I did Ronda on a day trip from Seville, catching a bus early in the morning and returning late afternoon. I was not interested in spending the night there because I was haunted by images of revolutionaries being thrown off the cliffs as described in Earnest Hemingway’s novel on the Spanish Civil War, For Whom the Bells Toll. It’s not that he said it was Ronda but that’s what one hears. Hemingway did write though that Ronda was the most romantic place in the country, which I decided to ignore because I’m a bit claustrophobic and could only imagine myself clinging to the ancient walls so as not to fall into the gorge.
Ronda is only 132 km from Seville (or 110 km from Malaga) so it’s easy enough to do in a day. It’s one of the so-called white towns, situated in a basin and circled by medium high mountains. It’s actually famous for three things: the deep gorge, the New Bridge that was built over the gorge, and bull fighting.
The New Bridge it actually quite old, having been built between 1751 and 1793. That’s 42 years to build one bridge. The first bridge (I assume it was called Old Bridge) fell down within 5 years and since the gorge (called “El Tajó”) that cuts the town in two is 120 metres deep and a long ways to fall, I suspect everyone appreciates the extra effort that was taken in constructing its replacement.
Rock dwelling birds nest in the crevices and holes of the gorge and are somewhat an attraction as are the hanging gardens over the landscaped terraces on the gorge’s slope. You can walk down, down, down the 365 steps to the river. Slaves use to do it, running up and down the steps hauling water.
The New Bridge separates modern and historic Ronda but interestingly the bullring—which is one of the oldest in all of Spain—is found on the “newer” side. It seems that ‘fighting’ has a long history in Ronda. It started with the war between the Christians and Moors when the Christian king encouraged his noblemen to stay in fighting shape through tournaments and the spearing of bulls.
Over time, the battle with bulls became a spectator sport. The bullring opened In 1785 and bullfights were promoted to the masses through posters that were often designed by well-known Spanish artists. A local museum says this led to the “democratization of art”. The museums also tell stories of past bandits and smugglers so I would guess there is no shame in their rogue past.
The Moors and Christians were both busy here, the Moors building the city walls and baths, the Christians the Collegiate church of Santa María de la Encamación that they erected over a mosque.
After I got use to walking close to the gorge I started to think that I would be able to do a romantic meal on one of those terraces but alas, I was on my own so after walking the ancient streets and poking around some shops I picked up some street food and headed back to the bus station.
Travel in southern Spain is surprisingly easy and so rewarding
1st stop Madrid
Córdoba and its Mezquita
Alhambra, Granada’s palace-city
Seville, the capital of Andalucía
By Sylvia Fanjoy
Photo credits Sylvia Fanjoy
© Riding the buses™ 2016