Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Rock of Gibraltar

The Rock of Gibraltar

     You know how you grow up hearing about a place and you dream of one day going there and then when you finally is NOTHING like you thought/imagined/hoped it would be.  Well, I need to add Gibraltar to that list!  It ss a big rock, and the history is interesting... but the people... Sheesh, lighten up will ya!!  Grumpy isn't adequate!  A-holes is closer. This is beyond the grumpy Spanish waiter syndrome, this is grumpy Spanish waiter on steroids!
    We were trying to find the number of the bus that drops tourist off at the end of the island and then we were going to walk all the way down the mountain to the city and back into Spain.  It is what most tourist do on Gibraltar. Our first encounter with the Gibs was after walking quite a long way, unnecessarily  I might add,  in the heat, and not being able to cross roads because they had erected fencing so that you could not, heaven forbid, jaywalk.   We finally found a bus stand/booth.  In it were three bus drivers waiting for a bus.  Don't ask.  Anyway, I asked them in perfect English...
me - Excuse me, can you tell me which bus I need to take to go to the end of the island?
A-hole - That depends... (smirk smirk to his two a-hole friends)
me - We want to go to the end of the island. (anyone... even a collection of a-holes would know this destination)
A-hole - Yes, well there are several ends of the island... (smirk) there's one! (as he pointed to Spain, which we had just come from) and there's three more, aren't' there?  (more smirking)
     editor's note - I'm starting to get fried at this point and am willing to see what his smirk will look like without as many teeth.
me - Okay, I'll bite.... We want to go to Point Europa.  Where the lighthouse is.  Then we will walk DOWN the mountain.
A-hole - so which bus do you want to take?
me - (giving him the Eastwood wince) why are you being so dense?  If I knew what bus I wouldn't be standing here asking you.
A-hole - Well there are several busses that go to Point Europa.  Which do you want?  (elbowing his a-hole buddy)
me - I want the next friggin' bus to Point friggin' Europa. (as I step closer to him)
A-hole - bus 3.... bus 2.... bus 1...
me - Now that wasn't so difficult , was it buddy?

And so it went - waiters were nimrods.  People in shops were buttheads.  Everyone we met, with the exception of the woman selling tickets for the chairlift to the top of the mountain.  She was a doll.  And I told her she was!  I would have taken her picture and sent it to the Gibraltar Bureau of Tourism, but they would have fired her for..."being kind without just cause".
Okay...enough whining - on with the good stuff.
No, not yet.  You need to know more...
      We had just dealt with the three stooges at the bus stop and learned where the bus stop was and which bus to take to Point friggin Europa. Our next project was to find a place to leave our backpacks.
I knew that we could leave them at the airport, so we walked towards the airport and just outside the entrance door, there was a uniformed official looking guy.
Me - Excuse me, but do you know where we can leave our backpacks?
a-hole#2 - Oh you can't leave them here!!!
Me-  Really?!?!  You mean I can't leave them here in the middle of this doorway?!?!  I'm shocked.  Thanks for you help...jackass!
Are you starting to get the idea??  Don't make me give you another example!!

Speaking of Spain, this may be another reason people were so would the USA like it if Canada owned... Miami, or Charleston??  The USA would not like that.  (Well maybe Miami...) We would be wanting that back and it would be a sore thumb for us.  The same is true with Spain.  They want Gibraltar back and Britain will not give it to them.  Every few years, things hit a boiling point and this year, right as we were visiting Gibraltar, Spain was making some noise.  I'll give Gibraltans the benefit of the doubt... maybe they were just grumpy from the thought of having to use Euros.
On the balcony of this apartment complex, you can see how some people show their allegiance!  

We finally caught a bus to the lighthouse at Point Europa and made it out to the lighthouse and mosque.  The mosque was built by a wealthy Arab who wanted the people of Africa to see a mosque.  Well, it ain't quite that big, but it is big and it is pretty.  

There were things I wanted Zack to see on Gibraltar  and then to get the heck out of Dodge:
      1.  the Barbary Apes that live on the mountain
      2.  the chairlift to the top of the mountain
      3.  the caves that were used during WWII.
      4.  and to get a sampling of Brittish life.

2. To get to the apes, we had to take the chairlift to the top.  I was glad that it was a quick ride because, it was very high off the ground and the rocks of the mountain were made of stone, not styrofoam.

2. To get to the apes, we had to take the chairlift to the top.  I was glad that it was a quick ride because, it was very high off the ground and the rocks of the mountain were made of stone, not styrofoam.

1. My experience with baboons, chimps, monkeys, etc, is that they are wild animals with big teeth and small brains.  (shameless plug #335 - see Alone in Africa)  They will bite.  It will hurt.  Don't mess with them.
Every year, people get bit and most of the time, it's because their brain is smaller than the ape.  I say sometime, because I'm giving myself an out, just in case I ever get bit!

