Udo Burkhardt Exhibtion at Circulo de Artistas, Ronda

If the opening night of Udo Burkhardt’s newest exhibition of art in Ronda is anything to go by, attendance during the course of the exhibition, which runs from the 12th December to the 20th December is likely to be high.

Udo has chosen one of his most controversial paintings as the poster painting for the exhibition, seen in our photograph Udo (wearing a black leather jacket) and some of the visitors to the opening night.

Depicting an Afghan woman wearing a Burkha, Udo says he aims to highlight the lack of freedom of expression that women in some parts of the world have, whilst those attending his exhibitions in contrast have complete freedoms to express themselves in any way they feel.

In his art Udo rarely crosses into politics, the majority of his art is striking for it’s simplicity of colours and topic, though this impression certainly doesn’t define the artist. A careful examination of Udo’s other pieces underscores a man with deeply held ideas. His series of western horoscope starsigns is evidence of this, each painting demonstrating a thoughtful mind at work as the artist captures the essential spirit of each sign.

Udo with Blue Lynx
Udo with Blue Lynx

On display Udo has included a second series of symbolic pieces representing the natural world out of context, with some quite outstanding pieces to admire. This exhibition is quirky, vivid, and partly controversial, and in Ronda this is rare. Given the number of local artists who paint village scenes or still life, Udo’s exhibition is refreshing for being at once contemporary and unusual.

About the Artist

Udo Burkhardt hails from Germany, where as a young man he was known more for his music. Living in the Llano de la Cruz with his wife Margitt, Udo has exhibited several times in Ronda, including at the Casa del Cultura, the Parador Hotel, Unicaja, and the now defunct Andrew’s Artgalerie.

If you’d like to see Udo’s art on display, the Circulo de Artistas is located in the Casino building at the northern end of Plaza Socorro. Opening hours are 11:00 to 12:00 and 18:00 t0 22:00 every day.

Hotel Occupancy Up in Ronda during Recent Long Weekend

Hotel Ronda Room
Hotel Ronda Room

Very exciting news for hoteliers and owners of self-stay accommodation in Ronda as the recent long weekend generated 90% occupancy across all of the Ronda Hotels.

Over four days, from Saturday 5th to Tuesday 8th December, Ronda was at its busiest with thousands of visitors from other parts of Andalucía and further afield descending on the city of the Tajo to enjoy the “puente”, translated as bridge holiday but also known as a bank holiday weekend.

“I had to turn people away, and with so many hotels closed for winter it was difficult to find alternative accommodation for guests”, so said Nieves Lara the proprietor of Hotel Ronda.

Statistics released by the Councillor for Tourism Maribel Morales show that 62.5% of visitors stayed at least one night in Ronda, while the remaining 37.5% were day trip visitors from Sevilla and the Costa del Sol. Most visitors stayed two nights in Ronda, with 11% staying the full four nights.

These figures are encouraging given the depth of recession in Spain this December, though retailers and a significant number of restaurateurs are complaining that takings are well down on previous years.

Reasons to use a Dedicated Currency Specialist

Living in Spain means having to use the Euro as our currency of daily life, compounded when large purchases are made from houses or cars, to renovations, installing heating or cooling systems, medical treatment, paying for satellite TV installation, and a lot of other expenses that may be specific to your lifestyle. Traditionally we use high street banks, without realising they don’t always offer the best rate of exchange.

Furthermore, in this difficult times like we’ve experienced in 2009 and going forward into most of 2010, losing money on currency exchange is easy to do. Did you know that most high street banks, building societies, and Spanish cajas offer the tourist rate of exchange when you send pounds from the UK to Spain, or in reverse, send Euros to the UK.

The commercial rate of exchange, which is what the banks pay is never the rate you pay, and there can be a significant difference between the two. A specialist foreign exchange company is more likely to offer the commercial rate than the tourist rate. This could mean a two to three point difference on the rate you’re offered.

Here’s an example. Right now (December 2009) the Euro is strong, and is hovering around 1.09€-1.11€ to the pound. Now let’s assume the bank rate you’re offered is 1.08€ to the pound. A foreign exchange company might offer you 1.11€ to the pound, I’m sure you’ll agree this is a significant difference, but in practical terms it means that transferring £100,000 to Spain will see a foreign exchange company give you an extra 3,000€.

Considering how often many of us transfer funds from the UK to Spain on a monthly or regular interval, even with smaller amounts we see a significant saving, and with the rate of exchange being so weak every little bit we keep in our pockets is better than just giving it away to banks when we don’t need to.

Foreign Exchange Fees can be Waived

One of the most compelling reasons to use a foreign exchange company though are because they often waive transfer fees that you might pay £25 to £40 per transaction to a bank. Transferring £500 for monthly living expenses and paying a £25 transaction fee amounts to losing 5%, notwithstanding being offered the tourist rate of exchange.

Spanish banks are not immune from taking a small percentage as well, we’ve heard reports of Spanish banks charging fees that can be as much as 1% simply to receive the funds. Admittedly the fee a Spanish bank charges might be a fixed amount that on larger transfers can be ignored, but on smaller monthly payments adds up. Some UK foreign exchange companies operating in Spain have agreements with Spanish banks to waive receiving fees.

