Gibraltar was our first stop on our cruise from Lisbon to Barcelona. My day began at six in the morning. I went up to the 15th deck to capture the “Rock of Gibraltar” during the sunrise. On our agenda that day, we planned to visit the “Rock”, which was possible to reach by a funicular. (You can walk up to save money, but why? Though some do walk down the hill).
It is 1398 ft. high and offers panoramic views. But it is also known for its monkeys. I’d heard about their behavior before; especially stories about them stealing from tourists. As a precaution, I specially brought my old photo camera (just in case). After getting to the top, we were greeted by a monkey who climbed into our funicular cabin with us. Everyone was excited to capture photos. Monkeys are fed by the staff and visitors are warned not to bring any food. Some did not listen, and as a result, there are number of exciting stories about monkeys opening purses to steal bananas or grab an ice cream from a child. It is believed that the Moors,who lived there between 700 and 1492, introduced the Barbary Macaques to the area of Gibraltar. The monkeys are very peaceful and the young ones are playful (like any children). There are about 300 monkeys and you can see some videos of them on Youtube. But what makes Gibraltar special is its history. It is a British Overseas Territory, located at the southern top of the Iberian Peninsula. In 1704, Anglo-Dutch forces captured Gibraltar from Spain, and in spite of it bordering with Spain and being far away from Britain, in addition to constant conflicts between the two countries, the local Gibraltarians, who amounted to about 35,000 people, chose to stay independent from Spain.
Today, Gibraltar’s economy is based largely on tourism, financial services, cargo ships refueling and online gambling.
But its history goes back to 50,000 years ago. There was evidence of Neanderthal habitation discovered in one of the local caves. Since then many things changed, and many wars were fought for the strategically located Rock.
After our visit to see monkeys, we came down to explore an old street with some buildings going back to 1600s, where there are restaurants, stores and hundreds of locals and tourists mingling together. There I noticed some Muslim women with their head coverings and religious Jews with their head coverings. The irony was that both of those groups were persecuted and expelled from their Spain in the fifteenth century. Now all of them are together with other people from different parts of the world, who call themselves Gibraltarians.
P.S. These four images show the Rock and of course, the monkeys.
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Over the past two weeks I shared with you about our week long trip to Lisbon. It was the first stop on our three-week vacation, which originally was planned as a cruise from Lisbon to Barcelona. We’ve never before been in this part of the world, and since it is a long journey, we decided to explore other destinations as well. While in Lisbon, there was a possibility to visit other surrounding towns, but my wife Elfa suggested focusing on one destination at a time. She was, as always, right, since though some travel guides suggest spending two days in Lisbon, after a week we just started to get a sense of this wonderful place. And what made it especially interesting were the people we met there, on their life journeys.
The first couple we met was at a concert in a private home. They were from the South of France, and lived in Australia; however, when they came to Lisbon the first time some years ago, they knew it would be their home. Another person, the singer, was born in Brazil, where her grandfather, who was Jewish, ran away from Germany during World War II and ended up in Rio de Janeiro. Now Morelia lives in Lisbon with her Portuguese husband and their young daughter. I met a couple one morning by the Tagus River. Like me, they came to watch the sunrise. While photographing them, I learned that the woman is from Brazil, and her husband is from Romania; meanwhile, their daughter was born in Ireland, where the couple currently lives. At one of the restaurants we went to, we met a waiter who was born in Brazil. He lived in a small town where he heard gunshots every night. To escape those conditions, he first moved to Ireland. However, after two years being tired of the lack of sunlight, he decided to move to Lisbon, where his grandfather and father were born. We also befriended a woman who was originally from Nepal, India. For many years she lived in San Francisco, where her daughter still lives. Then she decided to move to Europe. First it was Barcelona, but after a few years, she decided that Lisbon is the city she would call home.
Some years ago, Elfa and I considered taking a one year sabbatical; to live somewhere in Europe and to explore other countries. If we would do it, we decided that Lisbon is the right city for the purpose. Following our visit to Lisbon, the next eight days our home was the Celebrity Cruise Ship named “Reflection”, where 1,271 personnel from 72 countries served about 3,600 passengers, who also came from different parts of the world. In spite of being from so many countries, we were all communicating in one language – English. Being there I felt that there are no boundaries, no political opinions or affiliations. We were all together under the navigation of the captain, who was from Greece, en route to one destination – Barcelona.
