, as the locals call it, is a special place full of legends. It has great energy. It is visible for many tens of kilometers. It attracts tourists and travelers from around the world.
It is impossible not to fall in love with this place when you see the silhouette of the Rock in a photo in any advertising brochure or on the Internet. However, its attraction is hundreds of times stronger in reality.
I would even say that the Rock of Gibraltar is one of the most beautiful and interesting places in Europe. 300 years ago, the British seized amazing land! However, they had to fight more than once for such treasure. Nevertheless, all these battles, sieges, bombings, and blockades only added value to the last British Crown overseas possessions in Europe.
took a special place in our Spanish week long voyage. We'll never forget that half a day spent on its territory...
It was early June morning, we were sailing towards the border between Spain and Gibraltar shrouded in pre-dawn sea coolness. My dream was coming true. Soon I will walk through the legendary citadel, a city where every street, every house, and every stone is connected with the heroic past of this place. The Rock was closer and closer, and our internal excitation was growing.
We were on the territory of the British colony after a short passport control. You see that this is not Spain from the very first steps.
The famous British telephones in traditional red booths, the London garbage cans or double decker buses... Even police officers in white shirts and yellow jackets majestically adorn with custodian helmets on their heads. Nevertheless, this is not Britain...
One can feel the uniqueness of Gibraltar already at the very approaches to it. Gibraltarians managed to fit a whole airport with one single runway on a small sandy isthmus separating the Rock from the mainland. In fact, this runway stretching from the inner gulf to the Mediterranean Sea serves as a natural boundary separating Gibraltar from the outside world.
The city amazes with the number of monuments, sculptures, and obelisks from the very first steps. Residents of Gibraltar have something to show the visitors. The number of local heroes and celebrities for three hundred years goes off all reasonable limits.
. It's a colony's historical, tourist, and trade center. Previously there used to be the barracks. Later public executions took place here. Now there are crowds of visitors and residents in the daytime. We were lucky to see this square empty, on Saturday at 8 o'clock in the morning. The city was just starting its preparations for a busy weekend.
The main street of Gibraltar called Main Street begins from Casemates Square and leads inland. Counting the number of shops and bars on it is very hard. It is worth noting that the territory of Gibraltar is a special economic and offshore zone, where there is no income and many other taxes, although we did not notice the cheapness there... Well, we came not for shopping.
We forgot about Main Street awakening from the sleep and fastened our eyes on the Moorish Castle situated slightly higher. I remembered the glorious history of the Rock on the way up along the narrow streets.
The Carthaginians and Phoenicians noticed its available fortification value already in the earliest days of European history. In those days, the Rock was considered to be the end of the world. Together with its counterpart on the African side, they were called The Pillars of Hercules.
In those ancient times, two columns with statues at the top were built somewhere in this place. They served as a gateway from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic Ocean. These columns with a mythical snake wrapped around them have become the prototype of the American dollar symbol ($). Their image also decorates many coats of arms of Andalusian cities.
The Moors also began their invasion of the Iberian Peninsula right from the Rock of Gibraltar. First of all, they destroyed the legendary pillars and began to build mighty fortifications. The Moorish fortress has stood for many centuries. You can see well-preserved parts of these fortifications even today.
After capturing the Rock, the Spaniards did not notice its significance for a long time. When they realized it, it was too late. Gibraltar became part of the British Empire.
After many years, the enterprising Englishmen slightly modified and adapted these Moorish fortifications to their needs.
You can see traces of numerous wars in the form of dents and cracks from direct hits of bombs on the millennia-old walls. Now there is a museum, which also includes the famous Gibraltar tunnels.
Gibraltar is called 'the fortress within the fortress' for a reason. The British began to hollow the first underground tunnels in the firm sandstone during the Great Siege of the city more than 200 years ago.
Then the Spaniards seriously planned to return this strategically important place to their possessions. The French and the Dutch helped them. They tried to conquer Gibraltar by storm, bombing, and starvation for five years. They say that the bombing of the city stopped only during the traditional Spanish siesta.
That's when the defenders of the Rock began to go underground. At the same time, the British invented a cannon carriage with a small elevation angle for the defense of Gibraltar. Its power was incredible. The monument to this military invention stands on Casemates Square.
