The ancient town of Ronda has certainly been built in one of the most dramatic locations in Spain. Straddling the 100m deep El Tajo gorge are the old and new towns, which are both packed with interesting historical buildings and breath-taking views.
I enter the old town via the Puerta de Almocabar, having walked 2.5km from the campsite. There are several museums and churches in the old town but, for now, I want to see the view back to the Puente Nuevo (This “not-so-new” bridge was started in 1751, took 42 years to build and 50 workers died during its construction). The view from the top of the bridge is just as spectacular and I wonder if the half-hearted attempts at barriers along the side of the bridge have prevented people from falling or jumping to their deaths. Definitely not the place for a selfie!
I’m drawn to the Plaza de Toros, a 5,000 seat bullring, more than 200 years old and one of the most revered in Spain. It’s possible to stand in the blood-stained ring where famous fighters, such as the Romero family and Antonio Ordonez have defeated the bulls. I am also able to get a bull’s eye view from the stalls where they are kept, awaiting their turn to be tortured and slaughtered in the ring. A museum on the site features prints and posters (including one by Picasso), as well as costumes and other memorabilia. Here I am able to gain a better understanding of the sport. The Matador (fighter) uses a Muleta (red cape) to attract the bull, and is assisted by picadors (on horses) and banderillos (on foot).
Bullfighting is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death and in which the degree of brilliance in the performance is left to the fighter’s honour.
On the way back through the old town, I stop at the Bandit Museum to learn more about the early 19th century robbers and fugitives who roamed the Sierras of Andalusia. There’s no shortage of information and paintings depicting the infamous criminals. They became popular folk heroes through illustrated magazines and songs.
Many were captured and shot or hung, while some were pardoned and one, Jose Maria “El Tempranillo”, actually became a policeman and hunted down his fellow bandits until he was shot by one of them. The last Andalusian bandolero, “Paso Largos”, spent 16 years in prison, but when he was pardoned in 1932 he went right back to his old ways and was finally killed in a shootout in 1934 aged 60.
Bullfighting and Bandits may not seem like a legacy which would make Ronda a happy place, but if you watch this video you will see that the people of Ronda today are definitely happy.