The bridge on the Ronda road that sweeps past the outskirts of the village is believed to have been built by Hitler’s troops during the Spanish Civil War.
Historians are divided on the reason behind Hitler’s intervention: some believe this was to help General Franco get his Moroccan-based forces up through Andalucía, whilst others say the opposite and that Hitler planned to use the bridge to march on Gibraltar once Germany had successful taken the British Isles.
The best place to view this physically unremarkable bridge is from the terrace of El Puente with an ice-cold cerveza in your hand as you sink your teeth into one of Jose’s award-winning tapas – preferably his solomillo, with grilled goat’s cheese and onion marmalade – although you had better be quick as the word on the grapevine is that El Puente will be closing its doors permanently at the end of the season.
The bridge is so utilitarian it could be forgiven for escaping your notice. Viaduct-like it spans a small gorge; evenly spaced columns with four-centre arches hold up the road, aided by a mesh of reinforced metal holding the core rubble in place. The bridge curves into the landscape in such a way that from a distance it appears distorted as if seen through a fisheye lens. But here from El Puente’s terrace, it frames the vista with the mountains towering above it and fluttery ribbons of white villages shimmering in the hazy distance. In Bizet’s Carmen the bandits were said to hide out in the mountains between Gaucín and Ronda, and as you gaze west towards Cortez de la Frontera and take in the thick forestation and inaccessible terrain you can imagine the band of renegades taking refuge quite easily as snatches of the opera drift through your head.
During the 1950s and 1960s when smuggling was rife, donkey trains were sent down to the coast to pick up contraband (at that time the big trade was in contraceptive pills, banned in Catholic Spain).
The animals were trained to make the journey without human escort so when one of these donkey caravans was eventually caught, unable to pin it on a villager the donkey was hung from the bridge as a warning that the police were onto the bandidos. It’s pretty safe to assume that smuggling still exists on some level in these mountains although I doubt it will be a haul of contraceptives nowadays…
All images © Pip Art