December 2009                        

        The guest house was empty so we took a bus journey to the British ruled Gibraltar [officially it is a ‘self-governing British overseas territory’]. 

        “The Rock” is the unofficial western end of the Mediterranean Sea [the beginning of the Straits of Gibraltar] and the northern of the two Pillars of Hercules that was the end of the earth in antiquity.  It is said that Hercules decided to pull Africa and Spain apart using Gibraltar [“Jebel Tariq” The Mountain of Tariq] and “Jebel Musa” [The Mountain of Moses] as his had grips.

        You enter Gibraltar by walking or driving across the border where you have to have a passport in your hand but no one looks at it.  The entry road crosses the middle of the airport runway.   Better stop if the light is red unless you want to catch a plane really suddenly!  We hopped on a bus to take us to the cable car that quickly deposits you on the center of the rocky spine.  From that viewpoint to the north is the border with Spain and to the south is Africa.   I am not really sure which end is the iconic rock face in Prudential Insurance ads.  Both look like it from this vantage point.  Below I will attach a short video clip showing the north face of “The Rock” from the view terrace but note that the wind drowns out much of the sound of the voice overlay.

        Other sights include Saint Michael’s Cave.  It is a limestone cave of stalactites and stalagmites.   The cave includes a section with seats and is used as a concert venue.   We later learned of the “lower cave” which is a separate admission and requires advance reservations.   It includes a natural lake and sounds more like the ‘wet’ limestone caves we have seen in the eastern U.S.  The part we saw was dry and somewhat disappointing.

        The north face [toward Spain] contains siege tunnels built in the 1770-1780s to shoot cannon on the invading Spanish who tried to take it back.  They had to invent a way to shoot cannon downward without the cannon ball rolling out of the barrel.

        On our next visit Robert wants to visit the nearby World War II tunnels.   Robert just finished reading a biography of Dwight Eisenhower that mentioned his headquarters at the beginning of the invasion of North Africa was in these tunnels.

        There is a Moorish Castle [really a tower] that was begun in the 8th Century and currently is pockmarked with cannon ball holes from a siege around 1300.

        Of little interest to us are the Barbary Apes that live in the Nature Preserve on the upper Rock.  We have heard they can be aggressive so we kept our snacks out of sight.  The little ones are actually cute but we saw a big one grab someone’s lunch and got away with it very quickly.

        We have learned that there are some Christmas concerts at the Anglican Cathedral next week so we will try to get there for one if at all possible.

                        Barbary Ape                                           

               Siege Tunnel of 1778-1783


© Robert Carpenter 2017