Gibraltar: Is it Spanish? African? Or English? Well, I don’t have the answer. However, it is certain that Gibraltar has had a colorful past with many cultural influences that are still present today. The name Gibraltar comes from “Jebel Tarik” or “Tarik’s Mountain”, Tarik being an Arab warrior who landed there in 711 AD. Its strategic position at the mouth of the Mediterranean had previously been venerated by the Greeks (for whom it was one of the Pillars of Hercules, with Mount Abila on the Moroccan shore) and the Romans, who saw it as the end of the world. Gibraltar became part of the unified Kingdom of Spain and remained under Spanish rule until 1704, when it was captured by an Anglo-Dutch fleet in the name of the Habsburg pretender to the Spanish throne, Charles VI. At the end of the War of the Spanish Succession, Spain ceded the territory to the British under the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713.
Fun fact #1: By the end of the18th century Gibraltar had faced fifteen sieges in the space of 500 years; it has been called “one of the most densely fortified and fought over places in Europe”.
The colony grew rapidly during the 19th and early 20th centuries, becoming one of Britain’s most important possessions in the Mediterranean. It became a key stopping point for vessels en route to India via the Suez Canal. A large British naval base was constructed there at great expense at the end of the 19th century and became the backbone of Gibraltar’s economy. However that base isn’t frequently used nowadays. Also, British control of Gibraltar enabled the Allies to control the entrance to the Mediterranean during the Second World War. Nowadays, Gibraltar has undergone major changes as a result of reductions in Britain’s overseas defence commitments. Most British forces have left the territory, which is no longer seen as a place of major military importance. It has reoriented itself towards a service economy based around tourism.
Our first stop: Europa Point. This area is the most southern point of Gibraltar and of Spain. Here there is an amazing view of Spain, Africa, Atlantic Ocean, and the Mediterranean Sea. Fun fact #2: Also located here is Gibraltar’s only cricket oval for the Gibraltar national cricket team!
Compare the castle of Gibraltar to the Alhambra…
Second stop of the day: St. Michael’s Cave. Here is where things got interesting…First things first: Gibraltar is home to 300 (mas o menos) Macaque monkeys. These monkeys live on the rock semi-wild (the government pays for vaccines and stuff to keep them healthy), and enjoy spending time pick-pocketing tourists as they snap as many photos of them. Here at St. Michael’s Cave, the monkeys have turned it into their unofficial hang out spot (the real place is the Ape’s Den, but the super guay-really cool- monkeys hang out at the cave). So I did my best to appreciate the cave…but really I spent most of my time watching the monkeys.
If you all are looking for some info about how this caved formed…you can google it. Yes, I took Geology 100 SENIOR year so I could graduate. That should tell you how much I truly remember from that class.
Meanwhile…Outside the caves:
Fun Fact #4: There is also a military hospital in Gibraltar that will treat you for free IF you are bitten by one of the semi-wild Macaque monkeys that live there…but beware during WWII Winston Churchill made a controversial law that allows those same monkeys to be treated at the same hospital as well.
Funny story about this guy. He is the oldest monkey in the group. He is about 94 monkey years old (25 human years if you are interested). He spends most of his days in the gift shop (as pictured) waiting for someone to open the door to heaven, I mean freezer door, so he can steal all the candy bars he could ever want. The lady behind the counter demonstrated, and that old guy still has a lot of strength in him. This guy will even go as far as to steal money out of your pockets, wait for someone to open the freezer door, steal some candy bars, and then proceed to put the stolen money on the counter to “pay” for his goodies. And some people struggle to believe we are related genetically to these guys?
After we were tired out from the monkeys we headed back down the Rock to grab some lunch at a pub. And then had some free time to shop.
Over all, Gibraltar was a great day trip. It wasn’t anything to be super excited about, but it was a different experience. I don’t think I will be heading back anytime soon to visit again (I’m still getting over my fear of those darn monkeys). Of course, I don’t regret going, I wanted to visit Gibraltar and I did! It was a great day trip and it is always great to be able to grab a pint! Anyways, don’t tune out just yet, I am cranking out blogs all week!
Up next: Día de Andalucia (AKA Spain’s 4th of July) and my trip to Portugal!