Friday, October 26, 2012

Welcome to Valencia with Incantato Tours

Spain's third largest city after Madrid and Barcelona, Valencia, being on Spain's coastline, has a warm climate and is situated in the middle of a fertile plain of orange gorves and market gardens. The city was founded by the Romans in 138 BC and later conquered by the Moors. The three finest buildings in Valencia were built in the 14th and 15the century, when the city's economic prospere: the Torres de Serranos, a gateway, the cathedral and La Lonja. 

Torres de Serranos
The tower was erected in 1491 as a triumphal arch in the city's walls. It is a gateway that combines defensive and decorative features and the two towers are crowned with battlements and lightened by delicate Gothic tracery. 

The Cathedral
The original Cathedral was built in 1262, however much has been added over the centuries. The three doorways are in different styles, the oldest of which is the Romanesque Puerta del Palau. The Cathedral's bell tower, the Miguelete, is Valencia's main landmark.   

Lonja de la Seda - The Silk Exchange
Built in the 15th century, the Silk Exchange is Valencia's jewel of European Gothic civil architecture. The majority of the Exchange was built between 1482 and 1492. After the master mason Pere Compte's death, a pupil completed the work, adding in some Renaissance elements. Similarly to old medieval castles, the Silk Exchange is based on a fierce, fortress-like appearance re-enforced by its stone walls. The complete site, consisting of the Sea Consulate Room, the Orange tree Patio, and the Room of Columns, covers more than 2,000 square meters. It is considered one of Europe's most beautiful examples of Gothic civil architecture and for that was added to the UNESCO List of World Heritage Sites. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Toledo: an Incantato Favorite

Toledo is a municipality located in central Spain, 70 km south of Madrid.  It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986 for its extensive cultural and monumental heritage as one of the former capitals of the Spanish Empire and place of coexistence of Christian, Jewish and Moorish cultures.

Many famous people and artists were born or lived in Toledo, including Al-Zarqali, Garcilaso de la Vega, Eleanor of Toledo, Alfonso X and El Greco. It was also the place of important historic events such as the Visigothic Councils of Toledo. 

Having been populated since the Bronze Age, Toledo gained relevance during Roman times, being a main commercial and administrative center in the roman province of Tarraconensis. After the fall of the Roman Empire, Toledo served as the capital city of Visigothic Spain, beginning with Liuvigild (Leovigild), and was the capital of Spain until the Moors conquered Iberia in the 8th century.

Under the Caliphate of Cordoba, Toledo enjoyed a golden age. This extensive period is known as La Convivencia, i.e. the co-existence of Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Under Arab rule, Toledo was called Tulaytulah. After the fall of the Caliphate, Toledo was the capital city of one of the richest Taifa Muslim kingdoms of Al-Andalus, and, because of its central location in the Iberian Peninsula, Toledo took a central position in the struggles between the Muslim and Christian rulers of northern Spain. Remains of Roman circus at Toledo. On May 25, 1085 Alfonso VI of Castile took Toledo and established direct personal control over the Moorish city from which he had been exacting tribute
, and ending the mediaeval Taifa's Kingdom of Toledo. This was the first concrete step taken by the combined kingdom of Leon-Castile in the Reconquista by Christian forces. After castilian conquest Toledo remained as a main cultural centre; its Arab libraries weren't savaged, and a tag-team translation centre was established, in which books in Arabic would be translated from Arabic or Hebrew to Spanish by Arab and Jewish scholars, and from Spanish to Latin by castilian scholars, thus letting the old-lost knowledge spread through Christian Europe again.

For some time during the 16th century, Toledo served as the capital city of Castile, and the city flourished. However, soon enough the Spanish court was moved first to Valladolid and then to Madrid, thus letting the city's relevance dwindle until the late 20th century, when it was established as the capital city of the autonomous community of Castile-La Mancha. Nevertheless, the economic decline of the city helped to preserve its cultural and architectural patrimony.

Today, because of its rich heritage, Toledo is one of Spain's foremost cities, receiving thousands of visitors yearly. Toledo's Alcázar (Arabicized Latin word for palace-castle) became renowned in the 19th and 20th centuries as a military academy. At the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 its garrison was famously besieged by Republican forces.
Toledo's cuisine is the cuisine Castilla-rooted in its traditions and is closely linked to hunting and grazing. A good number of recipes is the result of the combination of Moorish and Christian influences. Among his specialties include the lamb roast or stew, as cuchifrito, and beans with partridge or stewed partridge, the carcamusas, the crumbs, the porridge Mancha and the tortilla to the lean. Two of the foods that have brought fame to the city of Toledo are the Manchego cheese and marzipan, which has a denomination of origin itself, the marzipan of Toledo.