by wjw on October 20, 2021

After Sevilla we were more than a week into our action-packed trip, so we planned three nights at a beach resort for some Rest & Recreation. Not that we got a lot of Rest once we arrived, mostly on account of all our Recreation.

Our way to the Costa del Sol took us through the spectacular scenery of the Sierra Blanca and to the small city of Ronda, built on a tall escarpment and therefore suitable for defense. Settlements in the area date to the Neolithic, though the town proper was founded by the Romans. The Old Town is separated from the New Town by a 100-meter gorge that we were repeatedly told was the “Grand Canyon of Spain,” which makes sense only to those who haven’t seen the actual Grand Canyon.

In the photo above we’re looking at the old “Moorish” bridge (actually Roman) that spans the gorge. There’s a much larger and more spectacular “new” bridge (dating from the mid-18th Century), from which I probably took this photo. There’s a large and beautiful park, many views of the cliffs and the country below, and a great many restaurants and bars.

At the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, all the fascist sympathisers in the town were rounded up and chucked off a cliff, a scene that made it into For Whom the Bell Tolls. (Tossing captives into gorges was a Spanish Medieval tradition revived for the occasion.) Hemingway stayed often in the town, and there’s a street named after him along with a hotel, and a memorial plaque in the park. Orson Welles, buried nearby, also rates a plaque. (Rilke, who also loved the town and lived here, does not.) A much larger plaque commemorates the Japanese artist Miki Haruta, who spent much of his life in Ronda.

Local hero Pedro Romero rates a full bronze statue, having in the early 19th century written the first rulebook for modern bullfighting, turning it from a messy slaughter into the stately, theatrical slaughter it is today, and going some way to explaining why Andalucia is so devoted to tauromachia. There’s a huge and magnificent bronze bull outside the town’s 18th century bull ring.

From Ronda we went down more winding mountain roads to the millionaire’s resort town of Marbella. For lunch.

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