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Gibraltar (or, Rocks not Involving Sean Connery)

I know, I know – Gibraltar isn’t technically a state either – but after I talked about the Azores, I figured I could talk a bit about Gibraltar. A small territory with a big rock, the history of Gibralter is steeped in dispute and controversy, and, to some extent is still a disputed territory. The British (and the Gibraltans themselves) want it to remain a holding of the United Kingdom, while the Spanish also lay claim. Though the dispute has cooled down after recent tripartide talks, Gibraltar’s legal status is still disputed. One thing that isn’t in dispute, however, is Gibraltar’s status as a great tourist destination (how’s that for a segue?)

 

In my opinion, the coolest thing about Gibraltar is the fact that it is home to the only wild apes native to Europe (other than the Belgians) – the Barbary Macaques. Local lore has it that as long as the apes remain, so too will the British. As a result, the apes are very well taken care of, and seem to know that they have the might of the British Empire backing them up. They are very friendly, and will steal your bags and purses if you let them. Ape watching tours can be combined with exploration of the famous Rock of Gibraltar itself (if you’re going to take the time to go to Gibraltar, you’d damn well better see the Rock!), which can make for a very entertaining day.

 

The interior of the Rock shouldn’t be missed either; there are countless tunnels that were part of a British fortification effort. Over the years, additional tunnels have been added to the main ones, and they offer an interesting glimpse into Gibraltar’s past. There is even an auditorium in the Rock, which has hosted all manner of concerts and expositions.

 

While not my favorite destination in Europe, Gibraltar never gets the respect it deserves. You owe it to yourself to take a trip to see this Pillar of Hercules, and its wonderful monkey caretakers.