THE CITY OF THE VISIGOTHS
Emilio Castelar said to me one day, "Toledo is the most remarkable city in Spain. You will find there three strata of glories, - Gothic, Arab, and Castilian, - and an upper crust of beggars and silence."
I went there in the pleasantest time of the year, the first days of June. The early harvest was in progress, and the sunny road ran through golden fields which were enlivened by the reapers gathering in their grain with shining sickles. The borders of the Tagus were so cool and fresh that it was hard to believe one was in the arid land of Castile. From Madrid to Aranjuez you meet the usual landscapes of dun hillocks and pale-blue vegetation, such as are only seen in nature in Central Spain, and only seen in art on the matchless canvas of Velazquez. But from the time you cross the tawny flood of the Tagus just north of Aranjuez, the valley is gladdened by its waters all the way to the Primate City.
I am glad I am not writing a guide-book, and do not feel any responsibility resting upon me of advising the gentle reader to stop at Aranjuez or to go by on the other side. There is a most amiable and praiseworthy class of travellers who feel a certain moral necessity impelling them to visit every royal abode within their reach. They always see precisely the same things, - some thousand of gilt chairs, some faded tapestry and marvellous satin upholstery, a room in porcelain, and a room in imitation of some other room somewhere else, and a picture or two by that worthy and tedious young man, Raphael Mengs. I knew I would see all these things at Aranjuez, and so contented myself with admiring its pretty site, its stone-cornered brick facade, its high-shouldered French roof, and its general air of the Place Royale, from the outside. The gardens are very pleasant, and lonely enough for the most philosophic stroller. A clever Spanish writer says of them, "They are sombre as the thoughts of Philip II., mysterious and gallant as the pleasures of Philip IV." To a revolutionary mind, it is a certain pleasure to remember that this was the scene of the emeute that drove Charles IV. from his throne, and the Prince of Peace from his queen's boudoir. Ferdinand VII., the turbulent and restless Prince of Asturias, reaped the immediate profit of his father's abdication; but the two worthless creatures soon called in Napoleon to decide the squabble, which he did in his leonine way by taking the crown away from both of them and handing it over for safe-keeping to his lieutenant brother Joseph. Honor among thieves! - a silly proverb, as one readily sees if he falls into their hands, or reads the history of kings.
If Toledo had been built, by some caprice of enlightened power, especially for a show city, it could not be finer in effect. In detail, it is one vast museum. In ensemble, it stands majestic on its hills, with its long lines of palaces and convents terraced around the rocky slope, and on the height the soaring steeples of a swarm of churches piercing the blue, and the huge cube of the Alcazar crowning the topmost crest, and domineering the scene. The magnificent zigzag road which leads up the steep hillside from the bridge of Alcantara gives an indefinable impression, as of the lordly ramp of some fortress of impossible extent.
This road is new, and in perfect condition. But do not imagine you can judge the city by the approaches. When your carriage has mounted the hill and passed the evening promenade of the To-ledans, the quaint triangular Place, - I had nearly called it Square, - "waking laughter in indolent reviewers," the Zocodover, you are lost in the dae-dalian windings of the true streets of Toledo, where you can touch the walls on either side, and where two carriages could no more pass each other than two locomotives could salute and go by on the same track. This interesting experiment, which is so common in our favored land, could never be tried in Toledo, as I believe there is only one turnout in the city, a minute omnibus with striped linen hangings at the sides, driven by a young Castilian whose love of money is the root of much discussion when you pay his bill. It is a most remarkable establishment. The horses can cheerfully do their mile in fifteen or twenty minutes, but they make more row about it than a high-pressure Mississippi steamer; and the crazy little trap is noisier in proportion to its size than anything I have ever seen, except perhaps an Indiana tree-toad. If you make an excursion outside the walls, the omnibus, noise and all, is inevitable; let it come. But inside the city you must walk; the slower the better, for every door is a study.