Ronda the Beautiful

Bernese and owner
Bernese and owner – both beautiful…

On April 9, 2011 we set out from Sanlúcar de Barrameda, not on Rick Steves’ list, but one of my favorite towns in Spain. Our destination was the historic cliffside town, Ronda, famed for its style, its bullring (“the largest and most interesting in Spain”), its gorge and its women. The above photo, taken in Ronda, is of a foreign woman from Northern Europe, judging by her accent. I didn’t get her name, but it was very likely not Ronda or even Rhonda. I stopped her mainly to take a photo of her dog, a beautiful Bernese, explaining that our friends in Kitchener are Bernese owners and go nuts over any of these big, lovely mountain dogs. I think she believed me… I’m not sure Anita did, but the rest of our day went marvelously.

Ronda’s most famous matador was Pedro Romero Martinez, who was the first bullfighter to develop it as an art form. His statue is in Ronda’s Alameda del Tajo park.

Every year since 1954, fourteen Ronda ladies are chosen to be the official representatives of the city.

No. Not Pedro. This statue honours Las Damas Goyescas, a Ronda tradition since 1954. Every year 14 Ronda women are chosen to represent the city officially at all important functions. Many of them, like the one represented in this statue opposite Pedro’s, are gorgeous.

We stayed one night at the Hotel Reina Victoria, Ernest Hemingway’s favorite place in Ronda. They gave us a corner suite with a balcony overlooking the deep valley. We bought local fare and dined on our balcony.

On the way to Ronda we stopped at Zahara, a “radiant” hillside town of unparalleled beauty, marred only by two of the smallest WC’s in the world. The first two gallery photos are of Zahara, which is on Spain’s Ruta de los Almorávides y Almohades, named after the two strict sects of Islam who came as mercenaries from North Africa and stayed. Their presence began the decline of Andalusía’s golden age, when its Islamic civilization, based in Córdova, was the most enlightened in all of Europe. Why this name choice for the tourist route? Beats me.

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Two (Widely Different) Accidents

When the light doesn’t co-operate – or does it?

I apologize for the pixelation in these photos. They were taken with my camcorder because my SLR at the time had low light sensitivity, and I didn’t have Anita’s awesome Canon point and shoot. Now I own a Sony NEX-5N mirrorless. Quite a change!

Ronda’s plaza de toros is one of the most famous bull rings in all of Spain. I attempted to take an available light photo of the little room where the  matador prays before entering this bloody contest, giving him an, albeit slight, unfair advantage. Actually the torero has many unfair advantages over the bull. Advantages I don’t need to list.

On the verge of pressing the delete button after coming home the photo appealed to me. I can’t say that I heard anything, like a tiny peep of “please don’t delete me” or a lightning bolt suddenly coming out of a clear sky. Maybe more the fact that I was in it…

Anyway, the more I look at it the more I see. Like a poem with many layers. I would really be interested in what you see in this accident, other than the fact that my baseball cap was on backwards. Not a fashion statement, but a photographer’s technical choice.

I remember thinking that, if there were a hierarchy of moments when prayer is necessary, this would rank pretty highly.

Proof of what I just said is given below in a photo on the wall of a well known bar off Madrid’s Plaza Mayor, called Bar Andalú, El Torre de Oro. In this gory (I beg your pardon) example, it is demonstrated that the matador sometimes has to delegate the final kill to his underlings.

Photo in a famous Madrid bar highlights the risks of being a matador

The Bar Andalú is a shrine to the art of bullfighting. On its walls hang the heads of famous bulls, vestments of famous bullfighters and photo after photo of bulls, bullfighters and iconic political figures as wildly different as Franco and Che Guevara.

Another photo of the Bar Andalú, one of a bunch of crazy places that make Spain uniquely fascinating.

A small sampling of Spain in this eclectic display. For an educated gringo’s brilliant, appreciative sampling I recommend Michener’s great book Iberia

I am mostly done with bullfighting, I hope, but not with beautiful, historic Ronda…