At the bottom tip of the Iberian peninsula lies a city that needs no introduction. It's called Gibraltar, and you already know what it looks like.
|Rock of Gibraltar with storm cloud above it. African coast in the distance.|
We were staying with dear friends in Sotogrande, on the southern Mediterranean coast. I needed to find ways to entertain myself that did not involve sangria, and so we asked our friends' children, "Who wants to go see Gibraltar?" We got the enthusiastic response we expected, so we piled the kids - a large number of them - into our car and took the short drive to the famed rock.
Gibraltar is actually owned by England, a fact that Spaniards don't like to discuss in polite company. This means one must cross an international border to get into the city. The crossing reminded me of my student days in Berlin, when we walked across to the Eastern sector, through Checkpoint Charlie, with the eyes and guns of the East German soldiers trained on us at all times. Back then, crossing into East Germany, I was fearless; now, a little older and with a lot more at stake (including a passel of kids who weren't all mine), I was a little nervous. But it was fine. You actually have to walk across an active airport runway to get into Gibraltar.
|Me on the runway. I would never have gotten away with taking such pictures in East Germany, but the Brits didn't seem to mind.|
Once one crosses the border, it is possible to walk all around the little town. The signage is all in English, and the bus drivers are all multilingual. There's a bus that leads to the base of the rock, and from there one takes a gondola to the top. At the top of the rock, there is a spectacular World War II era lookout. Another interesting point: the rock is populated entirely by feral monkeys who don't like children.
|Feral, bilingual monkey who eats seventh graders for lunch.|
|Seventh grader climbing to the top of the lookout.|
The view at the top is nothing short of spectacular.
All in all, Gibraltar was a very cool place to see. I'm not sure I'd live there; the town looked a little downtrodden and was isolated from mainland Spain by the political division. Nevertheless, the geographical features - the rock, the monkeys, the view of the Strait - were completely worth the trip. It was dizzying standing at the top of the rock looking down at the Strait and across at Africa - my first glimpse of that continent ever. And in a few days, I'd get on a ferry bound for Tangier, Morocco, and set my feet on the soil of Africa for the first time. That will be my final vacation post - I am saving the best for last.
Until then, a friendly wave goodbye from Gibraltar!