This weekend we were happy to be able to take some time to visit some sites around Spain. It is always best when you can mix recreation with theocratic activity and this is exactly what we did. On Saturday morning bright and early at 7am we headed off to the quaint town of Ronda which is three hours to the south of us. If you are not familiar with Ronda let me describe it for you. It is a beautiful, charming Andalusian town that is perched in the mountains and situated between huge gorges. The town seems to hang precariously from the cliffs as life continues on seemingly unchanged from days gone by. The drive to Ronda as you near the town is breathtaking as you are presented with beautiful mountain passes with curvy roads and tranquil fields. It just so happened that once we arrived in Ronda we came to find out that they were having a rock-climbing and zip lining competition. Due to this there were more people out than usual as well as the competitors from different parts of Europe. The atmosphere was festive but still laid back and relaxed in a way that only Andalusia can do. We started the morning off by having some tapas in one of the many plazas. The offerings of caramelized pork cheeks and Spanish tortillas were both delicious as well as a good value. We soaked in the sun before heading to one of the main attractions the puente nuevo or New Bridge. After a few minute walk we arrived to find the town connected from both sides by a massive bridge that plunged straight down into the gorge. Both sides of the bridge afforded great views of the houses and restaurants as well as the natural scenery lying below. After picture taking and relaxing we continued on. We explored some more and we couldn’t help but get lost in the small streets and plaza’s of this lovely town. We finished our experience in the town center by a wonderful lunch among the lively locals and tourists.
We then returned to our car and headed some 15 minutes away to a place called Cat’s Cave. This is a locals area which has clear blue waters for swimming that lead into a massive cave which can be explored with a guide or if you are feeling adventurous. The cave has underground rivers and other fascinating things to be discovered. We swam in the water for a time to find some relief from the heat. It was nice to just relax in an area that was not too crowed with people and to be surrounded by amazing natural beauty. We would definitely come back to this area and recommend it to others. Now it’s on to Gibraltar.
Before having been asked to give a talk in Gibraltar we didn’t really know anything about it. All we really knew was that it was an English territory and that they have a giant rock and some apes. But throughout the weekend we were able to discover that Gibraltar has much more to offer than meets the eye. Leaving Ronda we took the route that traversed through the mountains. This was windy and very high up but it was beautiful and extremely scenic. A little over an hour later we reached the border with Gibraltar. It felt strange to have to present your passport to the border patrol but this reaffirmed the fact that we were indeed entering British territory. Gibraltar was originally designed to be a military base. This is why when you enter the first thing that you do is cross a giant paved runway area which is basically the airport area. When planes need to land and takeoff this area is closed off and everyone has to wait. After crossing this area we arrived in the main area. The first thing that we noticed was how built up everything is. There were cars, people and buildings everywhere. This is quite a contrast to Spain which has many wide open spaces and you don’t feel as if there are buildings and people on top of one another.
We soon arrived at our hosts Albert and Maribelle. They are a very kind and gracious older couple who told us all about the history of Gibraltar and Jehovah’s people there. Albert was born there and he knows it very well. We learned that when the dictator Franco was in power in Spain the border between Spain and Gibraltar was closed. In order for the brothers to attend assemblies that were held just on the other side of the border in Spain the brothers had to take a boat to Tangier, Morocco and then take it back to Spain. They had to save up all year to be able to afford to do this at the time. It’s really striking to hear about the first hand effects of how the politics of this world affect our Christian brothers at times. Because of the border being closed for many years many families were split up and could not see each other for a long time due to some living in Gibraltar and others in Spain. Now things have changed greatly but in the past there were many challenges.
We were also pleasantly surprised to find out that our hosts were also in Malta for the special convention in 2015. We reminisced about that experience and of all the wonderful provisions that were made for the delegates. In the morning we took a quick tour around the area before the meeting. There is actually a lot to see and do despite the small size. There are five beaches and several new developments being constructed. To me Gibraltar reminding me of Malta. Perhaps it is because of the British influence, the fact that they both speak English and the way that both are very built up. Some things that were interesting to us are that Gibraltar uses the pound for currency but thankfully they also except the euro. Their electrical plugs are the British version and all of their shops and markets are British. Soon we arrived at the hall and were warmly received. The hall has around 55 publishers but it is very hospitable. The hall was recently built only seven or eight years ago. There is a nice variety of brothers attending, spanning from the UK, Spain, Romania, Philippines, etc. Many come to Gibraltar for work since the economy is good. This includes hundreds of Spanish that cross the border each day as well as many Moroccans that come for the week or have settled there.
We enjoyed our time with the brothers at the hall and we hope to return someday. After the meeting we were able to do some sightseeing. Albert took us up to the rock which is the massive rock formation that dominates the skyline of the peninsula. It is incredible how high it goes and how everyone somehow is able to navigate the traffic. We were able to see the indigenous apes roaming freely among the tourists and visitors. We also visited some amazing caves that go on forever it seems. After taking in the views and the natural sights we returned to our host home for lunch. This was a pleasant way to end our stay on this interesting peninsula that is is Gibraltar. We will not soon forget the struggles that the friends faced and how they continue to serve Jehovah faithfully down to this day. We are now back in Spain and preparing for the week. We have some exciting things in the works that we look forward to sharing with you in the near future. We hope that you had a great weekend where ever you may be in the world. Until next time…