Wait!  Did I read that right?  "Management will not accept responsibility for injury of loss of property."?  What if I'm bitten by one of your grumpy employees?

Maybe...just an idea...maybe they bite because your people are so darn grumpy to them!!

Fight on!  My ape brothers!  I'm with you... except on the biting part.  Together we can take Gibraltar from these grumps!  We each have a role...
(chant to No justice- no peace)
I'll write - you bite!!
I'll write - you bite!!

Turns out that the apes were the friendlies animals on the island.  They seemed pretty docile and not like others I've been with that will take your belongings.  If fact, they were almost cute.   Almost.
This one acted so indifferent to Zack and I as we walked down from Point friggin Europa.  He seemed to be like... "Oh, I won't hurt you.  I'm a minimalist.  I need nothing you humanoids have.  I'd rather eat these raunchy raw acorn-like nuts than whatever tasty morsel you might have in that green plastic bag you're carrying that I associate with food.... Give me that damn bag!!!"

3.  WWII
Kind of a big deal.  Especially when you are living in a place that was key in the stopping of shipping.  It's only about 8-15 miles across to Africa so whoever owns the Rock of Gibraltar can put some big ol' guns up on the side of the mountain and blast ships out of the water.  Yea, that's a big deal!
So the Brittish, who "obtained" the Rock in the 1700's in a treaty... I love that... "Yes, we obtained your land legally, you know... a treaty."  All a treaty is, is the bully saying, "Look, give me a little token, say,  the Rock of Gibraltar, or the Isthmus of Panama...and we'll leave you alone!"
    Back to the story - So Britain had to haul cannons up the side of the mountain which is incredibly steep.  They were in luck because Zachary just happened to be there to put these rings into the side of the mountain which they could then use to hoist the cannons up the side of the mountain. Clever Zack...very clever.

However, having guns glued to the side of the mountain would be too vulnerable to airplanes so they decided to dig caves, which Zack was only too willing to help out!  There are caves are all over the mountain which made it difficult for the Nazis to destroy the cannons.  I can just here the conversations - one in the caves as the British moved the cannons in and out, and one as the Nazis tried to guess which hole they were going to poke out.
Brit - Peek a boo - (Boom!!  Boom!!   Boom!!    (Back in the cave)
Nazi - Schmect!!! Vas ist dast!
Brit - Take this Jerry! (Boom! Boom!!   Boom!!   (Back in the cave)
Nazi - Forgettenzee this!!  Let's just go attack Poland again!

Okay, I love the English/British, but really?? who paints anything to do with WWII- pink?!?!
Come on guys... Man up!  Give me some camouflage, olive green, or at least some khaki!!

(The poster is the picture below)

No way!!!
Things weren't bad enough for the soldiers that they had to dig inside of a rock, 2000 miles from home, while being shot at...that you had to have nuns there!!
soldier - yes colonel.  The men have asked me to speak in their behalf.
Colonel - Yes.  What is it.  I'm busy at the moment...taking a nap.
soldier - Yes, well...the men would like to have some female entertainment.
Colonel - Brilliant, I say... Simply brilliant... What kind of entertainment would you like?  I know some kicking' nuns that sing a mean "It's a Long Way to Tipperary"!!
soldier - Actually, sir.  We were thinking of a truckload of Memphis ho's!
Colonel - Oh nonsense son!  Leave this to me.  I know who can sing and who cannot carry a tune!
Soldier - But...
Colonel - Trust me my boy, you get a nun up hear who knows how to handle a pitch pipe and you'll forget all about the Memphis who's.
Soldier - Yes sir.

What kind of a sick government would do that to it's...WAIT!  Now I know why modern Gibraltans are so grumpy... they are the descendants of these poor soldiers!!  Oh the horrors!!!

This is the first monument seen as you enter Gibraltar from Spain and is dedicated to the soldiers who died.

4.  My last goal was for Zack to see what England might look like.  A typical street.  Fish and chips.  A pub.  The Main Street looked like a street in London complete with fish and chips and pubs.  But the waiters.  If I were to write another conversation, it would be between a-hole #3 and myself about service, smiling and...
oh, shoot, I forgot to tip him!!!!

Being in Gibraltar made me feel old!
    ....but at least I wasn't grumpy!

Do you know what's bad about meeting one nice person on an island of a-holes??  It means that you can't call in an airstrike!

Tangiers, Morocco

No, I wasn't in Casablanca, instead, I was where the movie was filmed, in Tangiers, Morocco, which is supposedly a short 35 minute ferry ride across the Mediterranean Sea from Spain.

The water was smooth as glass
The people were incredibly nice
 The Customs procedures were %*&
  But at least we didn't get lice!  (yet!)


