Gozo: Calypso’s Isle (2)

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This is a continuation of my post about the Maltese island of Gozo, which we visited on the Wednesday of our week in Malta in early September. It was a great day out, and we saw a lot of the island, the main site being the Ggantija temples (pronounced like something like J-gan-tia) which my last post on Gozo was about. This time I’m adding a little about some of the other places we visited. So here we go.

After leaving the Ggantijan temples at Xaghra, we headed out to the east coast to the town of Marsalform to take a ride on a little trackless train:

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Marsalform itself is the most popular seaside resort on Gozo and is always crowded . . .

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. . . but we headed on along the coast to have a look at the 300-year-old, rock-cut Qbajjar Salt Pans, the biggest salt works on Gozo and stretching over 3km. Several tons of sea salt are produced each year, continuing the centuries old Gozitan tradition:

We were all handed a nice little bag of sea salt from an old Gozitan stationed along the roadside. The ‘train’ pulled out so quickly that none of us had chance to even offer the old man a tip! I can only hope the tour company pay him for providing this little ‘extra’ service and keeping the customers/tourists happy.

Heading off across country to the west coast, we stopped en route at a Craft Centre to have a quick look round. There were a variety of goods on display,  one of the main things being traditional Maltese lace:

On to the west coast … and the beautiful Azure Window (my f1rst image on this post). All three of the main Maltese Islands have a ‘blue water attraction’ for tourists to admire. On  the south coast of Malta is the Blue Grotto and on the little island of Comino, the Blue Lagoon. On Gozo, near to Dwejra Bay on the Inland Sea, it’s the Azure Window – a favourite place for scuba divers from all over the world. There is an underground cave close by and the sea is warm for snorkellers and sea bathing. Here’s another picture of it, although it’s little different to the one above:

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The Azure Window itself was created by the collapse of two limestone sea caves, and is very lovely to see. It has been featured in many films, including: Clash of the Titans (1981) the Count of Monte Cristo (2002) The Odessey (1997) – and last but not least, even  Game of Thrones!

Close to the Azure Window (behind us as we photographed the arch) is Fungus Rock – so named because of its mushroom-like shape. I wasn’t totally convinced it resembled a mushroom, but who am I to know these things? Well, here it is:

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Eventually, we headed for Victoria (Rabat) the capital of Gozo:

Citadella, Victoria (Rabat) Gozo, Republic os Malta. Author: Radoneme, Wikimedia Commons

Citadella, Victoria (Rabat) Gozo, Republic os Malta. Author: Radoneme, Wikimedia Commons

The city’s original name was Rabat, but on Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887, the British government changed it to Victoria. Many Gozitans, however, still call it Rabat, so both names stick together.  The city is located in the cente of Gozo.

At the city’s centre is the Citadel or Citadella (pronounced Chitadella) which has its roots in the late medieval times.  But the hill on which Citadella stands has been used since Neolithic times as a sanctuary from attack by Barbary pirates and Saracens.

Unfortunately, we weren’t permitted – mayor’s orders! – to enter the Citadella, as building work was going on. (Don’t ask – we didn’t understand that either!) I don’t think we would have had time, anyway, as the tour guide rushed us back to the coach as soon as we’d had our meal of the day at almost 5 pm. We did manage five minutes inside the Basilica of St. George before we had to rush off.  The other photos were quick snaps as we walked.

There were several plaques and other reminders of St. George along our route. And the door with the key sitting in it was interesting! It seems that burglary is so rare on Gozo that people think nothing of leaving doors unlocked all night, or even leaving the key in the lock for late arrivals.

We eventually got back to the ferry port, where we saw this interesting looking wooden sculpture. I’ve no idea what it’s about, but here’s the photo anyway:

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Then it was onto the ferry and back to Malta.

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About milliethom

I am a reader and writer of historical fiction with a keen interest in the Earth's history and all it involves, both physically and socially. I like nothing better than to be outdoors, especially in faraway places, and baking is something I do when my eyes need respite from my computer screen.
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50 Responses to Gozo: Calypso’s Isle (2)

  1. Frances 🌺 says:

    Beautiful photographs!

  2. Moritz says:

    Looks beautiful. Thanks for sharing these amazing photos 🙂

  3. Joy Pixley says:

    I’ve never seen sea salt production like that before (not in person at least), how fascinating! And the water looks so beautiful and blue, that must have washed weeks of stress away just to gaze upon it.

