So far we'd been traveling for 3 months, road-tripping with our baby girl, Rosie. We started in England, then caught the ferry to France, and further explored Spain and Portugal. Next on our horizon was a journey through Argentina, but before leaving Europe we wanted to briefly visit the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar, on the South coast of Spain's Iberian Peninsula.
Gibraltar is one quirky place! The whole country has an area of just 2.6 sq mi, and most of this land is occupied by the steeply sloping Rock of Gibraltar, which is also home to Europe's only population of wild monkeys. We took the cable car to the top, and then hiked down. It was a brilliant day, but those resident Barbary macaques are not shy!
The population of Gibraltar is around 30,000, but this swells by an additional 9,000 people a day with workers crossing the border from Spain. With it's small land size (and enormous rock), the built areas of Gibraltar are very densely populated, with most people living in high rise apartments.
Gibraltar's geographical location, at the narrowest part of the straights leading to the Mediterranean Sea, has given it an enhanced significance throughout history, for whoever controls 'The Rock' controls this strategically vital passage way. In fact, it's thought that Gibraltar might be the most fought over and densely fortified place in the world, having endured fourteen sieges since the 11th century. Over the years successive layers of defenses have been built into the rock, and you can explore a lot of the tunnels, canons, and gun batteries along the hiking trail.
Today, Gibraltar's sovereignty is still a contentious issue in Anglo-Spanish relations. Spain has asserted a claim to the territory for decades, despite more than 98% of Gibraltarian voters choosing to remain part of Britain in the 2002 referendum.
Whilst English is the official national language of Gibraltar, locals also speak a vernacular called Llanito, which is a mix of Andalusian Spanish and English, with a bit of Portuguese, Maltese, Genoese Italian, and Haketia (a Judaeo-Spanish dialect) thrown in. It's a bizarre language that reflects Gibraltar's rich history of foreign occupation, and ultimately contributes to what makes this place fascinating.
We had a really interesting couple of days in Gibraltar, a place rich in both natural beauty and history.