P.S. These four images show some of the encounters during our journey.
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During our visit to Lisbon, which I wrote about last week, when people would find out that I live in San Francisco, some would say that our two cities are similar. After all, both have a suspension bridge, which looks identical even painted in the same color. The bridge across the river Tagus was designed by the American Bridge company, which constructed not the Golden Gate Bridge; but rather, the Bay Bridge. Additionally, there is a belief that both cities are built on seven hills (actually there are more). The proximity to the river and the Bay allows for a fishing industry.
Both cities have a population comprised of people from many parts of the world, and the common language for communication is English. Since tourism is a big business, many signs and menus in restaurants are in English. There are Starbucks restaurants, McDonald’s and Burger King, a Tesla Store, as well as Re/Max, Century 21 and Keller-Williams real estate offices. On the street everywhere are scooters and red electrical bicycles, owned by Uber. Food is delivered through Uber Eats, and Uber drivers are taking away business from the local taxi drivers. Both Lisbon and San Francisco are beautiful cities which offer incredible views with sunrises and sunsets.
There might be other similarities, but our experience staying in Lisbon felt totally different. It is one of the oldest cities in Europe; the history goes back to the Phoenician and Greek trading posts (c. 800-860 BC). In 711, Islamic Moors occupied the area, and left their mark on some of the architecture. It was recaptured by Christian crusaders in 1147. In the 15th and 16th centuries it became the center of a vast empire. Portuguese seafarer Vasco De Gama was the first to discover India and to establish routes for the colonizing of many parts of West Africa and Brazil. Lisbon is home to about 3 million people. As a part of EU, it has an influx of people from different countries in Europe, as well as former African colonies.
The biggest difference I found was on the streets. They were free of garbage, drug addicts, and homeless (I saw only one). Tourists are safe and welcomed here.
P.S. These four images show some of Lisbon’s beauty.
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If you ‘ve been in Portugal, you probably noticed that locals call their capital Lisboa. On our recent trip there, we met quite a few people who also speak Russian. Our first taxi driver, who drove us from the airport to our hotel, was from Ukraine, barely spoke Portuguese, and managed by speaking English. Since Portugal is part of the EU (European Union), it became the place that attracts people from many parts of the world, including Africa, which Portugal colonized in 1418. Portugal’s colonial history is fascinating and lasted from 1415 till 1999, when Macau was returned to China. Portuguese are very proud of their sea explorer Vasco de Gama, who reached India in 1495. They even named a new bridge in his honor. As an historical irony, in our times, Portugal is considered one of the poorest (but economically fast improving) countries in the Western Europe, which is impossible to guess after spending seven days here.
I started writing this story on the first day after our arrival. However it took me a few days to finish, since every day we returned to our hotel room exhausted after hours of walking. My day usually started at about seven. Our hotel was located in the center (an area called Baixa, which means downtown), a five-minute walk from the river Tagus in the foothill of the old town, which was built on seven hills. Walking up the cobbled stone covered roads for two hours every morning, I explored different neighborhoods, getting lost, and then after returning to our hotel, I showed off my knowledge to Elfa. I used the map only to show locals where my hotel was, since the streets are very confusing.
We started our acquaintance with this city with a population of about three million (including the surrounding areas), by exploring with the hop-on-hop off Yellow Bus. It has an open area on the top and since the weather was very pleasant, we enjoyed our sightseeing. There are four bus routes plus the Yellow Boat. Over three days we saw the majority of what there was there to see. We also visited an incredible art collection in the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, and did some shopping in the Porte Englese, a shopping mall owned by a Spanish company. Around the corner from our hotel was an area with many restaurants with outdoor seating. Some of them served very good food. We also ate at the Time Out Market, where locals bring fish, which were swimming just a few hours ago. We had delicious ice cream almost every day (walking helped to burn the calories). We listened to local Fado music, performed in many venues. We relaxed in many parks; I bought five books about Lisbon, since I am considering writing my own photo-book about the experience; but for that I have to return. It was tiring to walk for many hours, but we had a very good time. Some compare Lisbon with San Francisco, but I will write about that next time.
P.S. It was difficult for me to decide which one out of over 1200 images to share with you.
What you see: a concert in a private home, protesters blocking the tram by laying on the rails, one on the squares with a beautiful paved road, and my appearance next to the statue of Fernando Pessoa – a famous writer and poet (I bought three of his books in English). My wife Elfa took this image.
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