When preparing for our trip to Spain, I was particularly intrigued by a mention of city named Ronda, mainly because of its connection to Hemingway. He lived there on and off, and it is said to have been the setting for For Whom The Bell Tolls.
Ronda is with is just an hour north of the magnificent Costa del Sol, the sun coast which I loved. But it’s a different world.
It sits on a plateau of a large rock outcropping and straddles a deep gorge, El Tajo which is 360 feet deep and 200 feet wide. Because of the cliffs, Ronda was one of the last Moorish cities to fall during the Reconquest of Spain by the Spanish kings. ‘Tis said that in 1485, the Spanish looked up the cliffs to Ronda and decided not to attack the city but instead cut off the water supply. Once the garrison protecting the water was taken, the city fell in seven days.
Its many stories include tales of bandits who roamed the valley below for centuries, including the last one. The city has a Bandolero Museum (we didn’t have time to go). It features Bandit lore and paraphernalia from the time Ronda was the romantic home of 19th Century banditos. Think Jesse James. The people of Ronda have a fondness for this Spanish wild west past, and our guide told us their descendants live in the area.
It also has a more recent bloody past. In the 20th Century it had the unenviable reputation as being the place nationalists threw Republicans into the gorge and vice versa. It was a particularly brutal time when family members often fighting each other. After Franco won, he systematically killed any Republicans still left in Spain. Bitter memories remain.
This is just a little of the history of Ronda. Its story is rich, as is that of most Spanish cities. The city was settled by the Celts, won by the Romans, then the Moors and finally the Spanish kings, and the lingering influence of the last three is a beguiling mixture. There are still examples of the walls and bridges built by Romans and Moors and they are in excellent condition. The Arab baths are located in the old Jewish Quarter. Remnants of a bridge built by Romans are still there. There’s still the Moorish Quarter, along with the new sprawling Mercadillo quarter.
Like so many churches in Spain, Ronda’s celebrated Santa Maria Church is built on the site of a former mosque and an earlier temple to Julius Caesar and is a mixture of Morrish, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque influences. You can get easily confused in Spain.
The views in Ronda were the most spectacular I experienced in Spain. Since my camera’s battery died at this point, I’m going to send you to a photo website of Ronda,
http://digitaljournal.com/article/322910. If you have a problem, go to
Digitaljournal, go to travel, and type Ronda in the seach box. It’s worth the effort.
The photos are magnificent and if you are ever thinking about going to Spain or just want to know more about it, I hope you will visit the site. It will give you a feel for this city and this fascinating country in general.
To Spaniards, Ronda’s claim to fame is more for being the birthplace of modern bullfighting rather than the magnificent gorge. Ronda’s bull ring(and museum is Spain’s best – superior to Seville’s. Built in 1785, the area includes some 5,000 seats and 136 Tuscan columns. The ring was closed on the day we visited the town and, being an animal lover, I had little interest in going inside, but it was certainly a handsome building on the outside.
My attitude, though, is certainly is in a minority in Spain.
Nearly everywhere you go in the region, you see bull fighting posters, photos, costumes. And, of course, bull souvenirs. The latter includes wooden bulls, bottle opener bulls, painting of bulls, bullfighter capes, etc. You also see bulls in fields. We even visited a breeding stable in the area that raises horses for bullfights.
I can never quite express the glory of this city and the views it offers. If you ever visit Spain, you shouldn’t miss this wonderful town. I plan to go back when possible and spend more time exploring. The problem with a tour is there’s never enough time, and this was particularly true in Ronda.
Since I have no photos, I thought I would leave with two photos of very contented dogs now their person is back.
The first is Kate, the second her twin, Allie.