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Kinda Fonda Ronda:
Notes From a Small Town

July 2000

Ronda is a spectacular place. “The town”, so the Encyclopaedia Britannica tells us, ”is situated on two hills divided by a deep ravine (El Tajo de Ronda) containing the Grande River, which is an affluent of the Guadiaro River. The ravine is crossed by several bridges, notably an arch structure 300 feet (90 m) high built in 1761”. I think there’s a slight spelling mistake in there. Sitting on the terrace of the Don Miguel restaurant atop the gorge, one’s nose suggests that it should read “an effluent of the Guadario River”. Perhaps the local council wants it that way, to keep the tourist numbers down to a manageable torrent.

the new bridge from the valley On our first visit to the town, la frisada and I met a bunch of Welsh folk taking a coach trip from the Costa del Sol, which they admitted was their more usual holiday habitat, because they were from the Rhondda valley and “had to see what the Spanish version was like, boyo.” Different but no less wonderful, they’d probably agree. But it would be nice to know what they thought of one annoying habit the Andalusians have: as soon as a tourist enters a shop, all the local people start speaking Spanish to one another.
It’s not only flooded with abominable tourists from other countries. It attracts a good many Spaniards each year too, much like, in the UK, York, London and Oswaldtwistle attract Brits. And a fair smattering of the rich and famous have been here, the most recent being Madonna, who praised the place highly, boosting the numbers of those bloody tourists and rapidly getting a shop named after her on the main drag.

the new bridge from 
 er...the other side Of course, Papa Hemingway patronised its magnificent bullring, the HQ of the sport, as well as writing about its experiences in the Civil War when prisoners were thrown into the gorge to save bullets.
Germans and other folk of a literary bent may be under the impression that Rainer Maria Rilke was a Austro-German poet, born in Bohemia and buried by Lac Leman in Switzerland. The people of Ronda know him as a driving instructor. It is true that, in the early nineteen hundreds, he did visit Southern Spain but his automotive connection actually came about when the founder of the town’s first driving school, a young school teacher whose career had been blighted by the then little understood affliction of dyselxia decided to embark upon a new career and named his escuela after the poet in the mistaken belief that his major book about the sculptor Rodin was actually about the Spanish town.

And Orson Welles, famously photographed at the corrida, a huge cigar in his mouth (prints available at most outlets) is actually buried here, at the bottom of a well. Coincidentally — or is it? — Robert Graves is buried on Mallorca, at the bottom of a grave, and in Georgia, USA, Confederate politician Robert A Toombs is … need I say more?


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