Experiencing a Jueves Santo in Toledo, Spain will shake every emotion inside of you. This is what happened to me when I was invited to experience Toledo’s Jueves Santo by my good friends from Madrid, Kiko and Beatrice. I met my Spanish friends while living in Madrid in 2014. Beatrice was born and raised in Toledo and she knows everything about the city. I felt blessed to have her and her husband take me around the town during this historic night.
During Jueves Santo, dozens of churches are open to the public that are otherwise closed. Several of the churches belong to monasteries. In fact, many of the monasteries were built centuries ago. While visiting the churches, I was surprised to see several of the nuns sitting in dark rooms behind glass windows looking at all the tourist flood into their church. They seemed to be excited to see us because they were all staring through the glass window. Beatrice informed me that many of the nuns have been in the monasteries for decades and Jueves Santo is one of the few times they can see the outside world.
After visiting several churches we made our way through the beautiful streets of the city. Beatrice shared stories of her youth and pointed out the best places to eat and drink. I interjected several times and asked her about Toledo’s culture and economy. I have had many conversations with them about Toledo before, but I can never learn enough about this historic city and Beatrice is a treasure trove of information. One of the many things that makes Toledo worth visiting it that it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Beatrice pointed out several statues like the one above of Pope John Paul II and several historic building that deserve a post all on their own We kept walking through the large crowds and made our way to the Jewish Quarter to visit one last church before we joined the crowds for the procession of Jueves Santo. Monasterio de S. Juan de los Reyes was founded by King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella I to commemorate the birth of their son and also to their victory of The Battle of Toro. The monastery was completed in 1504.
The Jewish part of town was illuminated with graphics on the cobble stone streets. The streets were also empty in this area because everyone was in the center of town waiting near Toledo’s main cathedral for the processions to start.
Beatrice knew exactly how much time we could spend wandering around the city tasting wine and visiting more historic sites. Eventually, we made our way towards the cathedral in search of a spot to stop and watch the procession.
View the video below to feel the powerful experience of watching the processions and feeling the passion from the people of Toledo.
In pure Spanish style, we had dinner around 11:30 p.m. along with droves of Toledanos at a popular restaurant called La Abadía. Having a late dinner is something that I have come to cherish over the past seven years. I prepare for late dinners with with Zantac and Tums. Beatrice and Kiko ordered the meat platter along with a delicious red wine from La Mancha. The beef, sausage, and chicken were delicious. I kept telling Beatrice and Kiko that I had my own plate to eat, but they insisted that I keep trying the meat. How could I resist?
I ordered a dish well known in Toledo, which is Perdiz (Partridge). The meat melted in my mouth along with the tasty creamy sauce which did not detract from the quality of the meat. The soil in La Manch is rugged and this region is not known for its fruits or vegetables. No, La Mancha is all about the meat.
I couldn’t have asked for more of an authentic experience. In my humble opinion, this is what travel is about. It’s not about checking boxes off a bucket list and it’s not about country counting. Travel is about the personal experience and sharing that experience with others. I am grateful to my friends Kiko and Beatrice for sharing this amazing evening with me. Witnessing the passion, history, and culture of this city makes me want to come back for more.
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