Paul Whitelock reckons an extract from the lyric of the Beach Boys 1965 hit resonates with lots of people who have come to Ronda to live. But why is this stunning city 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 very positive things to say about Ronda; here is a selection in order of their birth:
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), a significant writer and musician of the so-called Siglo de Oro, was not a visitor, as he was born in Ronda. He gave his name to the local theatre and the main shopping street, Carrer Espinel, aka Calle La Bola. 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) was born in Prague, nowadays the Czech Republic, but was a German speaker. He is considered one of the most significant poets in the German language. To him is attributed the epithet for Ronda “Ciudad Soñada”. “He buscado por todas partes la ciudad soñada, y al fin la he encontrado en Ronda” (“I have sought everywhere the city of my dreams, and I have finally found it in Ronda”
Eugenio D’Ors (1881-1954) was a Catalan Spanish writer, essayist, journalist, philosopher and art critic. His description: “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” is delightful.
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…”
Jorge Luis Borges (1896-1986) was an Argentine writer, essayist, poet and translator born in Buenos Aires. After visiting Ronda, he wrote: “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, 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…” Hemingway has a street in Ronda named after him, El Paseo de Hemingway, which runs round the back of the Parador hotel.
Luis Cernuda (1914-1964) was a Spanish poet and literary critic. He wrote: “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 inexpressable 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, actor, writer and producer was also aficionado a los toros and loved Ronda. 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.” Fittingly his ashes are buried near Ronda.
Walter Starkie (1894-1976) was an Irish scholar, Hispanist, author, musician and literary translator. “Ronda is a town which hangs from the sky atop a mountain split in two by the Gods.”
Juan 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.”
Later visitors have included Madonna, George Hamilton IV, Daniel Bedingfield, David Cameron, Jamie Oliver and Michelle Obama, among others, but it is not known what, if anything, they may have said about the city.