

2017_051321_4926_531Ayuntamiento de Valladolid is the stately edifice lording over the town’s Plaza Mayor, and serves as the office of the town administration

2017_051522_3132_897Palacio Real de Valladolid is located at Plaza de San Pablo, in front of the Iglesia de San Pablo. It served as the official residence of the Kings in the early part of the 1600’s, the era when the town acted as the seat of the Spanish courts

2017_051522_3122_683Iglesia Penitencial de la Vera Cruz, or the Penitential Church of Santa Vera Cruz in English, is a church located in the middle of the town, right within the  Calle Platerías. The church is associated with the Brotherhood or Fraternity of the Holy Cross Vera, recognized as the the oldest Lenten Brotherhood in the City. It houses one of the most important icons in Spain, the Lignum Crucis

2017_051522_3737_717Mercado del Val strongly reminds me of Mercado de San Miguel mainly because of its glass and iron architecture. Built in the late 19th century, it is found in the Plaza del Val, and a stone’s throw away from the San Benito el Real Church

2017_051322_2305_684 Iglesia del Monasterio de San Benito, or the Saint Benedict church — flaunts old Gothic church architecture. Its site was the former location of the Alcazar Real de Valladolid, an imposing edifice masterfully built with its gate tower-shaped, Rennaissance-inspired facade giving the church a uniquely beautiful appearance

2017_051322_2946_785Processions in Valladolid are often joined in by Spanish ladies of the town wearing mantillas, or traditional shawl or lace worn over their head using a special comb known as peineta.

2017_051323_0552_721After an hour of waiting , the long procession finally started at 8PM, passing through vital streets to end at the Plaza Mayor2017_051323_0801_596Valladolid processions, as in other processions on most Spanish towns, are dominated by men wearing capirote, point cone-shaped hat. These men belong to fraternities or brotherhoods assigned to reenact vital scenes from the suffering and death of Jesus Christ

2017_051322_2653_284Monasterio Real de San Joaquin y Santa Ana is the official monastery of the Congregation of Monasteries of Cistercian nuns of San Bernardo. Its exhibits a neoclassical design created by Francesco Sabatini. Adjacent to the monastery is a museum that displays baroque pieces. The Monasterio Real itself boasts of valuable art pieces such as a number of paintings by Goya,  which incidentally are the only ones by the artist that exists within the Castile Leon community.

How to go:

Via Train: Available is RENFE, Spain’s railway system, which offers AVE high speed train service. The cost of the ticket depends on the schedule and availability of ride, with the price ranging from as low as 12 euros to as high as 30. The town has its own station called the Estacion del Norte, but it is located outside the center of the capital. You will have to walk some 25 minutes to reach the city proper.

Bus: If you want to take the autobus, go to the ALSA station at Estacion Sur. The company offers regular rides throughout the day, with tickets selling from 12 to 15 euros one way. Travel time ranges from 2 and a half hours to 3.

Map:

Outside Madrid: Toledo Spain [What to See]

imageThe majestic Alcazar (fortress) lording over the whole town of Toledo

You need not travel for hours just to escape the frenzied Madrid crowd and enjoy the quiet of the countryside. For instance, if you want to go to Toledo Spain and wish to experience what the country’s former capital has to offer, you need only less than a hour, or roughly 45 minutes to reach this magnificent hilltop town.

A popular day trip destination, Toledo is a veritable cultural melting pot of sorts if only because it was formed from the influence of three different religions — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Such influences molded the place into the unique and historically rich town that it is now, as seen thru its Moorish walls and towers, plazas, cathedrals, museums, bridges, and Christian Roman ruins. Consequently, its overflowing uniqueness led UNESCO to declare it as a World heritage site.

imageToledo Cathedral

Toledo is the heart and soul of Spain, being the country’s former premier city, long before Madrid became the current one. This “pueblo” within the Castille La Mancha community sets itself apart from the rest of the region because it drips in so much grandeur and history.

A major Spain attraction like Cordoba and Compostela de Santiago, what makes Toledo a preferred destination is that it requires less travel hours to reach, which means much more time to explore the place.

A marked edge of Toledo is that going there is cheaper especially if you’re from Madrid. Traveling via bus will cost you less than 10 euros if you purchase round trip tickets. Likewise, sites and attractions are near each other. You’d get to walk through the town´s cobbled streets, which can be narrow and confusing – much like a labyrinth — but exciting, nonetheless.

Visit Toledo now, see it, and in no time at all, you will fall in love with this Spanish gem. Explore the town to the fullest, and be ready to add Toledo to your list of favorite Spanish towns.

