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Gibraltar: A Bit of England in Spain

Gibraltar, Spain

Gibraltar, on the Mediterranean, is a British outpost in Spain. Strategically important in wartime and crisscrossed with military tunnels, "The Rock" today draws only tourists, who ascend by cable car for expansive views. Beware the kleptomaniac apes.

Complete Video Script

After Ronda, we wind out of the Andalusian Mountains, and leave Spain for a visit to England’s famed Rock of Gibraltar.

Gibraltar stands like a fortress, the gateway to the Mediterranean. A stubborn little piece of old England, it's one of the last bits of a British empire that at one time controlled a quarter of the planet. The rock itself seems to represent stability and power.

And, as if to remind visitors that they left Spain and entered the United Kingdom, international flights land on this airstrip, which runs along the border. Car traffic has to stop for each plane. Still, entering Gibraltar is far easier today than back when Franco blockaded this border. From the late 1960s until the '80s the only way in was by sea or air. Now you just have to wait for the plane to taxi by and Bob's your uncle.

The sea once reached these ramparts. Modern development grows into the harbor and today half the city is built upon reclaimed land. Gibraltar's old town is long and skinny, with one main street. Gibraltarians are a proud bunch. Remaining steadfastly loyal to Britain, its 30,000 residents vote overwhelmingly to continue as a self-governing British dependency. Within a generation the economy has gone from one dominated by the military to one based on tourism.

But it's much more than sunburnt Brits on holiday. Gibraltar is a crossroads community — with a jumble of Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and Italians joining the English and all crowded together at the base of this mighty rock.

With its strategic setting, Gibraltar has an illustrious military history and remnants of its martial past are everywhere. The rock is honeycombed with tunnels. Many were blasted out by the Brits in Napoleonic times. During World War II, Britain drilled 30 more miles of tunnels.

The Hundred Ton Gun is one of many cannon that both protected Gibraltar and controlled shipping in the strait.

A cable car whisks visitors from downtown to the rock's 1400-foot summit. From the "Top of the Rock" Spain's Costa del Sol arcs eastward. And 15 miles across the hazy Strait of Gibraltar, the shores of Morocco beckon.

These cliffs and those over in Africa created what ancient societies in the Mediterranean world called the Pillars of Hercules. For centuries, they were the foreboding gateway to the unknown.

Descending the Rock, whether you like or not, you'll meet the famous Apes of Gibraltar. Two hundred of these mischief makers entertain tourists. And with all the visitors… they're bold and they get their way.

Here on the Rock of Gibraltar the locals are very friendly, but give them your apples.

Legend has it that as long as these apes are here, the British will stay in Gibraltar.