The little town of Ronda has known human habitation since neolithic times. It was a Celtic and then a Phoenician settlement, then a Roman fortress. The Visigoths owned it for a couple of hundred years, then it was conquered by the Berbers in 713AD. It flourished as a centre of learning under Islamic rule for 700 years, before falling to the Christian Marquis of Cadiz in 1485. It’s population was decimated during the Napoleonic war, and it was the scene of brutal violence during the Spanish civil war. If you look carefully, you’ll see a room with a balcony above the central arch of the 1000 year-old bridge. This room was used to torture prisoners by Franco’s army and they were then thrown to their deaths from the balcony.
We had only a single night in Ronda, so set off exploring during the afternoon, planning dinner at the customary time for Spaniards of 8.30 or 9.00pm, only to find when we, went looking for a place to eat, that nearly everything had closed! Ronda must be the only town in Spain that goes to bed early.
The main roads in the centre of town are pedestrian plazas, filled with interesting shops and places to eat or drink. (I bought a particularly nice pair of suede shoes). Inevitably there were several jamon boutiques.
Jamon, or Spanish ham is a staple food, and it bears little relationship to English ham. The pigs look like wild boars, and are raised free range. The best jamon comes from pigs raised in oak forests, whose diet consists mostly of acorns. Jamon is cured according to an age-old tradition, then aged to perfection. We were offered jamon at every meal. Every food outlet, it seems has several (or several hundred) legs of jamon hanging on display, and a specially designed apparatus on the counter to hold the jamon just so, while someone whose sole job it appears to be, carves wafer-thin slices for consumption. There are even jamon museums!
Next morning we got up early and tramped down into the valley to look back at the town. When we were halfway across the famous bridge, suddenly a large noisy drone rose out of the gorge towards us. As it approached, I whipped out my phone and started taking photos of it, whereupon it whizzed backwards about 50 metres. About then we realised that the only other people on the bridge were a bevy of attractive actresses, and that we were surrounded by a film crew, waiting to record a flash Porsche driving over the bridge!
Ronda is a spectacular place to visit, and a pleasant change from crowded cities. It also boasts the second-oldest bull-ring in Spain. There was to be a ceremonial bull-fight the day after we left.
One more thing; when I was walking around Ronda, I couldn’t get the Beach Boys song “Help me Rhonda” out of my head.
Old Ronda on the left, the new town on the right