Help, help me, Ronda! Why is this stunning mountain town in Spain so special?

Help, help me, Ronda! Why is this stunning mountain town in Spain so special?

I’m sure this lyric from the Beach Boys 1965 hit resonates with lots of us who have come to Ronda to live. But why is this stunning Andalusian mountain town so special?

“Well, Ronda you caught my eye (caught my eye)
And I can give you lotsa reasons why
You gotta help me Ronda
Help me get her(/him) out of my heart”

Over the centuries many visitors have had their say; here is a selection:

Abú al Fidá (1273-1331) a Kurdish historian, geographer, and sultan was born in Damascus. He described Ronda as [an] “…elegant and lofty city in which the clouds serve as a turban, and its towers as a sword belt.”

Vicente Espinel (1550-1624) was born in Ronda and became a significant writer and musician of the so-called Siglo de Oro. He wrote:
“I cross your border.
Hail and peace in God, sundered rocks,
Hail and peace, crags, mountains, scrub, woods, currents;
health and peace and happiness,
nobility, friends, blood, my land: hail, city…”

Richard Ford (1796–1858) was an English writer who spent four years travelling in Spain and in 1845 published his delightful Handbook for Travellers in Spain, in two volumes. He said: “There is only one Ronda in the whole world.”

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)
“The spectacle of this city, sitting on the bulk of two rocks rent asunder by a pickaxe and separated by the narrow, deep gorge of the river, corresponds very well to the image of that city revealed in dreams. The spectacle of this city is indescribable and around it lies a spacious valley with cultivated plots of land, holly and olive groves. And there in the distance, as if it had recovered all its strength, the pure mountains rise, range after range, forming the most splendid background.”

Eugenio D’Ors (1881-1954)
“The little houses in this street in Ronda, with their bay windows on the ground floor, look as if they were developing a belly. These others have their bay windows high up… they lean their foreheads forwards. One would think that both sides of the street wanted to get closer to each other to tell a malicious secret about the visitor who is passing”

Ramón Jiménez (1881-1958)
“Ronda high and deep, categorical, profound, round and high”

James Joyce (1882-1941), Irish writer: “… and Ronda with the old windows of the houses, the eyes which spy out hidden behind the latticework so that their lover might kiss the iron bars and the taverns with half-closed doors in the night and the castanets and the night…”

Gerardo Diego (1896-1987)
“You conquer, peace of Iberia, my pure Ronda, place of light with no day of rest, rose which lasts…”

José María Pemán (1898-1981)
“In Ronda, one of the most impressive gorges on the face of the earth. In Ronda there are many streets that should be marked with a sign for tourists: To chaos. In any stretch of countryside or street which offers itself to the tourist he is told imperiously that this way he will get to the Cathedral, the Museum. But in Ronda there are many streets which take us to ourselves. The gorge has no obligations to the guides. One leans over the edge of it and may find in its depths fear, prophecies, prayers or poems”

Jorge Luis Borges (1896-1986)
“it is here, in Ronda, in the delicate penumbra of blindness, a concave silence of patios
leisure of the jasmine and the light sound of water, which summoned up memories of deserts”

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961), American journalist and writer and bullfighting aficionado helped to put Ronda on the map through his writings. “Ronda is the place where to go, if you are planning to travel to Spain for a honeymoon or for being with a girlfriend. The whole city and its surroundings are a romantic set. … Nice promenades, good wine, excellent food, nothing to do…”

Luis Cernuda (1914-1964)
“Strolling round Ronda at dusk. The cypresses, the palaces, all of that air not far removed from the Courts of Cadiz; and a sky of an inexpressible colour, neither pearl grey nor silver; a touch of pale blue which a particular white force of the light rubbed out and compensated for with its irradiation. At night, on the great balcony overlooking the garden, with almost no moon, all of the landscape of mountains in shadow, it seemed as if I were at sea; the wind made the murmuring of the waves and the darkness only allowed one to make out an enormous deep and distinct mass…”

Orson Welles (1915-1985), maverick American film director and actor, was also an aficionado a los toros. He has a street in Ronda named after him. He wrote: “A man does not belong to the place where he was born, but where he chooses to die.” Welles’ ashes are buried near Ronda.

Walter Starkie (1894-1976)
“Ronda es una ciudad colgada del cielo sobre una montaña partida en dos por obra de los Dioses.”

Pablo García Baena (1924- )
“White in the happiness of your sleepless lime,
Ronda of the air, light and iris,
shady in the nostalgia of your orchards, I give you my song.
The water falls, or is it weeping?
and a flight of doves from the Gorge hold up in elegant stanzas;
stone and I sigh”

Juan Agustín Goytisolo (1928- ), Spanish writer: “We sighted Ronda. It was raised up in the mountains, like a natural extension of the landscape, and in the sunlight it seemed to me to be the most beautiful city in the world.”

Paul Whitelock

About Paul Whitelock

Paul Whitelock is a retired former languages teacher, school inspector and translator, who emigrated to the Serranía de Ronda in 2008, where he lives with his second wife, Rita. He spends his time between Montejaque and Ronda doing DIY, gardening and writing.