MOORISH ATTRACTIONS

1. Alcazar de Toledo

This is Toledo´s famous fortress, standing at the highest point of the town. So-called because it was controlled by the town’s ancient conquerors, the Moors. It still maintains a vast military importance to the town.

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2. Puerta de Visagra

Also called Puerta Nueva de Visagra, this imposing monument serves as the gateway to the walled city of Toledo, Castilla La Mancha.

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3. Antiguas Murallas y Torres

The ancient towers and walls that surround Toledo are clear evidences of the Moorish influence on the town.

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4. Puente de San Martin y Rio Tajo

One of the popular town attractions is the San Martin Bridge with its 5 arches, spanning over the historic Tagus River (Tajo Rio). San Martin was a Roman bridge, but was rebuilt by the Moors in 1212.

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5. Iglesia de El Salvador

I’ll include the Church of El Salvador under the Moorish group since it was originally built as a mosque, at the time when the Muslims dominated the town.

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JEWISH INFLUENCE

1. Museo de Separdi

The Sephardic Museum boasts of a rich display of the history of the Jewish people in Toledo through its valuable Judaic artifacts. Where located: Calle Samuel Levi.

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2. The Menorrah Tiles

The white Menorrah or the Jewish candle holder over a blue-background tile. Many of these tiles are embedded in the streets of Toledo, indicating a once thriving Jewish presence.

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3. Transito Synagogue

The synagogue of the Transito is unique because while it is a bonafide Jewish place of worship, the edifice evokes a Moorish design. It is built by Samuel Ha-Levi (full name: Samuel Ben Meir Ha Levi Abulafia), a Jewish advisor to the 14th century King of Castile, Pedro I.

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4. Sta Maria la Blanca

Santa Maria la Blanca, now a small Christian church and museo, was built as a synagogue, functioning as one until the latter part of the 14th century. Ownership was eventually transferred to the Catholic Church. Christian worship and cultural events are said to be held at the site.

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ROMAN CATHOLIC LEGACY

1. Catedral de Santa Maria de Toledo

A popular Roman Catholic church patterned after the Bourges Cathedral of France, it is known by many names such as the Toledo Cathedral and Cathedral of Spain. It is considered one of the finest structures that utilized Gothic architecture. Entrance ticket price: 8 euros

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2. Iglesia de San Ildefonso

The church of San Ildefonso is dedicated to the town’s patron saint, St Ildefonsus. Run by the Jesuits, the church is primarily baroque in design. It is simple and charming church that’s popular among tourists who wander within the Calle de Mejico area.

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3. Convento de San Antonio, Dulces Artisanos

The Convent of San Antonio de Padua can be found in Santo Tome, one of the Town´s central streets. It sells pastries and sweets like yemas at affordable prices, to the delight of tourists and locals alike.

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OTHER TOLEDO SPAIN ATTRACTIONS

1. Plaza Zocodover

The town´s main square, a tourist attraction, is bustling like most other main squares in Spain. People rush about in the plaza throughout the day, mainly because of the surrounding restaurants, souvenir shops, and the fancy, red-colored tourist train that brings riders to the spot where panoramic photos of the town from afar can be taken.

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2. Museo de Santa Cruz

Its location is where an ancient hospital used to stand. Now, the Santa Cruz Museum features everything that represents the magnificent era of the country — the Spanish Renaissance. It presents works of Luis Trista and El Greco, among many other renowned artists. Direccion: Miguel de Cervantes

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3. Museo del Greco

Located along Paseo del Transito, the museum is dedicated to Domenikos Theotokopoulos — or simply El Greco. As his name implies, he was from Greece but settled in Toledo Spain where he led a prolific life as an artist and architect. Here, he produced most of his beautiful painting-masterpieces.

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4. Plaza del Ayuntamiento

Another popular town Square, where the Ayuntamiento, the body in charge of the town government, and the Cathedral de Sta Maria are found.

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5. Hostal San Tome

Hotels in Toledo Spain abound, and so finding a nice accommodation is easy to be had if you want to stay in town overnight or for a few days. Hostal San Tome belongs to the list of fine Toledo hotels — for one thing, its location is right in the middle of the action. Booking a room here is the perfect thing to do. Here is its website.

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How to reach Toledo:

Bus: An ALSA bus is bound for Toledo every 20 to 30 minutes. Go to the ALSA station at Plaza Eliptica and buy tickets for 5.39 euros apiece. You pay less, 9.70 euros, if you purchase ida y vuelta tickets. Duration of travel: approximately 45 minutes.

Train: Take the Renfe AVE service at Atocha station, the price is around 25 euros (round trip). The train option is much faster; time of travel via Renfe is approximately 30 minutes.

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