Monday, September 05, 2011

The Rock of Gibralter

Gibraltar crams an extraordinary amount of history, culture, colour and life into its area of less than six square miles. It has prehistoric caves and well-preserved military fortifications; quirky architecture from Moorish to modern times; 11th-century baths and a ruined castle; two cathedrals, two mosques and a Hindu temple; giant marinas; excellent shops and restaurants; hot summers and mild winters; unrivalled views of Morocco and Andalucia; and unique flora and fauna that includes Europe's only colony of free-ranging primates.

No visit is complete without seeing these tailless monkeys in their ancient habitat on the upper slopes of the Rock, but the novelty rapidly wears off when you realise that they disdainfully regard the visitor as little more than a likely source of food, to be harassed and even pickpocketed at will. But they do make for a great holiday snapshot, and having survived in the rocky scrubland for the best part of 1,000 years, their presence has become symbolic. When the apes leave the Rock, it is said, so will the British a saying that was of such concern to Winston Churchill that when he heard their numbers had become depleted during the Second World War, he arranged for a fresh consignment to be imported from Africa.

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