Gibraltar – The Rock Worth Fighting For
One of the most memorable place that we went to on our Spain road trip, is Gibraltar. I remember learning the name of Gibraltar since I was small: Selat Gibraltar or Strait of Gibraltar, which is the channel that separates Spain and the Morocco on the African continent.
The name of the strait is known across the world, but what about Gibraltar itself? What is it? Where is it? This curiosity brought me across to this little corner of Spain.
Gibraltar is a small British territory — located in the land of Spain, the very corner of it, but it is under the Queen Reign of Britain. Nothing confirmed this fact more than that I was able to use my British debit card with no fee, as if I was in Britain, hah! They also use British Pound, though with slightly different pictures on the notes, just like Scotland. (By law you can use Pound from any territory in other territories, e.g. Scottish Pound in England or English Pound in Gibraltar, though I’m always slightly worried the funny looking money I withdraw from the cash machines in Edinburgh won’t be accepted in London. I still keep my Gibraltar Pound and haven’t tried to use it in London.)
If you look at the map, you’d see that the area of Gibraltar is tiny. It is so small that you can hardly see it in the map of Spain. Go ahead, check Google map now.
It is so tiny that the first thing that we found when crossing the border is this huge empty area. Can you guess what it is?
That’s right, the first thing you meet after crossing the border is this huge flat emptiness where the planes land and take off. They literally need to close the car way 3-4 times a day for the planes to go through. It was the oddest thing. Which other country in the world put their airport at the entrance?
Once upon a time, Gibraltar and Spain lived happily side by side. Many Spanish people commuted to Gibraltar to work every day, and the Gibraltarians freely went to the Spanish area anytime (for partying).
One day Spanish government suddenly (okay maybe not suddenly) felt like they’re being cheated out of this small area with a mighty looking rock, and they wanted it back.
So they started to make all kinds of effort to get it back. The nice way didn’t work, so they retreated to threat, and at the end closed the border between Spain and Gibraltar completely and severed all communications.
I watched the documentary on BBC not so long after I visited Gibraltar. It was a very sad time for many people. All the Spanish were forced out and lost their jobs in Gibraltar, while the Gibraltarians were basically trapped in this small area. Family and loved ones were separated, as people have obviously got together after mingling for such long period of time. People were crying at the border, while the gates were literally shut and locked with metal chain.
With the border to Spain closed, there was no way for people of Gibraltar to leave, or for anyone to enter, by land. People had to leave and come by sea or air. The border was closed for over a decade.
Today Gibraltar remains under British sovereignty. There have been a few votes running in the past to decide the fate of Gibraltar – there’s always a question whether it should join Spain, because after all geographically Gibraltar is on the Spain region, but the votes have always been overwhelmingly leaning to stay under the Queen. The last vote was in 2002 with 98% of Gibraltarians rejected any changes.
This was also the spot where I saw Africa.
Today Gibraltar and Spain have special agreement, so anyone coming from Spain are able to enter (unlike Britain – for which you need separate visa as it’s not included in Schengen countries). The border was pretty relax, though you still need to show your passport.
The thing I found was that there were few options of staying in Gibraltar (without breaking your bank), so we ended up sleeping in a boat! It turned out to be a very interesting experience, and the harbour was looking lovely as well.
Gibraltar is an interesting excursion if you end up in the South of Spain region, even if you just drop by for a day trip and not stay overnight. For me, I was happy to finally see The Rock of Gibraltar and Strait of Gibraltar with my own eyes, and putting real life images to the old word of Gibraltar :)