Longing (saudade) and curiosity go hand in hand, in my opinion. I remember that experiencing the combination of both, started quite early for me. When as a child I looked at the sea, I was wondering about the distant lands which are far beyond the horizon.
I could not see what is behind the horizon but nowadays, I live in a truly special place, which is the closest strait between European and African continent. When the day is bright, even from my terrace, I can see the Atlas mountains and wonder, if Malaga mountains can be seen from the other side equally well.
Recently, I decided to cross the Gibraltar strait and visit Ceuta, an autonomous Spanish city on the African shore. Previously, it belonged to many other countries, including Portugal, Reino Nazari, dating back to Romans and Phoenicians. The influences and the long history is visible almost at every step you take on the peninsula.
The name Ceuta derives from Septem > Septa > Sebta describing the seven mountains on its territory. Its architecture is dominated by the fortifications and Portuguese influences, so much so, that I could easily forget I am still in Spain. Also the city centre is so steep it somewhat reminded me of walking around Lisbon.
The city walls are very impressive, and you can visit them as well as the rich, complex history and art museum of Ceuta. What I found the most impressive though is the microclimate and the natural variety in the greener parts of the peninsula. Also, as I visited Ceuta in December, the city centre was beautifully decorated around its main monuments and attractions, such as Puerta de Africa, Parque Maritimo and Plaza de España.
You can get to Ceuta from mainland Spain on the boat, ferry or using a convenient helicopter, connecting the city with Malaga within only 25 minutes! The passage itself is an adventure, especially in the winter when the weather may get stormy. It was stunning to pass by the Gibraltar Rock and leave the European shores behind, and then to cross multiple vessels and migratory birds in the Strait.
Arriving to the African shore, you can already experience higher temperatures and humidity, and hear some very new birds around, including bulbuls, hiding around the bushes. I truly recommend a walk around the peninsula and the Hacho fortress where you can smell the blossoming flowers, trees and observe the colonies of Audouine seagulls, nesting around the green shores of Ceuta.
The circular route will take you around the Santa Catalina isle, Punta Almina lighthouse to San Amaro park which is home to rare bird species, stunning trees and art. Now, since this is not a political blog, I will abstain from commenting the tensions around this location.
Of course, this is a complicated place for multiple reasons and while I am allowed to travel freely around the location, many cannot and lose their lives on the way to the rich Europe.
I choose to cherish the multicultural side of the place, of many religions and backgrounds living next to each other, hopefully in respect and dignity towards each other. And that includes, feeling safe as a woman, travelling solo.