Ah, Gibraltar is an interesting, wicked place…
It is in fact a huge rock (that’s how it’s affectionately called, actually – the Rock) rising up from the Mediterranean Sea. But this Rock has one of the strangest and politicized stories to tell. The Rock is shrouded in myths and legends. Yes, there are traces of Neanderthals dating back tens of thousands of years, and more recently first settlements date back to 9th century BC.
But much more interesting is the myth.
In the Greek mythology, the Rock was one of the Pillars of Hercules.
The “most wanted” Rock in the world
The other pillar was believed to be on the north African tip either in Ceuta or in Morocco, across the Gibraltar strait (jury is still out on that one).
Bear in mind that in those times the world ended at Gibraltar (Mediterranean was the world!).
The famous Greek philosopher Plato claimed, from the comfort of the enclosed Mediterranean Sea, that the Atlantis, the lost city, was somewhere out there… somewhere in the Great Unknown, beyond the Pillars where the Mediterranean ends…
It was also said that the Pillars had the warning carved into them in Latin that said “Non Plus Ultra”… Nothing Beyond Here… sailors and seamen, be warned…
But then, America was discovered.
And Charles V, the King of Spain and the Holy Roman Emperor at that moment (overseeing Roman Empire, plus Americas, just imagine that) had a personal device (or the heraldic badge) which now showed the Pillars with a totally different message… “Plus Ultra”… Further Beyond… yes there is no more the Great Unknown… New World is waiting!
By the way, the above King Charles V was the son of Philip the Handsome and Joanna the Mad (totally unimportant, but cool-sounding, don’t you think? 🙂
Barbary apes, your semi-wild hosts atop the Rock
Gibraltar’s recorded history is the typical crazy stuff of conquering and re-conquering, from Romans to Visigoths to Moors (the latter ruled 700 years), finally re-conquered by Spain just before America was discovered.
In 1704 the Anglo-Dutch army conquered Gibraltar, and as of 1713 Treaty of Utrecht – that’s it! No more re-conquering back and forth to this day.
The Rock has belonged to UK since then, even though there was a horrible (but unsuccessful) 4-year siege by Spain and France in the meantime. Thus the saying “Solid as the Rock”.
This port has been an important military base for the British forces for centuries. It has also been a point of bitter arguments and bad feelings between UK and Spain, as Spain wants the Rock back.
But the people of the Rock voted “No” to Spain two times, last time in 2002. However, the border is open and it all functions somehow.
This port-state is very small, densely populated. It has a spectacular, huge Rock, and has strong financial services and business-friendly system.
Gibraltar Pound is used, and UK retail chains are to be found in the streets of this interesting city.
There is a cable car which takes you to the Rock, and that’s a must-do if you are visiting this place.
Up there you will meet the pretty wild Barbary apes that are endemic to the Rock, and you can see the tunnels dug during the Great Siege.
This place is an interesting stopover as you head into or out of the Mediterranean, with some spectacular views from the Rock, and lots of peculiar history and myths. Out of the ordinary and well worth a visit!
Where is Gibraltar?
- 83.8 miles/ 135 km from Malaga, Spain
- 466 miles/ 750 km from Valencia, Spain
- 374.6 miles/ 603 from Alicante, Spain
- 86.9 miles/ 140 from Cadiz, Spain
- 408.2 miles/ 657 from Lisbon, Portugal
- 0.6 miles/ 1 km from Gibraltar International Airport, UK
- 364.1 miles/ 586 km from Lisbon Airport, Portugal
- 370.3 miles/ 596 km from Alicante-Elche Airport, Spain
Things to See
- Upper Rock Nature Reserve
- Great Siege Tunnels
- Dolphin watching
If you have the chance to visit this unique place, definitely go for it.
If you think about it – the mix of Barbary apes, myths, legends, a huge rock and turbulent history promises a lot of fun and unusual experiences. 🙂
We wish you a fantastic Mediterranean cruise!