Tangiers was my idea to have Zack sample a totally different culture and it lived up to the billing.  Zack and I hooked up with a couple of Canadians, Carlota and Will, in Tarifa,  for the day trip by Tangiers.

To get there we took a 40 minute ferry, compounded by whacko customs and lots of stamps by overly diligent customs officers.  So in actuality it took two hours! Shheeesh.... do I LOOK like a terrorist?  Ok, don't answer that!!


We wanted to go to the medina, which is a huge market, and we knew that we'd be assaulted by kids and men, insisting on being our tour guide.  It always starts like this:
"Okay, I'll be your guide!"
"No, we don't want a guide!"
"I'll be your guide!"
I know good place to buy carpet, silver trays, etc"
"Noooooo..."  (They are all friggin' deaf, ya know!)
"You buy bracelet, necklace!"
"NO!!!!" and of course you pull out your mace and zap them... Okay not really, but you feel like it.


Soooo, to avoid the above scenario a 1000 times, I negotiated with a "legal" guide named Foerrrldoersg... or "Fonzi" as he told us to call him.  We did, and for 12 E or about $14.
 It was well worth it.
    For the $14, we got a nice van, a driver, and of course, our guide, Fonzi.  Fonzi was well-known, think Moroccan Mafia, because when we would enter the souq, he'd say one word and the sea of peddlers/hawkers/pests would cease and desists.

I would have liked to have seen a movie in Morocco, just to see what the audience does during the movie.  I've been to theaters in Peru, Ecuador, Thailand, Mexico, and it is NOTHING like seeing a movie in the USA.  People are talking nonstop during the movie and... well maybe it is like seeing a movie in the USA.  Whatever!  This would have been the perfect movie to see, as it was a silent movie!


He took us to a bakery the size of a postage stamp. I think it was his brother's :), and I am here to tell you that they were the BEST cookies I've ever had.  I won't swear that they were the cleanest that I've ever had, however, but, come on,  they were cookies!!  Even dirty cookies are cookies!!
Actually, if they are right out of a clay kiln, they're probably cleaner than your hand.


  Fonzie was great.  I was his "brother".  He'd say,"Ehsteve.. I tell you this my brother. You must..."
    He showed us some exquisite mosques and minarets.  And he showed us some not so exquisite mosques.  Here he's standing in front of a not so exquisite mosque and pointing out that green is the color of peace in Islam and that when you see a green door, it is usually a mosque.

The minaret is the tower that is used to call the people to prayer.  Back in the day, as my Muslim friends are fond of saying, the call to prayer would be from a real live person who had climbed to the top and would sing out the call.  Nowadays, say hello to the taped message over a loudspeaker.

Our arrival into the souq  (pronounced Sook) meant that we had to drive into the old town, or medina,which meant going through the keyhole doors that separate the old city from the new city.

Once inside the souq, the roads become extremely narrow alleys lined with shops selling everything imaginable.  Learning to say no (La) in Arabic sounds like this:   first you are polite and say La chokran (no thank you), and then after the 9th time... to the same person...
 you just start singing, " LaLaLaLaLa!"... and it still doesn't work!    

There are coffee/tea shops spread all through the souq, not all created equal.  Some have no walls.  This is one of the nicer ones.  Very clean and nice folks that didn't chase us.  They didn't chase us because they understood that we were tourists... and they were also invalids.

Some people were very camera shy and some were flat out insistent that we not take their picture...unless of course we paid them.  It sounds crazy until you think that their picture is a commodity and like oil, those who have the commodity can charge for it.  Unfortunately, they always want more! Shock!!

When that failed we were brought to a tea shop which was fine because I had wanted to try the famous  Moroccan mint tea.  Whereas one sprig of mint would be fine, they cram the whole plant into the glass and add a Cuba of sugar... you read that right. All the sugar in Cuba!

As all good tours in the Middle Eastern/Arabic/Muslim countries must end, they all end in someone's silver shop or carpet shop.  This one did, and of course, there was no pressure to buy anything! Right!!

As luck would have it, the souq came to our tea shop and more specifically, to our table, selling everything from kleenex to bracelets.  I needed/wanted a couple of souvenirs for two very important people in my life, so KaBoom, for 4 E I had a life long treasure and a great story to match.  I've met many hawkers in many places, but this guy spoke English as if he had just stepped off the bus from Pa.

Hmmm.... good thing that Tangiers spent money on cannons because it stopped everyone except Portuguese, Spanish, Italians(you let the Italians beat you!!!), French, Berbers, and the Germans conquer you!  Yep, those cannons were a sound investment.

The best part of the trip was having Zack along to experience a whole different world!  I will never forget it!
   The tea
        The Bakery
             The Fonz
                  The Ferry
                      The Customs!!
                           The Canadians.
Where to next, CruzCampo!  (inside joke!)