A short trip to the picturesque town of Ronda is one of the most rewarding places to visit in the province of Málaga. My spontaneity actually paid off (I got the last hostel room available for that night!) when I considered this small city to be a part of my side trip around Andalusia. Thanks to my friend, María, for such a wonderful advice.
Arunda. Acinipo. Izn- Rand Onda. RONDA. Founded by the Celts, then nurtured by the Romans and inhabited by the Visigoths thereafter, Ronda also welcomed the Islamic invasion in the 8th century without violence and formed part of the Caliphate of Córdoba. After the disintegration of Al-Andalus, Ronda became an integral state of the Caliphate of Seville called “Taifa de Ronda” and remained under the Muslim dominance until 1485, surrendering after a long siege by the Christians. It was one of the last conquered territories and therefore, one of the longest-existing caliphates in the fragmented Moorish kingdom along with Granada that capitulated seven years after.
The proximity of my hostel to the bridge made it easier for me to access the main highlights of this active, little town. Ronda’s defining symbol of identity is the 18th century Puente Nuevo (New Bridge). Straddled between two canyons, this 120-meter deep bridge connects the barrios of La Ciudad and El Mercadillo. The town offers gorgeous sights of the gorges on which the city is built, vast green plains down below and mountains from afar. Whether one is on top or below the bridge, there surely is a romantic view to appreciate.
I crossed the bridge back to El Mercadillo where the Parador Nacional de Turismo (formerly the municipal hall) stands and explored the markets on the Plaza de España, the town square where I dug up a bit of their local products, like ceramics and porcelain. Passing by the Plaza de Toros I felt a surge of excitement as I got to realize that it was, in fact, the oldest bullfighting ring in the world.
(Seville will surely protest after having said this) that was designed in the 18th century in Neoclassical style by the same architect who did the Puente Nuevo. From there, the new town was only within a short walk to Alameda del Tajo, the city park filled with canopy of trees and a terrace to enjoy the sunset and the beautiful, romantic landscape that surrounded it. Writers and travelers of the 19th century who passed through Ronda described the city as:
“… one of the places which stands alone. I know of nothing to which it can be compared.”— Countess of Robersart (1863) Lettres d’Espagne
And Washington Irving also wrote: “Last night, stormy windy rain. Look out from window. Beautiful effect of moonlight breaking through mist on bridge. White houses along the bank of the river ravine…”
As I tried to mingle with the locals, I happened to come across another lone traveler from Germany who had just finished his medical internship in Cádiz. Just like me, Peter (who also likes sunsets) was also staying the night in Ronda and would go on his journey to Seville the following day. And so, we both decided to explore the highlights of the old town.
As my Ronda trip finally came to a close, I paid a visit to the barrio of San Francisco. Visiting the forbidding walled entrance of Puerta de Almocábar gives one an intimidating feeling to see what’s beyond the portals. But from the outside, one can already view the austere fortress-like Iglesia del Espíritu Santo, a fine example of isabeline-gothic-mudejar architecture. Lastly, to complete my Ronda adventure, I ended up at the sumptuously preserved Baños Árabes (Arabian bathhouse) with a view of the oldest bridge of all three, the Puente Árabe, where I got to meet three of Hernán Cortés’ descendants from Extremadura, as they shared with me some of their thoughts on the Reconquista and the discovery of the New World. They showed a great deal of fascination towards the Moorish history and art.
After a weeklong journey through Andalusia, I knew I was in dire need of a relaxing side trip and Ronda didn’t fail to give me the quiet time that I wished for away from the big cities and crowds. My fever has finally subsided and I’m excited to face Sevilla with full energy.