So, if a specialist foreign exchange company offers a rate 3 points more favourable than a high street bank, and waives transfer fees, and is able to deposit your money into a Spanish bank without additional fees, then on smaller amounts you could be looking at savings of 4-8%, and that adds up month by month.

Larger transfers initiated through a bank also require registration for each transaction, to comply with UK and EU anti-money laundering legislation. Whilst there is no fee for this it does add to the hassle of currency exchange and means you need to supply personal details everytime. In contrast a foreign exchange company operating in Spain will assign an account manager who is able to process your transactions with information kept on file.

Improve your Currency Exchange Transactions

The rate of exchange fluctuates so much it can be disheartening to watch it from day to day, seemingly never improving, or only briefly when it does. Of course the problem is that when we need to transfer funds, Murphy’s law invariably comes into play and we are rarely able to capitalise on better rates. See our feature on currency exchange in Spain.

For me this is probably the strongest reason yet for keeping an account with a foreign exchange company. Your high street bank will never let you plan in advance, they don’t offer spot transactions, forward transactions, limit orders, and they certainly don’t offer rate watch services.

Spot Transactions
Buy Now, Pay Now: Probably one of the most frustrating aspects of moving currency from the UK to Spain, or vice versa, is the knowledge that banks offer a day rate, but you and I know the rate fluctuates during the day, and sometimes quite favourably, but the only people who seem to benefit are forex speculators. How often do we see financial news bulletins on Sky mention the pound rallied in the middle of the day, only to settle at days end? Spot transactions with a foreign exchange company eliminate this regret by allowing you to call your account manager and settle a transaction right now while the rate is favourable.

Forward Transactions
Buy Now, Pay Later: Consider securing a favourable rate as much as 12 months in advance by making a small deposit to a currency exchange company. You protect yourself against too much movement in the market because the trader agrees to fix the rate you negotiate. Currency exchange companies love this type of transaction, they’re able to plan further ahead themselves, which makes them more profitable, and we benefit from a known fixed rate of exchange if a major transaction is anticipated.

Limit Orders
Why not place an order for a particular rate of exchange that isn’t conducted until the exchange rate reaches the level you’ve specified. You are protected from negative movement because your transaction isn’t processed until the rate is reached. Here’s how it works, your currency exchange account manager enters the rate you want into their computer system, and your transaction is kept on hold until your rate is reached, then the transaction is processed automatically.

Most currency exchange companies are happy to deal with large and small transactions, there is no reason not to contact them even if the amount seems ridiculously small. Here in the Serranía we know of several retired couples who bought their Spanish homes with cash, and are quite capable of living on just 250€ per month which includes groceries, power, phone, and occasional tapas. Even so, currency exchange companies are the better option over a high street bank. Remembering that most banks charge a transfer fee, smaller amounts are even more reason to talk to a currency specialist.

Christmas Lights and Shop Windows in Ronda

The 4th of December was the day the Christmas lights went on in Ronda, heralding the start of the Christmas holiday season, which in Spain extends through to the 6th January.

Christmas in Spain is unlike English speaking countries. Here the 25th of December is a religious holiday, whilst the 5th of January, known as the three kings day, is the important day for giving gifts. Of course Hollywood’s influence means this is becoming muddled and children in Spain often get presents on the 25th and 5th.

Switching on the Christmas lights is an important occasion, made even more special as this is a long weekend celebrating two holidays, Constitution Day on the 6th, and the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on the 8th.

The streets of Ronda were filled with people coming out to see this years lights, and to mix and mingle with friends in coffee shops, start the Christmas present buying spree, and enjoy the fresh evening air before the cold of winter really hits us.

The excitement was contagious, children were running and playing, calling to each other, staring with wild eyes in the windows of the shops with nativity scenes or Santa decorations, and Rondeños of all ages couldn’t contain themselves.

Several of the churches held special evening Mass services, so many in Ronda were wearing their Sunday best, though many more weren’t, being content to simply walk and enjoy the evening with friends.

The Christmas lights run the length of Carrera Espinel, Calle Sevilla, Virgen de la Paz, Calle Armiñan, Avenida de Málaga, Avenida de Martinez Astein, and are also in Plaza Socorro. The open air nativity is in the bandstand in Plaza Socorro.

While walking down La Bola taking the photos you see below, our friendly local busker was dressed as Santa playing Christmas songs on his accordion while singing “Merry Christmas” over and over again. We wondered if he knew the words and was just singing what he did know. Sadly the battery on the camera went flat and I wasn’t able to capture his Christmas spirit.

ronda-christmas-lights

Ron Morley, Benaojan Artist

Ron Morley, born in London 1938, painter in oil and occasionally watercolour.

Before his retirement in 2005 he worked freelance as a magazine and newspaper designer, moving around Fleet Street, London, in the cut and thrust of tight deadlines and graveyard shifts.

He now lives in Benaojan, Andalucía, and with a complete change of lifestyle, has time to ponder and tentatively paint.

His subject matter is close at hand and all engulfing, and for the moment it is enough to paint simple village scenes, explore the narrow streets, relish the blue skys and delve into the deep shadows.

He loves the medium of oil, working with its richness and depth gives him huge satisfaction and a freedom he never knew in the black and white rigidity of the British press.

More of Ron’s work can be seen at the Hotel Molino del Santo, Benaoján Estación.

Gallery of Ron’s Paintings

To display larger images, click the thumbnail

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