One foot in Spain and the other in the UK
Bilingualism, «ability to speak two languages. It may be acquired early by children in regions where most adults speak two languages» (Britannica).
Just arrived to Spain after a night bus from Lisbon to Seville, I took my train to San Fernando where my friend was waiting to drive me (after a shower) to Gibraltar.
I wanted to go there so much for a very silly reason to be honest, but thanks to Lionel (our guide for couple of hours) I learned that Gibraltar is more than I expected.
“Why did you want to go there?” You might be wondering; well, give me one second and I’ll tell you, first things first.
The border – What do you need to travel by land from Spain? Just your passport basically; as Italians we needed no visa for a quick visit like the one I did.
Pandemic time – Do you need a covid test or green pass? Nobody asked for anything, they just gave a look to our passports.
Language – What language do they speak at the border? Spanish or English, with a strong Spanish accent sometimes 😛
Ok let’s give a minimum of historical/political overview of this place: Gibraltar is geographically part of Spain (it borders with the province of Cádiz) but belongs to the UK.
Long story short, it was conquered by the Arabs who were the first to understand the strategic location of it with Tariq ibn Ziyad; it was later snatched away by the Spanish, to fall again in the Arabs’ hands, then once more in those of the Spanish until the first years of 1700, when Spain signed the Treaty of Utrecht to leave the territory to the British.
It goes without saying that Gibraltar is bilingual, people all speak both English and Spanish.
So why did I want to go to Gibraltar so bad? 🙂
Gibraltar is the only place in Europe where wild monkeys live.
“Come on, I’ve seen tons of monkeys in the zoos all over Europe!“, yes you did… but these are wild! It means that they are in their habitat, they are not in cages.
There still is someone who brings them food though.
So how do you get to see the monkeys? There is a cable car that takes you from the city to the top of the iconic rock and a round trip costs 40€ (yeah, not very cheap); while checking the price, we were stopped by Lionel, an official guide who would take us for a little tour at the cost of 25€ per person.
I usually don’t love to opt for organized tours, but this time we did not have too much time because Othman’s car was in a 3 hours-free of charge parking lot, so we accepted Lionel’s proposal and we did not regret.
With his minibus, Lionel took us to the (symbolic) Columns of Hercules from which we could clearly see the coast of Morocco, not even that far away (Lionel said that most of the times the sky can be foggy and the view not that clear; we were lucky). Later he drove us on top of the rock to see what I went there for: the monkeys! 😍
They were just there around us, jumping on our shoulders, begging for food… the only recommendation we got was to not touch them nor feed them, but they were free to stay among us.
I could not stop smiling: the other time I saw monkeys this close to me was in Nepal and they were not very friendly.
After meeting my beloved ones, we stopped to a viewpoint from which we could see the smallest commercial airport in the world and Othman made me realize that right after passing the borders, we were actually driving through the landing strip.
Lionel also explained us that from that same airport it departs the shortest intercontinental flight in the world:
Gibraltar-Tangier, less than 25 minutes to fly from Europe to Africa 🙂
If you’ve ever been to Hong Kong, you’ll find that it has a lot in common with Gibraltar: this mountain that emerges from behind the buildings; the fact that being connected to another country by land can still be so different; the bilingualism; the variety of ethnicities who live there.
Lionel taught us about the history of his country, about the 10 to 15 religions present on the territory (Roman Catholics, Protestant Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Methodists…); he told us he was born in London and that his blood is an amazing mix, but he grew up in Gibraltar and totally feels Gibraltarian because him, as much as all the other people, religions and bloods, have been living there in perfect harmony and all respecting each other.
Recommendations to conclude this post: Gibraltar can be a very short day trip from Andalusia, you can eat fish and chips in the main square and you better consider to buy perfumes, alcohol or cigarettes because there is no VAT over there.
Feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of the page…
I’ll read ya!