Thursday, March 20, 2008

Toledo 3 preservation

First the Romans came, then the Visigoths established their capital, then the Moors established theirs, then came Isabel of Castile and Fernando II of Aragon, known in Spain as Los Reyes Catolicos. Toledo has a lot of history for a little place. It's called la ciudad de las tres culturas (the city of the three cultures) because in between religious and political upheavals, this is a city where Christians, Muslims and Jews managed in to live in something like peace. It shows in the architecture and the street names.

The city walls are ancient,
as are the bridges which span the river, which surrounds the city on three sides.
Actually, some parts are younger than others, what with assorted armed struggles, the expansion of the city, plus time and weather of course.

The stone ball on the left, for instance.
There are some seriously handsome buildings here, all in daily use.
There are odd signs of delapidation, of course (It's a city, not a theme park.)
but nothing prepares you for this,
and this,
or this. The pristine building with the filled in the window stands at the top of the slope, and the metalwork starts halfway down. Which makes me wonder about the condition of the building at the top of the slope, before they restored it......................
Across town, there's this.
But these are its neighbours. And all the houses in the surrounding streets are sound.
Both the middle and right-hand houses have had a lot of work done on their facades - and some serious structural work throughout, I imagine! In every Spanish city I've visited, I've seen variations on this: brace what can be salvaged, knock out what can't, and rebuild so it looks just the way it used to, only spanking new! Cities expand with modern tower blocks, but the old hearts are preserved.
Consequently, in places like Toledo, they still need stonemasons
and specialist glassmakers.
Oh yes - and housepainters! None of this stonework is stone.
None of this brickwork is brick........
Looking good.
This, on the other hand, is all authentic.
The trompe l'oeil paintwork may raise the hackles of purists (and some examples are better executed than others) but one of the challenges here, as in most cities, is the trickling away of young people. The apartment blocks may not be pretty, but they're modern, sound and relatively affordable. What price handcut stone and traditionally manufactured (i.e. obsolete) bricks? (It's a holiday. Let's not talk about career opportunities and entry-level salaries for Spain's university graduates....)
If these old places can be restored as affordable homes rather than souvenir shops, I think that's a blow for real life. Maybe a bit of weathering and a window box or two?

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