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Tara Looks at the Tajo

July 22, 2011

For the first four years of its existence, TAP was cursed.  On every trip we had, at least one teacher took a very nasty spill in a very public location.  So far on this site, we discussed one of those occasions, and we’ll get to the rest in time.  Today, however, is about a day we’re very glad no one fell down, because it would have been a considerable fall.  We’re not talking a “trip up the steps” or a “stumble over the curb” or even a “slip on a wet floor” kind of fall – this would have been a full on Wylie Coyote kinda mis-step.

The accident that didn’t happen was in Ronda, which happened to be one of my favorite cities on the trip.  Historically, Ronda is loaded with significance.  Napoleon and his troops took over the city in the early 1800s during the Peninsular Wars.  In the early 1900s, Ronda was a key battle ground during the Spanish Civil War.  In literature, Ronda was the setting for a key scene in Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls.  In that novel, Hemingway depicts a scene as the civil war is unfolding.  In Hemingway’s version, rebellious Republicans, fighting against the Fascist bad guys, gather up all the Fascist leaders in a town (maybe Ronda) and one by one beat them and throw them over the cliff.

Hemingway’s story never names Ronda, but legends say that similar events to what were depicted in the book actually happened in Ronda in the early days of the war.  Hemingway himself lived (and wrote many of his novels) in Ronda for years.

The coolest thing about Ronda is that it’s actually built on top of two separate plateaus, with a big gorge in between.  The old section of town and the new section of town by a few bridges spanning the Tajo.

We strolled by the place where Hemingway lived and wrote.

Our guide, Juanito explained to us that tajo is a word for both the gorge and the name of the river below (it runs all the way to Portugal, where we saw it empty into the Atlantic Ocean earlier in the trip in Lisbon).  Tajo means missing piece – as in… This town has a big missing piece in-between the old section and the new section.  Thank goodness there’s a bridge going over that tajo connecting both parts of the city. 

Actually, the bridge you see in the picture above is Puente Nuevo – the new bridge.  We don’t mean new in American terms, which generally means a Walgreen’s that wasn’t there yesterday, but has suddenly sprouted out of the ground across the street from another Walgreen’s that wasn’t there last Thursday.  In this case the term new means – less old than the old bridge (Puente Viejo).  The Puente Nuevo was built in the mid 1700s, replacing Puente Viejo (aka the Arab Bridge) which was built in 1616 to replace Puente Romano (Roman Bridge) which was built by some Roman dudes almost 2,000 years ago.

We promise, Tara kept both feet on the ground as she leaned over to take this shot.

If you Google Puente Nuevo, you’ll get a ton of images that look like the one up above, but one of our students, Tara Schumal, decided to get the view that those unfortunate fascists got as they were being hurled over the edge of the cliff by Hemingway’s heroic Republicans.  Tara leaned out over the edge of the bridge (that’s the last pillar of the bridge on the far left of her picture) to snap this incredible shot.  As you can see, Tara was in danger of about a 20 foot drop.  The walkway below her wasn’t there in the 1930s when flinging fascists into the Tajo was all the rage.

In her own words: This here is a picture looking down the gorge by the the old Puente Nuevo bridge in Ronda, Spain.  I took this picture because not only did it show the side of the bridge kinda on the left side of the picture but it also showed the rocks and the few levels till the bottom of the gorge. Also, being so high up inspired me to think of a creative way to show high up we actually are. The best thing I like about this picture is how you actually feel like you are standing there looking down and also the shape of the rock sides below.

If anyone else that’s ever been on a TAP trip would like to submit their favorite pic (along with a short explanation), we’d be happy to publish here on our site.  Can anyone top Tara’s photo???

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