The Rock of Gibraltar from Europa Point
Gibraltar is not very big, only 2.6sq.miles of land, but despite being so far away from the ‘mother country’ Gibraltar is very definitely British in culture and style….though being at the very gateway to the Mediterranean and surround on all landward sides by Spain it has to have a Spanish flavour. Nor is Morocco that far away across the Straights so touches of North Africa add to the unique style of the country.
We were scheduled to pass thru the Straights twice on our Andalusian Trip so a stop on the return leg was on planned. From the approach from the sea the Rock of Gibraltar looks rather dwarfed by it surroundings but once on land is very much the dominant feature. Standing at 426m (1398ft) a trip to the top is a must for any visitor, the views are fabulous. Surrounded by sea, with Spain all round and Morocco across the water you realise that Gibraltar is like an island, isolated yet linked inextricably on all sides to its neighbours.
Getting to the top is easy. Local Taxi firms ply for hire to drive you the steep but short drive to the top…but by far the most exciting way is to take the Cable Car and enjoy a drink, maybe something to eat in the bar and restaurant at the top station.
Then of course you have the Barbary apes to both entertain and at time annoy you in a mischievous way, defying death with there acrobatics above the long drop below….
I guess most of us know about the many tunnels, natural and excavated for military purposes, when Gibraltar played a strategic role in conflicts…. but there are also another group of caves that come as a spectacular surprise to tourists. They are called Saint Michaels Caves. Now I have been in many show caves but these are enormous and spectacular. The caves are so large that there is even a Concert Hall in the main cave (I am told the concert acoustics are fabulous)…. but even that plays second fiddle to the giant stalactites and stalagmites…
The real mixed character of Gibraltar becomes very aparent as you take a walk from Grand Casemates Square along Main Street. Its busy, full of bustle and mixes all the flavours of the Mediterranean with a touch of Britain. Its a fun place..
But talking to the ‘British’ locals it was hard to avoid the question of BREXIT. They voted to remain in the EU but appear to have to go along with the Government in Westminster. But the underlying resentment is that in all the talks, the border between Northern and Southern Ireland is being constantly discussed, even described as a red line break point. Yet they the Gibraltarians never hear a word about Gibraltar. Surrounded on all sides by Spain and totally reliant on Spanish labour that travels daily across the narrow strip of land which is both the border and the Airport runway. quirky but true, the border is the runway and access stopped when planes land! It is hard to see just what the Brexit outcome will bring. Gibraltarian’s are fiercely and Independently British but also see themselves as Europeans..
Another quirk is the Cruise liner that goes nowhere…yep its true overshadowing the Ocean Village Marina is the Sunborn Gibraltar, now a hotel, conference centre, restaurant and bars…..Oh! and what now seems compulsory a Gym. Novel but quirky..
It was only a brief visit to this outpost of Britain…but a very enjoyable day.
(C) David Oakes 2018