Tuesday, February 17, 2009
I was unfamiliar with the city of Ronda until we got to Spain. I saw a picture of the way cool bridge on a tour pamphlet in the resort lobby; we decided it would be interesting to go see that. But there was so much more!
Ronda is an ancient city set high atop rocky outcroppings along a river. There were cave dwellers in prehistoric times, then as animals and crops were thrown into the mix, settlements were built on the plateau. The Romans came in, possibly the Phoenicians beforehand. Then the Moors, and the Christians. All the cultures overlap and contribute to the depth of the history.
Breakfast was early and we set off into the sunrise. We drove up from the coast through San Pedro. Figures that we were there just in time for all the parents to be dropping kids off at school, traffic was simply awful, clogged and slow. We missed a turn at one of the roundabouts and ended up behind some factories. We figured it out after much grousing at each other.
The Triple A map gave a different name for the two lane highway, but it took us there anyway. The drive in to the mountains is steep and at some points, quite spectacular. There were few places to stop for snapshots. It even snowed on us! When we stopped for fuel, Larry fussed about which pump to use. I had it figured out. The servicios behind the station were cold, cold cold! I was still glad to see them.
As we drive into Ronda, Larry turned east instead of following the older Sur del Ronda road. We came in through the newer sections of town. Very small one way streets and no visible parking. We finally found a parking garage under the plaza in front of the cathedral near the bull ring. That just sounds cool. As we walked over to find the tourist information center, we stopped and bought cheesy tourist keyrings with our names on them. Glad I can go by Margarita if I like! I passed up a tile picture in a shop set in the side of the bull ring, my one smallish regret. Very pretty and would have gone well on my tourist art wall.
The tourist center is tiny but great. You can buy tickets for the museums and sites in Old Town there, a ticket package gives reduced entrance fees. If I'd had my student ID, it would have been even less. The map claimed there were bathrooms behind the tourist center, but they were locked for the winter. Gah!
First we went into the New Bridge. This is the bridge we thought was Roman in the pictures, no, it was built in 1751! That's "new". It is still in use. Inside the bridge were interesting bits of history and pictures.
Next we went to the House of the Giant. This is named for a sculpture the owner found in a stream and brought to display in the house. It is pre-Roman, possibly Phoenician or ???? The house is an example of the overlapping cultures, a museum showing how a Moorish home was built over an original Roman dwelling, then converted into a Christian household. Fascinating!
A step across the tiny plaza brought us to a museum dedicated to a pupil/contemporary of Picasso, Peinado. Cubist, very good, but not my main thing. Beautiful little museum. There was a painting of a cubist skull I rather liked. One section of the gallery was sketches for paintings of nudes. My, my. And those led to what was assuredly taken from a private notebook. Wow. Not for the eyes of children or blushing virgins. Graphic, to say the least.
We got lost in the narrow streets a bit, then found the Palace of Mondragon. This immensely and lovely home has been converted to the city museum. All sorts of objects, art, displays, maps, dioramas, grave stones, and even prehistoric homes to walk through. Overwhelming, but intensely educational. I could spend all day there. wonderful views over the valley.
As we headed to our fifth site, we stopped at a little place to eat. Actually, the owner was out on the sidewalk, hustling folks to come in. We were cold and hungry, so in we went. Nice place, although the menu was limited. We had an excellent platter of tapas; Iberian ham and chorizos and a type of sheep (?) cheese. I ordered the meatballs so we'd have a bite of hot food. The bread placed on the table... that was not free, which is a little misleading, but hey, it was filling and nummy. Of course I had a glass of wine. By this time, I'd gotten the hang of ordering red table wine. I didn't see the pastries until we paid. No fair! They were lovely and looked decandently delicious.
We wound our way down to the last site, passing all sorts of interesting looking places ... The Moor's castle, and old home or three, the arch of King Philip. We walked down long low terraced steps to the Arab Baths. This sits lower to the river, below the stone walls. The baths had been restored somewhat. We watched the short animated film describing how the bath house had operated. A donkey walked in a circle harnessed to a wheel, moving buckets which scooped up water into an aqueduct set in the top wall. The water was heated in a furnace room, and then set to flow under the floors of the rooms. The first and smallest room is the Hot Room, the next is the Warm Room, and last is the Cool Room. The Cool Room was a gathering place to gossip,play games and get a massage. There were rooms for women, and a large entrance area with alcoves for changing and having cool drinks. I loved it.
We walked back up the steps, which was getting difficult for me, I was wheezing. We crossed the Old Bridge, built in the 1600s. Looking down to the east we could see the "Roman" bridge, which was not built by the Romans at all. We hiked up terrace after gardened terrace. Lovely, even if it was wintery. There were feral dogs who challenged us, but we hissed at them and waved our arms and the canines thought better of coming near us. By now it was siesta time and the little shops I wanted to go back to were closed for a few hours. We retrieved the car ad headed back to the resort. Of course we drove over the New Bridge and through the narrow little streets of Old Town and out the ancient city gates. Way, way cool!
We did stop at a big leather factory place, but it was pretty touristy and expensive. extremely nice leathers and furs, but far, far out of our price range. Eu79 for plain men's leather gloves.
Pictures: the New Bridge, the statue of the Giant, House of the Giant interior courtyard, inside the Mondragon Palace museum, tapas, me!, entrance to the Arab Baths, the cathedral above the car park. You can see the entrance to the parking garage if you look closely.
Link to my Ronda album