Gibraltar is one of those places which you either hate or love. No room for indifference. I know plenty of people who hate the place. ‘Dirty, noisy, too commercial’ are some of the comments. I personally belong to the group of Gibraltar fans.
Over the years I have visited hundreds of times, mostly due to my job as an attorney in Marbella. Hence the banks. These times are now in the past and I visit for pleasure. What I leave out though are the monkeys. Everybody knows about the monkeys which live on the rock and have become a trademark of Gibraltar. Opinions still differ on how they came to be there in the first place, but the most convincing theory seems to be, that they were on board a ship which anchored in the bay. Finding the climate and food agreeable, they decided to stay after they escaped and to breed, and breed, and breed!!!
They may look cute – from a distance. Close up they are smelly, noisy, nosy and they bite. The opinion will change from ‘cute’ to ‘nasty’ quickly after they have snatched your purse and made off with it to an unreachable place between the rocks.
But, as the title of this post indicates, there is much more to Gibraltar than banks and monkeys and here are some of my reasons why I love the place:
Spanish and English are spoken simultaneously in Gibraltar and I mean this literally. ‘Muchas thank you’ is absolutely common. And totally correct Gibraltar speak. Which ever language comes to mind first you use, to be followed by the other. I happily join in. This way of talking feels cosmopolitan, sophisticated and relaxed at the same time. Very much in keeping with the entire atmosphere of Gibraltar.
When I first came to Gibraltar, the airport was even smaller and more cute than it is now. Modern times (and security) have caught up, but it’s still a place which evokes feeling of flying pioneers. You walk across the tarmac to your plane and you climb gangways.
Even better is the runway. It ends just short of or in the sea, depending on the skill of the pilot. Quite a few have misjudged in the past. When coming to Gibraltar, I parked my car in La Linea, the neighboring town on the Spanish side. The I walked across the border and, to reach town, have to cross the runway. A flimsy barrier and a traffic light indicate when it’s safe to cross. However, more often than not, bells start clanging, lights start flashing and the barrier starts to lower when you are halfway across and it always gives me a thrill to see who is faster: me or the approaching plane. As far as I know, there has never been an accident, but there is always a first time.
I bet you don’t associate Gibraltar with glassblowers, yet there it is: The Gibraltar Crystal factors in th Grand Casemate near the clock tower. Fabulous works of art, goblets and vases are made in a quite small factory. What is more, you can watch the entire process really up close and buy the most beautiful things in the showroom. To see my favorite, a black and gold goblet, visit www.gibraltar-crystal.com.
Even watching the masters makes thirsty and you can enjoy a pint or two in the picturesque pub right next door.
St. Michael’s Cave
Photograph by Gibnews Wikipedia common
The rock appears solid, but it is really quite hollow. Apart from man-made tunnels, there are over 150 caves of which St. Michael’s is the most fascinating. Over 1 mill visitors a year think exactly the same. A cathedral like structure of stalagmites and stalactites form a natural auditorium. The many colors of the minerals are enhanced by skilful lighting. Acoustic is fabulous too, that why the main ‘hall’is used for concerts and.. the Miss Gibraltar Beauty Pageant.
Photograph by Greenshed Wikipedia common
I need to revisit soon because last time I didn’t have a digital camera and I want to take my own pictures. Ah yes, and a spit of shopping never comes amiss either.