Monday, November 5, 2012

Weird, Wacky Gibraltar

Ladies and gentlemen, I am now a mere 4.5 weeks into my overseas adventure, and already, I have found the weirdest place in the whole entire universe. And that place is Gibraltar.

A couple of days ago, my friend Pete (or PStas, as he's called in these parts) left a comment here telling me to check out Gibraltar since I was going to be in the area. He described it as follows: "Monkeys, British people, a fortress in the caves, and you drive in across an airstrip. It's wacky." Gibraltar had already been on my radar, but with that description, it became set. There was no WAY I wasn't going to Gibraltar.

From the top of the Rock

Before I go into why Gibraltar's so incredibly "wacky," as PStas says (and to which I concur), here's a little history lesson: Gibraltar is a small town on the south tip of Spain. It's got a massive, limestone rock (you knew that already), the Rock of Gibraltar. Gibraltar was controlled by the Moors until Spain claimed it in 1462. Then, during the War of Spanish Succession, in which Britain sided with Spain against the French, Britain seized control of Gibraltar (way to play nice with your ally, Brits), and officially took possession under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. Since then, there have been battles, military and diplomatic, between Spain and Britain over Gibraltar, but as of now, it remains under British control.

The Rock from a distance
You probably already knew all of that because you paid attention in your European History class, whereas it's all news to me because I took European History from my track and cross country coach, who recognized the value of rest before hard workouts and may or may not have let me take naps during his class and/or skip it altogether when big meets were on the horizon. (On the off chance you're reading this, DTH, I'm totally kidding, I loved your class and paid attention all the time! It's just been a while and I forgot some of the details. And congrats on getting the girls' team back to State again!) (And on the 100% chance that you're reading this, Mom, I'm totally kidding, I never skipped classes. Never.)

So, with that background, let's work through PStas's description.

  • "Monkeys":
The absolute highlight of Gibraltar, at least for me, was the crazy, weirdo monkeys with no tails. I believe they are technically called Barbary apes. They were everywhere. Mostly on the Rock, but also in the town itself. Just hanging around, picking nits off each other, jumping all over the place, plotting and scheming to steal food from tourists (I have also heard they will steal cameras and throw them at rocks just to be assholes, but I didn't witness this), and just generally causing trouble. I think these pictures will enlighten:

Maybe (definitely) I'm lacking in maturity, but I was so incredibly amused and taken with these animals and their antics. They were so goofy and mischevious. Here, they climbed onto a van, and within seconds, started tearing off the lettering with their teeth and fingers. Just to be little jerks.

At the same time, they were incredibly creepy. There's something about animals with opposible thumbs and being in their territory....I just had this distinct feeling that if they wanted to, they could gang up and kill me in a second. One stared me down, obviously looking for food, and I kid you not, I got the chills. So honestly, getting close enough for this picture was a huge exercise in courage:

  • "British People"
I guess because of its history and its location pretty much IN Spain, Gibraltar is not only British, it's FIERCELY British. To a point of absurdidity. The first two things I saw when I entered Gibraltar:

And then, in the town square ...about 65 restuarants advertising Fish & Chips. It was like the whole city was just trying to say, over and over, "we are British, dammit!"

I'd say it's like I never left London, but I didn't see that many Fish & Chips joints in London

I will concede that I stuck to the touristy parts and it's very likely that the rest of the town wasn't this over the top, but it amused me. It reminded me of that fake British town in Arrested Development, from the episodes when Michael was pursuing Charlize Theron without realizing that she was mentally slow. You know what I'm talking about, right?

  • "A Fortress in the Caves"
Yeah, they've have some cool caves in the Rock, and one of them was turned into a fort. I went in and walked around but it didn't amuse me nearly as much as the monkeys so I didn't spend a whole lot of time or get too excited. But here's a couple pictures:

  • "And You Drive in Across an Airstrip"
I didn't drive into Gibraltar, instead I parked in La Linea, the closest Spanish city, and walked across, but it was absolutely bizarre that the only way to enter the town was to walk across a live runway. When I was walking in, I found it cool. Walking out, not as much, because I was stopped for 25 minutes (in the rain!) so they could prepare the runway for this plane to take off:

That was a little annoying, and judging by the crowd around me, there's a ton of people who live in La Linea and work in Gibraltar and have to do that walk every day. I'd be annoyed, but they seemed to handle it OK. It wasn't cutting into their siesta time, so I guess in the grand scheme of Spanish things, it wasn't such a huge deal.

And that was Gibraltar. Probably my favorite day of my travels, thus far, based solely on its strangeness.

1 comment:

  1. LOVED all the monkey photos. I'd have been worried one of them would totally rip my face off but at the same time I love apes/monkeys so much I'd have had to have that photo too!