Frank Bernheisel: The View From Here
Frank Bernheisel
Frank Bernheisel
Posted 6.7.20
Just Outside Washington

All photos courtesy the authors


One would think that with the stay-at-home policy for the last two months, I would have had time to finish all the pieces on our October visit to Spain. What have I been doing with all my time? A mystery.

Reading has been very rewarding including histories of 20 century Europe and the Roman Republic and Empire. Kathy has been very busy consulting by Zoom, etc. with the NSF and I have been providing support. So, for now, I have the great human problem of structuring time, solved. But it is a never-ending task.

Without further ado, on to Puerto Banús and Ronda.

The Harmony V anchored off Puerto Banús about 5 AM and we had breakfast at the normal time. Puerto Banús is a fishing village that was developed in 1970 as a luxury marina and shopping complex. It has become one of the largest entertainment centers in the Costa del Sol, with 5 million annual visitors, and is popular with international celebrities. After breakfast, we donned life jackets and were ferried, in shifts, to the marina in the Zodiac tender. Here. Captain Demitriou sees us off.


Since Puerto Banus is a marina, developed around a quaint Mediterranean coastal village, I wondered why we just did not tie up at the dock. After landing at the marina, seeing the expensive yachts, some of which were as large as the Harmony V, and then shopping malls, restaurants, and bars around the marina, I concluded that the dockage fee must be too high. Besides, the Zodiac ride was fun.


We walked to the town center, which was essentially deserted, and had some coffee while we waited for our coach to take us to Ronda. After coffee, we got onto our coach and began our hour and a half ride up the winding road through the foothills of the Sierra de las Nieves mountain range in Málaga Province. Its highest point is El Torrecilla, a 6,000-foot peak.


Initially we passed many imposing villas clinging to the hillsides.

Ronda is a village of about 35,000 inhabitants in the province of Málaga, the capital of which we had just visited. It is one of the villages that are included in the Sierra de las Nieves National Park.

Ronda was first settled by the early Celts in the sixth century BCE. Followed by the usual parade of invaders in Spain: Phoenician settlers, then the Romans in the Second Punic War receiving the title of City at the time of Julius Caesar, the fifth century CE, brought the Suebi (a Germanic peoples originally from the Elbe river region in Germany), conquered a century later by the Eastern Roman Empire, later Ronda was part of the Visigoth realm until 713, when it fell to the Berbers, who named it Hisn Ar-Rundah ('Castle of Rundah'). The Islamic domination of Ronda ended in 1485, when it was conquered by the Marquis of Cadiz after a brief siege during the Reconquista.

Our coach was not allowed into old-town Ronda, so we had a pleasant walk through the village: past the cathedral, the municipal building, and along the Alameda del Tajo Ronda (left picture), which leads to a wide promenade on the cliff that provides spectacular views of the Guadalevín River valley.


We walked along the cliff to our destination, the Abades Ronda Restaurante, where we were seated on their terrace overlooking the valley and treated to a snack. The highlight was a demonstration of bullfighting techniques by a retired matador, Juan.


Ronda's bullfighters played a principal role in the development of modern Spanish bullfighting, including the use of the cape, or muleta, and a sword especially designed for the kill. Juan demonstrated with the muleta and sword. Then he fitted his traje de luces (suit of lights), the traditional clothing that Spanish bullfighters, to one of our fellow travelers (right picture).


After Juan's demonstration, we walked to the Plaza de Toros de Ronda, the bull ring in Ronda. This is the oldest bull ring in Spain. It was built in 1784 in the Neoclassical style by the architect Jose Martin de Aldehuela, who also designed the Puente Nuevo in Ronda, which we will see later.

Our guide explained that the bull ring is unique in that it was entirely constructed from stone and the two layers of seating with all rows covered.

bull ring

Just in front of the Plaza de Tores was a huge fearsome bronze Toro Bravo (Spanish Fighting Bull) looking very much like they do in real life, as we learned later visiting one of the ranches.


After the tour we were on our own to explore old-town Ronda. In many of the souvenir shops near the bull ring, I saw many pictures of Earnest Hemingway with matadors and others in the Plaza de Toros de Ronda.

Hemingway was a fan of bull fights and wrote about them in The Sun Also Rises. In, For Whom the Bell Tolls he has a scene of the execution of Nationalists in the Spanish Civil War in which they are [thrown] from a cliff. Hemingway allegedly based this on killings that took place in Ronda at the cliffs of El Tajo. Orson Welles also spent summers in Ronda as a part-time resident of Ronda's old-town and wrote about Ronda's beauty and famous bullfighting traditions.

I wandered alone, others went shopping, through interesting narrow streets and found the Plaza del Socorro, the heart of old-town Ronda. It was lined with cafes and busy. Before the Civil War, the Plaza was the center of Andalusian nationalism.


The Guadalevín River, which runs through the middle of the city, carved out the steep 400-foot-deep El Tajo canyon. The canyon is spanned by three bridges, Puente Romano, Puente Viejo (Old Bridge), and Puente Nuevo (New Bridge).

The Puente Nuevo a major tourist attraction, but not exactly new, as its construction started in 1751 and took over 40 years to complete. It is, however, the tallest of the three bridges, with its roadway at the level of the city streets.


The Puente Viejo is adjacent to the Puente Nuevo but 200 feet below and reached by a path.