Ronda: It's Miraculous Nature and Architecture
Photos by Kuba Sobolewski
My dream was to see Ronda, a city with two faces and two stories connected by a stone bridge. Cities with views of the endless hills and the Sierra de Grazalema mountains, and the charming White Villages (Pueblos Blancos), founded in the 11th century by the Moors. I was drawn there, I had a feeling that here I would find yet another face of Andalusia.
A fantastic scenic road leads to Ronda through a varied, hilly terrain. This period in Andalusia it is very green, and the rich color of vegetation accompanies each view. Soon everything will be yellow and dry, as the rain stops and the landscape is dried by the sun.
If you travel by car, expect difficulties... In Ronda, the streets are narrow, often one-way, so it is best to leave the car in an underground car park and go on foot.
We started our walk from Alameda park, from which stretched a breathtaking view with huge green expanses and the distant gray rocks of Grazalema... The visibility that day was perfect.
We passed a corridor, and walked along the encampment, headed for the Puente Nuevo bridge which connects the newest part of Ronda called Mercadillo, with the older one called Ciudad.
The History of Ronda
The origins of the small town of Ronda date back to Roman times, after the Visigoths settled here. During their reign, the town deteriorated, only to regain its splendor under Muslim rule from the eighth to the fifteenth century, becoming one of the most important strongholds in Andalusia. With perfect natural features and conditions such as 100 meter high slopes, a gorge and excellent visibility to the surrounding area, the city was easy to defend. The then ruler Omar, conquered Andalusia with great success up until the ninth century, but after a series of defeats by his sons, Ronda became part of the Caliphate of Córdoba, and at the end of the 11th century - after the cruel execution of the rulers of Ronda - it was annexed to the kingdom of Seville. Muslim rule can still be seen in the smallest details of the old part of the city. The Palacio de Mondrágon is a good example, and it is called the small Alhambra, and features a cozy, palatial atmosphere. In Ronda you will find some of the best-preserved artifacts of Muslim architecture in Andalusia.
Reyes Católicos in Ronda
Ronda, as well as other cities of Andalusia, suffered through the invasions of Catholic monarchs. Despite strong resistance, in 1485, the Muslims were defeated and the town was divided among Castilian nobles. Escaping from Ronda, the Moors hid out in the Sierra de Grazalema mountains creating new agricultural settlements which we find today called the Pueblos Blancos (ie white villages).
In the eighteenth century, Ronda experienced an economic boom, and built the famous bridge Puente Nuevo (New Bridge), which connects two parts of the city separated by the river Tajo.
Puente Nuevo (New Bridge)
Puente Nuevo is 100 meters high and resembles Stańczyki from the Romincka Forest in Poland. It was built from stone, and it fits perfectly between two vertical, sandy slopes that look like Greek Meteora. The river Tajo rumbles below, and the water breaks into oblong boulders. Looking down one feels an incredible urge to touch these stones as they are splashed with water.
A trail leads down the slope, and the lower we go the narrower it becomes. I do not recommend this trip if you need a stroller or wheelchair. There are no guardrails, but endless steps and crowds of people. Perhaps best to hang your baby in a shawl or carrier and proceed with caution. Those with limited mobility may want to admire the river from above as the trail is not accessible. The reward on the bottom is however worth the effort of going back up for those who are able. The view of the monumental bridge from the bottom and slope white houses is lovely.
The Historic Center
The old Arab part of Ronda stole my heart. I found there everything I love about city architecture.
Narrow streets, small gardens, mysterious abandoned and destroyed tenements, a combination of wooden raw materials with stone and patios inviting you to relax.
There was a scent of orange blossoms in the air, intense and intoxicating, like the smell of jasmine and lilac. Wandering through the streets again we reach the Collegiate Church of Santa María la Mayor, which was founded within a former mosque. You can find there evidence, the remnants of the mihrab, or sanctuary located in the former prayer hall. Unfortunately, on Sunday the collegiate church is closed to visitors.
The new part of Ronda is now a very commercial promenade with numerous cafes, pubs and shops. This tiny town caters to tourists perfectly. Every Sunday morning you can shop the market in the morning, and in the afternoon take a break in Alameda park - founded in the 19th century-to enjoy the beautiful view from Mirador de la Alameda.
After a walk in Ronda, it's worth the extra trip to travel deep into the Sierra de Grazalema mountains and visit the Pueblos Blancos... an overnight stay in an idyllic hut among grazing sheep and horses is not to be missed.
Thanks so much to KASIA SOBOLEWSKA for this lovely view of Ronda!
Kasia is a Polish therapist who works with children with social disabilities and difficulties in active hearing. She works with Tomatis and Neurofeedback methods. She is also a specialist in ergonomy and advises people how to work to avoid musculoskeletal disorders. She lives in Seville with her three kids, husband and two pets. She writes a personal blog (www.good-enough.eu) in which she shares her observation about Andalucia and her parental and therapeutic experience.
Be sure to check out Kasia's blog here, for more about her and her wealth of knowledge.