During the Second World War, the British, who were aware of the bombings' horror, went underground almost completely. The length of the tunnels of those times reaches almost 70 kilometers. There was a separate city with its warehouses, hospitals, barracks, and batteries in the Rock.
This citadel was too tough for the Spaniards. The Germans did not even dare to storm it during the Second World War. Gibraltar was never subjected to strong bombardments during the war. All the fortifications of those times have remained almost untouched.
You should definitely visit tunnels both of the Great Siege that happened two centuries ago and of the Second World War. The ticket to the Moorish Castle and the tunnels cost only 10 pounds (as of 2015). However, you can find a lot of interesting things near the entrance to the tunnels even without a ticket.
It's amazing that so many artifacts were preserved on Earth. Just go away from the asphalt road to the side, and you will find 250 years old dilapidated houses and fortifications. They almost weren't touched by the restorers, so the atmosphere is very authentic. Nearby, there's Princess Caroline's Battery with more modern weapons.
The main advantage of these places is the stunning scenery offered by numerous observation decks. It seems you can watch for hours the boiling life of the city below, of the port, and of the bay itself with good binoculars in your hands.
As soon as the city ends, a protected natural park with a very peculiar dense vegetation and its original inhabitants begins on the Rock. First of all, we are talking about the only Europe's colony of the wild Gibraltar Monkeys, once brought from Morocco. These monkeys are definitely one of Gibraltar's biggest attractions. Residents really value their neighbors. There's even the saying: "We'll protect the monkeys until the last Englishman!"
Entrance to the park cost 1 pound per person. Most visitors get here by sightseeing buses, taxis, or by a cable car that delivers tourists to the highest point of the Rock for 5 pounds. You can get to the 426-meter height on foot. However, the rout is pretty difficult, though the scenery is amazing.
When we climbed almost half of the Rock, we saw steps stretching straight up almost vertically. "What a great opportunity to shorten the way!", we thought. Already after 10 minutes, we began to regret that we chose a fast, but not an easy way. Only monkeys that appeared suddenly gave us extra strength, and we were at the top after a while.
There were many tourist buses and taxis at the cliff. Numerous Gibraltar apes definitely felt like the main heroes. Most of the adult monkeys were busy with their own affairs and did not pay any attention to curious two-legged aliens. Young monkeys posed and entertained a large audience with pleasure. By the way, you are strictly forbidden to feed these gluttonous creatures. The fine reaches 500 pounds.
In spite of the huge heaps of vegetables and fruits dumped by the employees of the reserve, monkeys are always ready to eat something tasty.
We didn't know about the fine. We took some fruit together with lunch. As soon as we sat at the edge of the rock to snack, a small flock of monkeys immediately surrounded us. We shared our lunch with them, and later we saw big posters with warnings about fines. However, we were lucky that day. As well as monkeys.
Besides the monkeys, you can see the long-abandoned military buildings with dots and nests for anti-aircraft installations there.
If we continued our journey along the Rock, we would see a lot of interesting things. For example, a cave or an underground church, the original concert hall of St. Michael or a monument to the destroyed columns of the Pillars of Hercules.
One day may be not enough to get around the Rock. You should plan the route in advance.
We chose the easier route on the cable car. We were on Main Street already in several minutes.
Over the past half a day, the main street of Gibraltar radically changed. Sometimes it was difficult to get through there.
We were amazed by the number of small shops with almost the same assortment with large windows packed with strong alcoholic beverages, cigars, and many souvenirs. There are also fashion boutiques and traditional English pubs next to them. I'd like to mention that the prices in Gibraltar are quite acceptable, although they are not cheap.
The second thing that struck us was that we did not meet so many street actors anywhere else in Andalusia. Cowboys, hunters, woodcutters, Charlie Chaplins, musicians, and so on. This man flower pedestal really pleased us.
Shopping lovers will definitely find where to go here.
As soon as you deviate from the main tourist routes of Gibraltar, you see a completely different city. You feel uncomfortable even during the daytime here. There is a lot of garbage and the smell of rot in the dark streets, and all the lower windows are closed by heavy shutters.
Gibraltar gives numerous emigrants from Africa and Asia an opportunity to earn money. As well as migrant workers from Europe. However, this is another dark side of this city. If you wish, you can ignore it.
It's time to say goodbye to this wonderful place. I will gladly visit the Rock again. I highly recommend this place!