Gibraltar: 2nd April 2015
We arrived in Gibraltar about midday, so we only had an afternoon here. But, it’s such a small place that’s easily enough time to see the highlights.
Europa Point is the southernmost point. and here is the Trinity lighthouse, the only one outside the British Isles administered by Trinity House. Here, also, is a picturesque mosque endowed by the King of Saudi Arabia.
The guide, Andy, took us up the Rock to ‘meet his family’ … the famous apes; folklore has it that the Rock will remain in British possession as long as the apes stay. So, they’re cared for and pampered … there was even a wing of the Military Hospital devoted to their care. Generally, they just sit around being apes, and pose shamelessly for the camera.
Another attraction is the tunnels. They were first suggested by Sergeant Major Henry Ince of the Soldier Artificer Company (forerunner of the Royal Engineers) in the 18th Century, as a means of expeditiously getting guns from one side of the Rock to the other … and the site where the resultant rubble was dumped in the bay eventually became the airport runway.
And, that’s no ordinary runway. It used to be that the road had to be closed to allow aircraft to take off and land, but now, there’s a tunnel under it.
A cable car took us up to the very top of the Rock, where there wasn’t really much except a souvenir shop and more apes. But, they say on a clear day, there are excellent views of Spain and Morocco. Closer to hand, there’s a superb view of the harbour, and its many ships. Not one single Royal Navy ship, though; a far cry from bygone days. In fact, during the visit, we didn’t see a single soldier although there was plenty of evidence of their former presence.
The British are just the latest in a long line of occupants of the Rock. It was captured by Admiral Sir George Rooke in 1704. He immediately saw its important strategic position, and Britain has held on to it ever since. But, before that, it changed hands many times: indeed, some archaeologists think it was the last foothold of Neanderthal Man in Europe.
At one time, it was thought by Mediterranean people the Rock marked the end of the world, but Phoenicians and Greeks found that this was not the case; they called it one of the Pillars of Hercules. The came the Carthaginians, then the Romans, who called it Mons Calpe.
In the 8th Century, it received its present name when it was captured by the Moors, led by one Tariq ibn Zeyad. He called it Jebel Tariq (Tariq’s Hill) … which eventually became Gibraltar.
Back at the cruise terminal, Lorraine went to the gift shop to spend a Gibraltarian £5 note we’d acquired, rather than carry it home and change it. I got talking to the friendly Port Chaplain, from the Seamen’s Mission. He told me that there was no wifi here … but explained the many crewmen sitting on the pavement that we’d seen on the way in. They were outside the Mission … using his!