Carol was laughing hard as she watched me edge up to the fence to get several pictures of the Nuevo Ronda Bridge. I really do have acrophobia and after about 10 minutes of trying to get the perfect shot I was dizzy and a little sick to my stomach. A very strange sensation overtakes me if I linger too long at the edge of a precipice like this! I get a weird feeling in the pit of my stomach like the wind is going to pick me up and throw me over the edge. Let me explain a little bit about this place and then why we were there.
Ronda is a city in the Spanish province of Andalucía, of southern Spain. It is located about 100 km from the city of Málaga but takes about 2 hours by car because of the winding, somewhat dangerous road from the coast to the town. Its population is 35,512. Ronda is situated in a very mountainous area about 750 m above mean sea level. The Rio Guadalevín runs through the city, dividing it in two and carving out the steep El Tajo canyon upon which the city is perched. Ronda was first settled by the early Celts, but it’s Roman and then Moorish rulers are reflected most prominently in its architecture. Did you realize the Moors who were Muslim, made their footprints in this part of Spain. That is significant for our work with Mosaics [more later]. Finally after many centuries of Moorish presence in this region, the forces of Catholic Spain took control of the town in 1485. Wikipedia tells us that three bridges, Puente Romano ("Roman Bridge", also known as the Puente San Miguel), Puente Viejo ("Old Bridge", also known as the Puente Arabe or "Arab Bridge") and Puente Nuevo ("New Bridge"), span the canyon.
The term "nuevo" or “new” is a bit of a misnomer, since this bridge was completed in 1793. The Puente Nuevo is the tallest of the bridges, towering 120 meters above the canyon floor, and all three serve as some of the city's most impressive features. Another important site in Ronda is the Plaza de Toros, the oldest bullfighting ring in Spain that is still used, albeit infrequently. It was built in 1784 in the neoclassical style by the architect José Martin de Aldehuela, who also designed Puente Nuevo. This is where modern day bullfighting originated with the innovation of the matador standing in the ring on his own feet to face the bull instead of on a horse. That all started in this place. Both Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles resided in Ronda for many years, and both wrote about its beauty, contributing to its popularity. Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls describes the murder of loyalists early in the Spanish Civil War by being thrown from the cliffs of El Tajo by Franco's forces. Wow. I'm glad I read about this after our trip.