And so, with the long weekend still to tidy up, I'm fixated on Tuesday. Its still early enough that there isn't much traffic through town, except for the occasional Vespa or delivery truck rumbling over the cobblestone New Bridge. So instead, the gorge carries the gurgling of the Guadalevin River 350+ feet below. This low white noise is punctuated by the chirps of birds...mostly the curve-winged swallows, but I can see other shapes flying by or headed for unseen nests on the gorge walls. Mom and Dad would surely have better descriptions than "other shapes", by for me, this will suffice.
Beyond the gorge, the river enters a patchwork of fields and forested areas covering low rolling hills...grasses, rows of crops, olive trees. White houses dot the land. Something to research today: from the right and left, a narrow ridge with steep walls seems to encircle the land in front of us, almost as if it was an ancient caldera, forming a protected bowl. The wall is only broken where the river has carved its way through at the far side...the steep walls bow down to meet it. Or maybe its all an optical illusion. Time will tell.
Walked down from our hilltop to the lowest of three gorge-crossing bridges. The morning light was already hot, as we charted our course carefully from one shady nook to the next. At the bottom, the original entry to the city and the site of an old Moorish defense. Nearby, the ruins of the town's baths, the Banos Arabes. It was customary for the baths in Moorish cities to be located just inside the walls so that outsiders could purify themselves. A fascinating film explained the simple-yet-ingenious system used to bring water up from the river, across a short aqueduct, and into the boiler room. Hot (steam), warm (massage and social), and cold (changing) rooms. For us, the partially buried brick sturcture provided a cool respite from the sun. Only the star-shaped holes in the domed ceilings provided subtle, soothing light...a far cry from the harsh lighting outdoors. Recovered Roman marble columns held up Moorish brick arches...symbolic, since the Moorish baths are adaptations of Roman baths. We felt transported back to simpler times.
A steep climb along sunny stairs from one city wall to the next. Old towers and narrow-ledged walls. Finally out of the heat again, and into the Iglesia Espiritu Santo, from the 15th century. Now we know why the Spanish and Italians REALLY loved their churches...these were sanctuaries in the spiritual AND physical sense! A simple interior with fine gold-leafed ornamentation. Choir music was piped through the sound system. We climbed the bell tower...looked up and saw bells inches from our heads. Time check...two minutes till the hour. Ummmm...do these still ring? Racing out, we were chased down the tower by deafening chimes. Yep...they still ring. (A tasteful warning would have been nice.)
More hot climbing along city walls and cliff edges. At the top had a cold beer at a shady bar in the Town Hall plaza. A guitarist played nearby...soothing Spanish tunes...and Pink Floyd? Yep...Wish You Were Here. How appropriate. Worth a euro in the blue-lined guitar case.
A quick break from the heat, a quick bite to eat, and off to Ronda's famous bullring. The oldest bullring in the world...built specifically for bullfighting in the late 18th century. Unlike the stadium feel of Sevilla's bullring, this one felt intimate. Wandered freely thru the two-tired stands. Out onto the dusty ring with fine dirt the color of saffron. The intricate system of tunnels and sliding doors guiding bulls from pen to battle. A museum of armaments and tack gear. Tourists posing as matador or bull (or town idiot) in the sun-soaked center.
One last stop for the day...the Casa del Rey Moro (the Moorish King's House)...but we didn't go in the house anyway. The gardens and a Moorish staircase down to the river are its attraction. The gardens provide a serene perch overlooking the gorge and hills beyond. A three-level Moorish-style fountain dominates. 'The Water Mine' is a series of stacked chambers and stairs carved down through the ciff to allow water to be carried up from the river from the 14th century. Cold and dark and wet. A long way down. Felt like the Mines of Moria :)
With a sun-beaten exhaustion, we spent a quiet evening.