Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Report 856: The Romance of Moorish Spain
By janie and geoff from Canada, Fall 2004
Page 10 of 13: Cueva de la Pileta, Ronda and more bullrings
City walls of Ronda, the less traveled side
Help me Ronda, help, help me Ronda.
This was the day trip to Ronda, with a strategic stop first at the Cueva de la Pileta, in order to hit their opening hours. We are finally learning about the morning and afternoon shift method of touring. Driving to the caves took us through fabulous scenery of rocky hills and gorges, with tantalizing glimpses of bridges and aqueducts of unidentifiable era. It was very dramatic in places with wedges of limestone abruptly standing out of pasture land. The parking lot to the cave was only large enough for about a dozen cars and you still had to climb a ways up a steep trail to get to the opening of the cave. We went inside the cave and paid our admission, and when there were about 25 people gathered, the guide handed out lanterns and we followed.
What an amazing place. The caves themselves were wonderful, interesting formations and vertical ridges of rock that reverberated to different notes when tapped. We walked by pools of water, glints of crystals in the stalactites and stalagmites, chambers of more than 30 feet in height. Then we saw some cave paintings. Most of the paintings and certainly the best of them are in galleries not open to the public. But I was quite content with what we saw. There were arrows, horses and bulls drawn in outline, a huge fish like a sole, a seal, deer, symbols that no one could interpret, except to say that perhaps they had been for keeping track of dates or crops, or they were fertility symbols. 25,000 to 4,000 years old. Some of them looked like sketches by Picasso. It was awesome and humbling to see evidence of our origins from a thousand generations ago. The caves are still the private property of the farming family who own the land, although the site is a National Treasure.
Ronda is another town perfect for touring on foot. We parked on the new town side of the Puente Nuevo bridge and had lunch on the patio of the parador, overlooking the bridge and river valley. The valley is so steep that it is almost a gorge, and the bridge is amazingly high. It was built in the late 18th century and according to the guide book, it was built twice because the first time the bridge collapsed almost immediately. Then the second time, the architect fell to his death while inspecting the bridge. Oh dear.
We decided the best thing to do would be to circumnavigate the old town, as most of the noteworthy structures seemed to be on the edges of the town. Although there were some very interesting buildings, it was Ronda’s location that made it special. Every so often you could catch a glimpse of the valley below, and remember that Ronda was almost impossible to invade. We walked along the old city walls, and then down to the town hall and the church of Santa Maria la Major. There was also a sign for Santa Maria la Auxilliara which we took to mean the “back up saint”. A stand in for the major Santa Maria, or the patron saint of computer disaster recovery?
At some point you have to break down and go into a MacDonald’s but I only did this to buy a coffee with a scoop of ice cream. This is apparently a very traditional Spanish summer drink, and I certainly enjoyed it. Then we snooped around a bakery, and I bought some peanut brittle, which turned out to be almond brittle with chunks of whole almonds, which explained the price.
Geoff wanted to see the bullring at Ronda, so he and I went in. The Ronda and Seville schools of bullfighting are rivals, with Ronda promoting the austere style and Seville the flamboyant style. Ronda’s bullring is considered the birthplace of modern bullfighting, and all the monuments seem to honor bullfighters. The Museo Taureo there was more interesting than the one in Seville – and they also had a suit of lights belonging to John Fulton. Now I’m almost tempted to go see a bullfight, something that is so brutal but which defines the Spanish identity.
Back at the condo, we just had fruit, bread and cheese, and prepared to get up early the next day for our trip to Granada.
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