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Andalucia

Ronda: The Spanish town that sits up high in the mountains and will stay long in your memory

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Perched atop steeping mountains and 2,460 feet above sea level, Ronda is tricky to get to but worth the effort for a trip you will never forget, writes Anthony Piovesan.

Ronda is indeed one of those places that stands alone. 

It’s one of the oldest cities in Spain and a destination that simply cannot be compared to anywhere else in the country, or the world. 

It’s only an hour away from the sea and the beach resorts of the Costa del Sol, but it feels like you’ve traveled to a whole new world. 

It certainly feels like you’ve traveled back in time as you walk the cobble-stoned streets, lined with white-washed homes, old mansions and stone churches. 

Ronda Streets (4)
You’ll be charmed by the cobble-stoned streets in Ronda’s old town. Photo: Olive Press

This pueblo blanco was first settled by the Celts in the sixth century B.C, giving the town its original name of Arunda. 

It was later inhabited by the Moors in the 13th century where Visigoth structures were replaced by Muslim mosques and buildings. 

This is why you will be able to see attractions such as the Arab baths and the Mondragon palace, home of the Moorish king Abomelic Abd al-Malik. 

Moorish rulers built Ronda’s city walls, and they were then developed and fortified when the Romans took over in the 16th century. 

But the city’s gates didn’t need to be the absolute best. 

Ronda’s unique geography means it was always pretty secure in the event of an invasion. 

View Of Ronda From Punete Nuevo
The Guadalevin river runs through Ronda, dividing it into two. Photo: Olive Press

It’s positioned in a mountainous area about 2,460 feet above sea level.

The Guadalevin river runs through the city, dividing it into two and carving out the steep 120-metre-deep El Tajo canyon.

Ronda’s rich history and impressive natural beauty means it’s become a real centerpiece of tourism in Andalucia, and Spain. 

Thousands flock to the historical city each day and stare in awe at the huge drop below from the Puente Nuevo bridge that links the old town with the new, commercial centre.

And then looking outwards towards the horizon is a magical scene of the Serrania de la Ronda that one cannot be surprised inspired the greatest artists of all time.

Valley Surrounding Ronda
The views surrounding Ronda are magical. Photo: Olive Press

Known as the 19th century viajeros romanticos (romantic travellers) – artists and writers like Orson Welles, Alexander Dumas and Ernest Hemingway searched for inspiration in Europe’s most unspoilt destinations. 

And they found it in Ronda; the sun breaking through the mist in the mornings, sweeping valleys with orange and olive trees, and white houses along the bank of the river ravine – the city is a place of beauty and intrigue. 

Hemingway spent many summers in Ronda, and his famous novel For Whom the Bell Tolls actually featured a climatic scene inspired by real life events that occurred in Ronda during the Spanish Civil War. 

One of Hemingway’s characters recounts how various fascist men and a priest from the city were taken into the Plaza de España and beaten by the townspeople – they were killed before being thrown into the gorge. 

Puente Nuevo At Night In Ronda 1
Ronda by night is just as magical as Ronda by day. Photo: Olive Press

More recently, in 2010, Michelle Obama, the wife of former US President Barrack Obama, visited Ronda as part of a five-day tour of Spain.

The Olive Press visited Ronda on the weekend; winter is closing in and you could feel it in the air. It was frigid, but the spirit of the locals was nothing of the sort. 

“You’ll love it here,” exclaimed a waiter at El Retiro.

“I see it over and over, everyone who comes here, always comes back.”

Waiter At El Retiro Ronda
Ronda-born waiter at El Retiro Faustino Peralta loves his city. Photo: Olive Press

Our reporter managed to find a spot at the crammed cerveceria for lunch on Saturday afternoon, and was recommended the carrillada. 

The braised beef cheeks are a town favourite, and it hit the spot on a chilly afternoon. 

Carrillada And Pincho De Pollo At El Retiro In Ronda
Carrillada, braised beef cheeks, are a town favourite. Photo: Olive Press

The waiter, Ronda-born Faustino Peralta, did not only inspire with such pride for his hometown, but recommended a meat dish you’ll want to cook at home this winter.

Walking through the city in the cooler season is a bit different, the terraces are empty but that doesn’t mean the fiesta is over. 

A couple of streets down from the picturesque main square Plaza del Socorro, singing and chanting can be heard. 

The Olive Press followed the song around a quiet laneway and into a tiny cerveceria where a group of about 20 people were huddled around the bar singing. 

The group of friends from Cadiz started clapping ferociously, until breaking out into song and belting out lyrics to Lolita’s Sarandonga

The bartender pours shots of lemon liquor as the singing dies down, but some others at the back of the bar start shouting out; otra, otra, otra!