    It’s so strange to think about the British just renaming the city whatever they wanted to. Such a different mindset. I’m glad for the locals that they maintained their own traditional name.

    • milliethom says:

      The Mediterranean is a beautiful sea, whichever island – or mainland – you look at it from. We’ve visited many of the Greek islands, too, and never tire of the sheer beauty of it all. The history associated with every single one is just breathtaking. I agree with what you say about the British renaming Rabat. I’ve never approved of conquests of nations, but empire building was what so many nations did in the past – since well before the time of ancient Egypt. Britain itself has been conquered by both Romans and Normans. So I suppose the British, having ‘taken over’ Malta, would have felt at liberty to do as they please. The Maltese are a very wonderful and resilient people. It’s good to see the way they have prospered since WW2 when their islands were bombed to bits. There are many Rabats – there’s one on Malta itself, next to Mdina in the centre of the island. It’s a common Arabic name.
      Many hot countries produce salt this way. It’s just a case of allowing the sea water to evaporate off. It’s cheap and very effective.
      I’ll be back to looking at blogs tomorrow. I haven’t done a FFfAW this week …yet. I may not have time, but I’ll get round others. Honest!
      Thanks for the interesting comment, Joy.

      • Joy Pixley says:

        So far I’ve only been to Corfu in that area, which was also rich in history and breathtaking. (And also not the original Greek name.) I also haven’t been spending as much time posting or commenting this week, supposedly because I’m so busy at work, although I notice that I just spent a bunch of time learning more about sea salt production and trying to figure out where in Enaena it might make sense. 😉 You always inspire me with these interesting ideas! But okay, back to work….

      • milliethom says:

        Corfu is an incredibly beautiful and green island. We last went there in 1998, so time for a revisit, I think. Did you visit the castle in Corfu Town? The whole city is wonderful. All I can remember about the old name is thet it begins with a ‘K’ and has several meanings. I must look it all up to remind myself.
        I know exactly what you mean about getting sidetacked. If you’re interested in so many things, there’s always something to catch your attention… then off you go, finding out more about it! Now I’ll be looking up about Corfu Town. Two other things that stick in my memory about Corfu, are: (1) the wonderfully blue water. We were on the eastern side of the island, so it was the Ionian Sea and (2) the mad bus drivers, who pack passengers in like sardines (which happens on Malta, too) then drive like lunatics round the bends, so anyone standing who isn’t roped to a nearby seat, might find themselves in a horizontal position – either on the floor or in mid-air. 🙂

      • Joy Pixley says:

        Yes, I toured the castle, it was wonderful! And all those adorable winding stepped streets lined with colorful shops and cafes, and churches surprising you around every other corner. But the most uniquely Corfu thing I remember is the kumquat liqueur. I loved it, and brought some home with me. I shared it with all my friends, which I regretted (a little) when I realized I couldn’t buy it here, not anywhere! Later I dated a Greek man for a couple years, and on one of his trips back home he made a special effort to bring me back some “authentic” kumquat liqueur. What a sweetie. I will admit that I was not so generous with that bottle!

      • milliethom says:

        The trouble is, you simply can’t bring barrel-loads of it home with you. Customs are a bit finicky about things like that. Yes, guard that bottle with your life. 🙂 I don’t remember tasting the drink, but I’ve no doubt a couple of our sons who were with us on the holiday, sampled everything in sight on their night’s out (without Nick and I, I mean). Did you stay in Corfu Town, then? We were in Dassia, along the coast. None of us wanted to go home after two weeks of glorious sun and sea – and Greek dancing on table-tops. 🙂

      • Joy Pixley says:

        Sadly, that bottle is already gone. 😦 Clearly I need to return to Corfu soon! I was staying at a resort on the water for a conference (nice work if you can get it!). I don’t remember which one, but it wasn’t far from the town — a friend and I went into town for a day while we were there. It wasn’t as much time as I would have liked, but I decided to spend more time in Athens instead (which was amazing)

      • milliethom says:

        I envy you your visit to Athens. That’s definitely on our ‘to visit’ list – so much to see there. Lucky you. Do you still have a job that involves travelling? As you say, nice work, if you can get it.

