Surrounded by mountains and rich culture in Ronda (Spain)
Ronda means “round” in Spanish. The city is located in a roundish valley surROUNDed by mountains; the region is therefore referred to as the “Serranía de Ronda” (sierra=mountain). Within the valley, Ronda sits on a rocky promontory that has been additionally fortified by rock walls over the ages. Below is a view of Ronda looking north while hiking on a trail south of town.
The Serranía de Ronda is a foodie paradise, although it’s more difficult for vegetarians in this meat-oriented culture. There are many artisanal products including excellent cheeses, fresh and dried fruit treats, and of course jamon (ham), of which there are many types. The plate below has four types of ham, plus a wonderful cheese, and is a typical offering at tapas bars.
Red wine (see photo above!) is an excellent accompaniment to the food. There are many bodegas (wineries) in the region—we found the quality high and the price economical. (It helps that they don’t mark up prices so much in restaurants, like they do in the U.S.) Below is a view from Ronda across the surrounding valley, where good agricultural land supports the local food and wine production.
Because of its wine and food, culture (e.g., flamenco music) and scenic beauty, Ronda draws many tourists from all over Spain, as well as internationally. A magnet for tourists is the Puente Nuevo (new bridge), which spans El Tajo (gorge) where the Rio Guadalevin has cut a knife-blade-wide fissure through the rocks and created stunning cliffs around the town’s edges. [Note: Guadalevin is a Spanish version of California’s oft-mis-named Sierra Nevada Mountains—meaning snowy mountain mountains. Guada is the root of an Arabic work for river, so the name means the river of wine river—le vin adding yet another language—French—to the mis-naming!] The view of the bridge below is from a place on the south cliffs where it is possible to walk down and take the classic photo. “New” is what would still be considered very old in the U.S. The oldest bridge is from the Arabic period prior to 1492. The so-called “old” bridge was built in the 17th century and the “new” bridge was built in the 18th century. These bridges are all visible on the other side (north side) of the New Bridge.
Puente Nuevo is certainly an amazing feat of human engineering, especially considering the time period when it was built. But it is the geology (of course!) that creates the stunningly dramatic setting. The erosion of water has created steep cliffs that are natural rock walls from which to gain one incredible vista after another—the place is a paradise for photographers too. Here is a view of the sheer rock walls, with one of the many viewpoints in the city.
Yes, I know—you can’t wait to hear the story the rocks have to tell—so here it is! Although the surrounding mountains are mainly marine limestone (more about that in the next post), the rocks underlying Ronda are younger non-marine sediments that were shed off the mountain range to the south that was the locus of the collision between Africa and Europe. Looking at the photo above, you may notice that the rock wall consists of sediments of various sizes, including clasts that are larger than soccer balls. The sediments are also poorly sorted—meaning that they range in size from very large to very small. These sediments were deposited by debris flows, where steep slopes from mountainous regions enabled sediments to be dumped unceremoniously downhill in large debris piles called alluvial fans. Furthermore, it’s possible to tell the direction of flow—see photo below, where the sediment clasts are imbricated (that is, leaning in a certain direction), showing that the water was flowing from a southward to a northward direction. Jay’s hand is parallel to the clast imbrication, indicating that the sediments flowed from the right side (south) to the left side (north). Isn’t sedimentology a fabulous field of study!!
But back to the practical day-to-day reality. And what could be more real than eating! Tapas are the reality of day-to-day life in Andalucia. Why not go to the Bodega San Francisco, where excellent tapas can be had on a regular street near our B&B—yummmm….