Cadiz Travellers At Ronda Bar
A group of travelllers from Cadiz enjoy a post lunch drink, or two at a bar in Ronda. Photo: Olive Press

Ronda is also home to Spain’s oldest bullfighting ring.

Declared a Site of Cultural Interest, construction on the ring began in 1780 and finished five years later. 

Ronda is a city that enjoys this deep tradition, and has kept it alive over the centuries.  

King Phillip II of Spain founded the Real Maestranza de Caballería de Ronda in 1572, a government body dedicated to the handling of the Spanish cavalry. 

An equestrian facility was built, and one of the main exercises the horses were made to do were dodging drills where bulls were used as obstacles. 

Bullfighting developed originally on horseback, and has evolved since then where the ‘on foot’ bullfighter took over.

In the 20th century Famous bullfighter Antonio Ordoñez was born in Ronda and became a star of the sport in his own backyard. 

Hemingway watched him perform one day, and based one of his novels, Death in the afternoon, on Ordoñez. 

Ronda Square Plaza Del Socorro
The picturesque square of Plaza del Socorro. Photo: Olive Press

When the sun starts to descend behind the surrounding mountain tops, you’ll want to nurse a nice red wine as the cold settles in for the evening. 

The staff at Taberna El Almacen are armed with knowledge about local wines and will recommend a great drop to go with your selection of tapas. 

After your meal, it’s worth braving the cold for night views of this sensational city. 

Ronda almost takes on a completely different form in the darkness.

The Puente Nuevo is completely illuminated from top to bottom, there are parties in Ronda’s little-known back street bars where you could poke in for a night cap, and you’ll be enchanted by the silence and the tangerine glow of the streetlamps. 

Ronda might be an old town, but it’ll breathe new life into you. 

Former prime minister of the United Kingdom Benjamin Disraeli put it so poetically back in 1852 on one of his many visits to the charming city: “The air of the mountains, the rising sun, the rising appetite, the variety of picturesque persons and things we met, and the impending danger, made a delightful life.”

anthony@theolivepress.es

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Andalucia

CEPSA Hits Back At Protesters Against Controversial Solar Farm Project In Ronda – Olive Press News Spain

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cepsa-hits-back-at-protesters-against-controversial-solar-farm-project-in-ronda-–-olive-press-news-spain

Oil giant CEPSA has responded to concerns over its plan to install a massive solar farm near the Serrania de Ronda.

It comes after dozens of furious Ronda residents made the journey to central Malaga last week to protest against the project. 

The proposal, which has an investment of 62 million euros, includes a solar farm outside the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park and would have an estimated power of 100 megawatts.

Despite the grand scale of the plans CEPSA said it was ‘not a mega-project’ and would produce clean energy to supply 64,000 homes and contribute to the elimination of 84 million tons of CO2 emissions per year.

“The project is located on land of low ecological value due to the intensity of agricultural production that takes place on these plots,” a spokesperson said.

“These plots are located 8.2 km from the urban center and 9.7 km from the Tajo de Ronda.”

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Residents from Ronda protested in Malaga.

They added the project ‘avoids any impact on the landscape of the Tajo de Ronda and minimises the space occupied by the installation’.

Green campaigners united outside Hotel NH Malaga last week and chanted ‘renewals yes, but not this way’, as CEPSA executives walked inside for a meeting about the proposed project.

Protester and British expatriate Lisa Ruddock has run hotel La Cazalla for the past eight years in the mountains outside Ronda and said the project was ‘unthinkable’.

“We bought it because here we are completely surrounded by nature – you don’t see a single other property, power line or wind generator,” she told the Olive Press.

“To imagine that will be destroyed by these power lines that will deliver the power from the solar farms to the coast or to other countries in Europe is completely mad and insensitive.”

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Lisa Ruddock says the project is unthinkable.

Ronda resident Pablo Lopez said the project would tarnish the reputation of the UNESCO world heritage city of Ronda. 

“Ronda is not in need of this project,” he said.

“Renewals are important, but not here – it will degrade the landscape, damage farm land and business in the tourism industry.”

CEPSA believed the project was ‘fully compatible’ with tourism in the area. 

“We have listened to the citizens and we have reoriented the project to preserve the view of the Tajo de Ronda and to achieve the best integration with the environment,” a spokesperson said.

They said an updated proposal considered archaeological interest in the area and reduced the voltage from 400kV to 220kV.