      • Joy Pixley says:

        Unfortunately no, and yes. My current job requires me to travel, but mostly only to Sacramento. A nice city, but not exactly Athens.

      • milliethom says:

        Ancient cities are in a league of their own.

  4. Shivangi says:

    What a lovely travelogue… Beautiful pics too😀

  5. Beth says:

    Thanks for the vacation to Gozo, Millie:0)) I enjoyed it.

  6. ane says:

    Beautifully! Thank you.

  7. exiledprospero says:

    A ride on a reckless train. Good heavens.

    But you should have asked the salt-bearing old Gozitan geezer about the mysterious circumstances surrounding Caravaggio’s death. A missed opportunity to be sure. When are you going back?

    • milliethom says:

      Yes, it was rather reckless at 5mph! But the open sides were great for taking photos. He was a strange old man. He sort of appeared and walked quickly along the length of the train as we pulled up and passed several packets of salt through each window. Then, before anyone could get out, the train started moving. He did look rather ancient -and you’re right, he might have known the secret of Caravaggio’s death. Perhaps he helped the artist to flee from possible execution. Perhaps he IS Caravaggio – or is that taking things a bit too far?

      • exiledprospero says:

        Oh, it was a bullet train then. I bet they hired Japanese engineers. As for the strange old man (slash Charon slash psychopomp) I really don’t know what to say. Probably just a mendicant. Still, nothing like a five hour interrogation session, after days of sleep deprivation, together with stress positions and strong lights, to make sure he has no valuable information to give. Though this may seem harsh, it’s your right as a tourist.

      • milliethom says:

        Yes, that ride was positively life-threatening. But I think I’ll leave that old man alone.It looked as though someone had already taken up your advice and dealt with him most harshly. Sleep deprevation was the least of his problems. (But if he’s hiding secrets about Caravaggio, then the treatment may have been justified.)

      • exiledprospero says:

        …then the treatment may have been justified. Spoken like a true tourist. Well done, Millie!

      • milliethom says:

        Once a tourist, always a tourist… (In my case, anyway.) 😀

  8. Thanks for the tour of Gozo! 🙂

  9. inesephoto says:

    So much of everything! Maltese lace is exquisite.

    • milliethom says:

      Yes, the women are very skilled at lace making – as they are all around the Mediterranean. We’ve seen similar goods in Spain, Portugal, and all the Greek islands. I’ve bought a few table cloths back over the years, just because the lace is exquisite.Few people would use it on dining tables nowadays, I suppose. It’s all polished tables and place mats! 🙂

  10. Bekki Hill says:

    Love those lace umbrellas!

    • milliethom says:

      They are very pretty, aren’t they? Lace making’s an age-old craft with women around the Med. I’ve bought lots of tablecloths in the past, mostly from various Greek Islands. But it looks just the same as Maltese lace.

      • Bekki Hill says:

        Yes, I’ve seen a lot of lace when we’ve been on the Greek islands. I wonder why lace making has all but died out in the UK? I wonder if it’s because we need warmer woolly stuff?

      • milliethom says:

        The lace industry in Nottingham used to be one of the best in the world. I think it died out simply because people don’t use it as they used to. At one time lacy cuffs and collars were in great demand – and dressing table covers, tray cloths, tablecothes etc. In places like Malta, tablecloths and such like are still used much more than they are here. Traditional clothes are quite decorative, too. Besides, they know that tourists will buy tons of, just as souvenirs. So I think your guess was a good one – a change in clothing stlye.

  11. I am really enjoying this Maltese odyssey! It has filled me with desire to still visit one day and satisfaction that I have an idea of Malta if I don’t even get there. I did not even realise that there were three separate islands that made up the country. Did you buy any of that gorgeous lace?

  12. another amazing post with wonderful history and a variety of interesting things. I love the sea caves, the Craft Center and fungus rock, interesting name! The pictures always take me along with you and I love your details and comments on things you found interesting! A fantastic journey for me teacher!! love Lynn

  13. What a lovely place it is! ❤ I'm sure a lot of photographers are dying to take photos of The Azure Window and Fungus Rock. They look incredibly stunning!!! 🙂 I wonder if the sea salt there tastes better than the regular sea salt we buy from supermarket 😛 The quick snaps absolutely showed the charm of Cittadella . 🙂 I really love all these gorgeous photos!!! I wish I could go there now! 😀 Wonderful post Millie! ❤

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