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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Ronda, Spain

Wednesday morning we woke up and took a 2 hour bus ride south of Seville to the town of Ronda, Spain. Ronda is a small town of around 40,000. It is set on an inland plateau riven with 300 foot cliffs dropping into the El Tajo gorge. South of the gorge sits mountains, which I have had the opportunity to hike through a few times in past months. 

Ronda, Spain
We started off near the edge of the gorge and hugged the perimeter of the cliff, walking around to the "puente nueva" (new bridge). You will see from the pictures below how amazing this bridge is. It connects to parts of the city that are cut in half by a large deep gorge. After making our way around the perimeter, we headed down the hillside on a nice trail to a spot below the bridge to eat and relax for a bit.

heading down on path below the city

In front of Puente Nueva

View from below
We got to the bottom and sat down on some large boulders next to a rushing river that led from the other side of the bridge down the cliffs to the valley below. The weather was great so we ate lunch and read a bit on the rocks before heading back up the trail to cross below the bridge into the gorge.

The trail was easy; the hardest part was a small section of high boulders where you had to use a rope to climb up. We made our way under the large bridge and walked out on some old pathways to abandoned buildings. There was some type of water control machinery in the gorge. I read that the town had flooded a few times in history but it didn't look like the machinery was still being used.

After, we made our way back up the trail into the city to do a little more exploring. We made our way to the other side of town where there was two more bridges, puente viejo (old bridge) and the puente arabe (arab bridge) We also checked out on of the most well preserved arab baths in the Iberian Peninsula.

Under the bridge
The arab baths were a social place in ancient times for Muslim men to relax and cleanse their body and spirit. It it pretty impressive how the ran the baths. They built them at the entrance to the town right next to a fresh stream They used a water wheel powered by a donkey to raise water from the stream into the complex. from there water ran through a system of rooms; A steam room, a hot room and a cold room. below the floor of the baths was an empty space where warm air would flow to heat the pools. They used a large wood oven for hot air and passed it beneath the baths of the steam room and hot room. The air exited out a chimney before the cold room. Muslims would rotate through the 3 baths, using the pools as a way to relax and interact with others.
Reception room of the Arab baths
Cold room
We finished up the visit and headed back to the center to get a few gifts and eat. We headed back to Sevilla and got in around 8pm. Later in the evening we watched the 'Kings Cup' - Copa Del Rey in my place with my roomate Nacho. The Game was between Real Madrid and F.C. Barcelona, two of the best teams in the world. These two teams are to play 4 times in 18 days; 1 Spanish league game which ended in a tie last week, The Kings Cup, and 2 Championship League games. Real Madrid won the game 1 - 0 after Ronaldo had a great header in the middle of the second half. I was rooting for Barcelona but didn't mind too much that Madrid won. Both teams have great players and the next two games in the coming weeks are going to be intense. 

Jeff's visit is in its last week. We are hoping the weather will improve so we can head to the beach a day or two. We had scorching heat the first week and a half he was here. Since returning from Africa on that horrible boat ride the weather has been off and on; sometimes rainy, sometimes sunny. We are planning on catching some processions of Semana Santa in the center of Sevilla. Tonight (Thursday night) is the biggest night of the week. It is supposed to rain but as of now (11:00 am) the weather is sunny with some clouds in the sky. Hopefully the bad weather will stay away for the night because the floats will not leave the church's if it is rainy. They are heavy hand carved statue/floats of Jesus and the Virgin Mary. They are decorated with fine linens, jewelry, and other treasures all made from silver and gold. Some of these pieces are over 500 years old. Even though it is a major disappointment if they don't leave it is understandable why that wouldn't. 

I will have photos up later this week of the processions. We have been watching a lot of it live on television and the processions are very interesting. A lot of hard work goes into putting this together, it will be surreal to see it in the flesh. 

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