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Family’s desperate pleas for answers after tourist in ‘perfect health’ found dead on Malaga beach

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Spanish authorities closed the case of a missing man after he was found dead, but his family say the case should remain open

The family of a tourist ‘in perfect health’ who was found dead on a Malaga beach is pleading with Spanish authorities for details about what led to his unexpected death.

Polish man Michal Formela, 44, disappeared in June in 2020 from the Andalucian port city.

Several people then found his body in the water at a nearby beach and dragged him to shore on July 13 in 2020.

But because police found no documents on him they could not identify who he was, and registered the death into a database for unidentified persons.

Michal Formela Ship Engineer
Michal was a ship engineer and travelled the world for work.

His family finally received the sad confirmation about Michal last year.

But they are still unsure about the circumstances leading to Michal’s death, or if the body even belonged to him. 

“The DNA for the search comes from my mother and my brother, not directly from Michal,” sister Maria Jagier told the Olive Press

“We want to at least receive a photo of the found corpse so we are sure it is Michal who is buried.”

According to an autopsy report Michal – who left behind no partner or children – died sometime between July 8-10 in 2020.

Tests for Covid-19 came back as negative, while there was no evidence of alcohol or other drugs in his system. 

The cause of death was ruled as a drowning, with no signs of any other injury. 

“He was a very good swimmer and he was in perfect health – he loved sports, running and biking,” she said. 

Michal Formela
Michal Formela was found dead on a Malaga beach.

Michal worked as a ship engineer and would often travel across the world for work, including Spain.

It was during his visits to Spain where he ‘fell in love with the country’ and decided to live there.

“After a few months of him not contacting us I knew something was wrong,” Jagier said.

“When he was sailing it was normal for him not to connect with us, but he wasn’t sailing this time.

“We have suffered and spent so much time and energy worrying about Michal, I deserve to know how my brother has died.”

A spokesperson from the Polish embassy in Madrid confirmed they were aware of Michal’s case, but could not comment further for privacy reasons. 

Jagier said the embassy, at her request, wrote to the Investigating Court 2 of Malaga Court requesting more information. They were yet to receive a response. 

But the Investigating Court 2 of Malaga Court on Thursday confirmed to the Olive Press that all documentation has been sent to the embassy, but was still waiting on Michal’s death certificate.

“This is handled by the Civil Registry of Malaga. Once it is received by this Court, it will be forwarded to the embassy,” the Court said.

Michal was buried at San Gabriel Cemetery in Malaga.

anthony@theolivepress.es

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Man wanted in connection with Essex drive by shooting arrested trying to enter Morocco from Spain

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A MAN wanted for questioning over the drive-by murder of a 50-year-old  grandfather in Essex has been arrested trying to enter Morocco from Spain.

Nana Oppong, 42, was wanted as part of an Essex Police investigation into the murder of Robert Powell.

Powell was shot eight times with a 9mm pistol outside a party in Water Lane, Roydon, Harlow, in the early hours of June 13, 2020.

Nana Oppong
Nana Oppong was arrested trying to enter Morocco. Photo: Police handout

Oppong, whose last known address was West Road, Newham, London, was arrested trying to enter Morocco in late September last year.

A police spokesman said: “Because of operational reasons his arrest can only now be divulged.”

As well as featuring on the Most Wanted campaign an Interpol red notice – a worldwide alert – was issued for Oppong and he was arrested using false identity documents as tried to enter Morocco from Spain.

He was stopped by officers from the DGSN – Morocco’s General Directorate for National Security.

Oppong remains in custody as extradition proceedings are underway.

Robert Powell Shooting Victim Family Handout
Victim Robert Powell was shot nine times. Photo: Family handout

Oppong is the seventh fugitive to be arrested from the Most Wanted campaign, which is run in conjunction with independent charity CrimeStoppers, Spanish law enforcement and UK policing.

Steve Reynolds, NCA regional manager in Spain, said: “Oppong’s arrest came about after a sustained campaign to trace him and because of the vigilance of our Moroccan partners and support from Interpol.

“This is another excellent result and shows once again that UK law enforcement does not give up on finding those who await justice in the UK.

“Working with our colleagues at home and abroad we will continue to hunt those on the run.”

Detective Superintendent Stephen Jennings, who has been leading the Essex Police investigation, said: “Numerous officers and staff across all agencies involved in this case have been working day and night to get justice for Robert’s family.

“Oppong’s arrest is the result of an excellent collaboration between Essex Police, the NCA, the CPS, Interpol, Crimestoppers and other law enforcement colleagues around the world, and it doesn’t stop there.

“We all share a common goal – to find anyone suspected of committing crime, no matter where they try to hide.

“Our work continues, and we won’t stop until Nana Oppong is back in the UK and facing the courts.”

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