About twenty years ago the place was used for parking cars. A rough crude spot. Nowadays Casemates Square is a charming place.
You can sit in a cafe, have a Coke, glory in the sun and enjoy the view of the Rock of Gibraltar. The flourishing of Casemate is a symbol for the transformation of the whole territory.
A few years ago Gibraltar was a desolate military outpost. Famous only for doubtful pubs serving even more doubtful food to forlorn tommies, not even the neighbouring Spain wanted to play with lonely and grumpy Gibraltar.
Borders were closed. But times have changed.
The British army has considerably reduced maneuvers. Gibraltar had to grow up and learn how to become an inviting destination for tourists – which also included brightening and polishing its outer appearance.
It has struggled successfully. The Main street now invites pedestrians to stroll and shop, nice little restaurants offering a wide variety of international food have replaced the notorious fish and chips shops.
Not a god-forsaken rock any more
Meanwhile Gibraltar has successfully mastered the transformation from dismal military base to much sought-after hotspot. Nicolas Guerrero, the chief executive of the Gibraltar Tourist Board is pleased with the development.
Not only tourists are attracted by Gibraltar´s singular flair and history. The business world also finds the little spot increasingly interesting.
Prices for property boom, the low taxes attract international business and investors. This fast-paced development shows itself in ever higher buildings and efforts to gain additional land from the sea.
To rise into the next league, Gibraltar has undertaken an ambitious project, the deigning and bulding of “Ocean Village”. Ocean village will boast with everything, a high-end place nowadays offer to affluent customers.
Fancy apartments, restaurants, bars and shops to do real shopping – not just the usual duty-free whisky-and-perfume-stuff.
An area of recreation is planned as well. Complete with labyrinth for kids, pools – a place attracting people to spend their time in many various ways.
With a Moet et Chandon champagne bar and casino the area is aimed at becoming the epicenter for tourists and Gibraltarian people seven days a week.
Clearly the investors had Darling Harbour in Sydney in mind when they drew up this £350m ($725m) project. They also clearly had Richie Rich´s yacht in mind to throw anchor and reserved extra space for him in the harbour.
The project is going well and should be finished by the end of the year.
The proud announcement of KFC and Pizza Express however seems a little bit out of place for the truly grand place-to-be Ocean Village strives to be. However the flats are selling very nicely and the setting is in a class of its own.
Europa Point is also planning to dress up to display its stunning looks. The southern tip of Gibraltar has the most amazing views.
With Spain and Morocco on the horizon, wiith the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean at its feet, the place has marvellous potential. Plans are to transform the scenic area – a former military area – into a landscaped park
Part of the beauty programm is the tearing down of the old restaurant, the whole rejuvenation process should take no more than 18 months.
Unexpectedly the mosque at the Rock – built by King Fahd auf Saudi Arabia – adds beauty and serenity to the picture. People of different faith, of different cultures living togehther peacefully – the mosque seems to symbolize the process.
A very likeable project is the turning of the King´s Bastion in – literally – a kid´s playground. The military outside of the Bastion has been kept but inside it was comletely remodeled.
With – among others – bowling facilities and an ice rink the whole conception is at the same time original and friendly. Prices are reasonable so the King´s Bastion is affordable to families (tourists and Gibraltarer alike).
The more as Gibraltar isn´t exactly a kid´s spot.
The King´s Bastion seems to be one of the best projects. Gibraltar reinventing itself without letting go of its history and heritage.
It´s what makes the place unique – not diving or dolphin spotting.
World War II tunnels
A really mind-blowing feature of Gibraltar is the tunnel network of which a small section is now open to public. Literally set in stone the tour offers you a glimpse of what human mind and human will power can create.
Gibraltar´s role in World War II cant be overrated. Troops, material or plans – Gibraltar was a center for military logistics. From here ships were sent out , from here the African campaign – ultimately being the turning point of the war – was designed and carried out.
To guarantee utmost secrecy and safety, a system of over 50 kilometers of tunnels were carved into the Rock. Centers for communication and command, storage or sleeping facilities – a whole town was dug in three years.
Succesfully as the German military never discovered the secret world under the earth.
Part of the tunnels are still in operation, trainig military for their mission in Afghanistan. The tour can only be described as an highlight as the guide – an ex-army – is extremely well versed in the history of the buidings.
Reviving stunning logistics as well as funny moments under most peculiar circumstances.
Reconciling a military history with a new age , combining a glorious past with a bright future – Gibraltar is at its very best in this moments. Following this path one doesn´t need to worry about this once-lonely rock in the Straits of Gibraltar.