Sunday, June 14, 2009

On Top of the Rock in Gibraltar!


Destination: Gibraltar

Where we stayed: Crown Princess

Best of: Majestic views from the top of the historic rock

Worst of: The Apes, actually tailless Macaques i.e. cheeky moneys (which we have dealt with numerous times, see the Bali posts in Ubud) are severely exploited. Despite the fact they are wild, that does not stop some people from feeding them and getting too close, as evidence by a couple of blokes getting bit while we were there.

The Rock. Gibraltar is small in size, only about three square miles, but large in historical significance. Whoever controls this little spit of land can control all the water traffic moving in and out of the Mediterranean. Rising straight out of the water 1400 feet high, one can see all the way to Africa from the top. Modern history of the rock began in 1704 with the British capturing it from the Spanish and has remained in their hands ever since. Despite efforts by the French and Spanish over the years to take it back, the Brits have held on...even enduring one of the longest sieges of all time. During the American Revolution, for nearly four years, the small garrison of men were able to fend off relentless attacks. During WWII it served as a strategic naval base for the allies keeping an eye on Mussolini's fleet. All the battles and wars forced the defenders to build what is today nearly 30 miles of underground passageways and tunnels.

Today, the Rock is known for two primary things: the logo of Prudential Insurance Company (one passenger on the ship thought they actually owned the rock!) and the Barbary Apes.

We originally were going to walk all the way to the top, doable in about 2 hours, but after walking all over Morocco the day before, we opted to take the overpriced tram to the top instead. The tram is nothing more than a 10 minute Gondola ride for $16 stopping at the top and halfway to the top at the Apes den.

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After arriving at the top, you are rewarded with spectacular views over the straights separating Europe from Africa. Given the fact you can see Africa with the naked eye, you get an appreciation for just how valuable it is.

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We rode the tram back down halfway and stopped at the apes. Legend has it that as long as the Apes are here, so will be the British. Churchill himself felt it necessary to import a few from Africa with the numbers were reaching critical low levels during WWII. Actually tailless Macaques, we watched the spectacle unfold as tourists did anything they could for a good photo op. Luring the primates with mostly junk food (they love plastic and chip wrappers) they would jump on people's heads and climb on cars. If you had the window rolled down, in they would come if they saw anything they might think to be food. To us, its sad but until the government makes good on the threat of fines for feeding, it will continue. Our friends from the boat later showed us pictures they had took of a guy who was bitten on the arm when he tried to scare off one of them. We got our fill of the monkeys and headed back down the hill via the tram.

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Aside from the Rock and the monkeys, the town itself is a sprawling line of duty free shopping intermingled with Fish and Chip stands giving it a little British flare. We wandered through, checked e-mail and restocked on some and beer from the supermarket, before calling it a day and heading back to the ship. Next stop - Barcelona!

To see more photos from Gibraltar please click here!

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