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Once again we had an excellent breakfast buffet. Teresa and I came down separately and we wound up at different tables, me with Cel and Shiela, and Teresa with Casey and Anne. It turned out the wood shop next door was open at 8:00 AM and Teresa bought an inlaid jewelry box made by the family of the storekeeper, Maria. We boarded the bus and headed for the two and a half hour ride to Ronda. As we left Granada, we were treated to “Granada” sung by Placido Domingo. We then had a Spanish lesson and some comments on Spanish culture, including bullfighting. The Spanish don’t entertain in their homes as a rule, but meet each other in public places for dining, or a stroll. Teresa and I agreed that it is exactly the opposite in France. In that country, people typically do things with just their friends and usually at home.
Bullfighting has been around since the Minoans in Crete, although I think then it was more acrobatic than lethal, and was called “bull dancing”. Here the bulls are raised on special ranches and never see a man on foot. Mature bulls are 4 to 5 years old. In the past the royals were all bullfighters. The last Romero was fighting bulls at age 65, and according Patricia, that was not a good idea. She told us about the Picadors, the Bandarillaros, the Matador, and the Governor, who controls the sequence of the fight, and signals the band to play a pasodoble for each stage of the fight. There are only two bullfights a year in Ronda, because of the cost. One of them is the Goyaesque festival when people dress in the time of Goya. If the bullfighter, or more often the bull, does not perform well, you will hear soft clapping, or palma sorda,which signals disapproval.
Patricia passed around an article on Jose Thomas which included a body map of the location where he was gored. … too many times.
We had a rest stop in Loja, after which Patricia read us the story of Ferdinand the Bull, which I vividly remember as a favorite story from my childhood. Along the road there were olive trees forever, with an occasional break for asparagus, and what Teresa guessed was Spanish Lavender. Pat also passed around a “before and after” book of the Alhambra with plastic overlays.
We then got a history lesson, Part 1. The original people were Iberians, which were followed by the Celts from 900 to 600 BC. Then came the Phoenicians who were more interested in trade than conquest. They founded Cadiz and Malaga, and were rumored to use silver anchors. They were followed by the Greeks, who had great influence over literature and culture. Next came the Carthaginians, led by Hannibal’s father. They fought Rome who were victorious in 205 BC. The Romans set up three regions, and founded 360 cities. They built long, straight roads, aqueducts and buildings using notch and groove construction without the use of nails or cement. The Romans had three types of public venues: The Theater for public business, the Circus for chariot races, and the Amphitheater, for the gladiator and even naval battle reenactments. The Romans brought baths to Spain where the practice was to have separate male and female times for bathing, but baths were taken only every nine days.
Next came the Barbarians, specifically the Vandals and the Visigoths, who were followed by the Moors who occupied southern Spain from 409 AD to 711 AD. When Mohammed died in 632, two families struggled for control of the Islamic world, including the Umayyads who were successful. Contrary to what some people may believe, the Moors were not Arabs, but a variety of groups united by Islam. They were civilized people, who rather than destroy what they conquered, adopted and improved what they found. End of History Lesson.
We got off the bus in Ronda and walked to the Parador, where we met our guide, Jesus, right near the “new” bridge which was built in 1792, 750 meters to the bottom of the gorge. The original was more ambitious, actually too ambitious, with one large arch, and it collapsed. Two older bridges were built in the 13th and 16th centuries. There was a McDonalds nearby, which our guide called “American Tapas”.
The setting for Ronda is spectacular, with a huge gorge below, and wonderful little streets and whitewashed homes and plazas, and flowers everywhere.
We headed for the Casa Don Bosco, but it was so crowded with Austrians we went to the town square first. On the way we saw the “pinsapo” pines which are local to the area, with only three pinsapo forests in existence today. The gorge name includes “tajo” which means river, but there is actually no river, which surprises visitors. We passed through a courtyard which had bitter oranges, and I finally realized he was talking about Seville oranges, of course, which are great for marmalade. Naranja is orange, and naranjo is orange tree.
Religion is on the decline, and I think he said that there were only six nuns left in the city, or in one convent in town, or only six convents with nuns left, in a town of 37 thousand people. There are 8 old churches, 7 new ones, and the attendance, and the number of masses are greatly reduced.
We were standing is a small square, and the church building (or the building next to the church) had balconies, which provided seating for the bullfights which used to be held in the square, apparently before the big corrida was built. This same square had a 250 year old cypress, the oldest tree in town. We passed by a hotel, with 21 rooms, and when the bullfighter Gayeto Ordonez comes to town, he rents the entire place for his family and entourage. The neighboring mountains are called, “Sierra las Nievas” which means mountains of snow.
The bullring which opened in 1785 is the largest in Spain, but they only have two bullfights a year, because of the cost. They need six bull for three matadors, plus two spare bulls, in case one turns out to be a Ferdinand. The bulls cost 6,000 to 10,000 € each and the matadors get up to 100,000 € each. Along with other costs, it adds up. However, in Madrid this month, there will be 24 corrridas. One of the two Ronda corridas is “Goyaesque” with all the people in costumes of the time Goya lived. Bullfight ticket prices range from 50 to 140 Euros.
We had lunch in the Ronda Parador with Bob & Jackie and Buddy & Beth. When we have more time, Buddy is going to explain why I should not give up on the Republican Party. [Never happened.] Dinner was delicious, and we all enjoyed the dessert which was ice cream in a chocolate filigree bracelet.
We then boarded the bus for the ride to Seville. We were advised that the Spanish Civil War is a touchy subject, even today. The ride was through spectacular countryside. It seems to me that the hills flow smoothly and beautifully into each other, while in Italy, the hills crop up from an otherwise
flat landscape. Pat gave us each a delicious chocolate truffle, and then performed a bus aisle version of flamenco dancing in costume with castanets, a word derived from chestnuts.
We saw a soccer stadium with special seating for the more “elegant” residents. The Romans built the original stadium and called it “Italica”. The Moors held Seville until they were defeated in 1248.
We arrived at the Hotel Alfonso XIII and took it easy until 8:00
when we were treated to a dynamic flamenco performance by three musicians and two dancers. Then down to dinner in shifts where we ate with Bob & Beth and Mary Anne & “Aunt Mary”. Dinner was good and we had a triple dessert, including “fried milk”.