Thursday, June 14, 2018

Malta, 1: Gozo

Why Malta, you may be wondering, especially for one's 50th anniversary? Well, we knew we'd be in the Mediterranean this May, June and July, and wanted some place we could enjoy, new to us, that would not require much more travel. We also wanted some place interesting, with some history, art, and architecture. But not so much as to detract from the main observation and celebration. Also some nice warm sunny weather. And so we hit upon Malta, in the middle of the Mediterranean, about midway between Sicily and North Africa, with history and culture from the paleolithic and neolithic through the Phoenicians, the Carthagenians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Arabs, the Normans, the Spanish, the Knights of Malta, the French, and, until the 1960s, the British. Maltese itself is an Arabic language, although written in the Roman alphabet, and it makes for some interesting words and signage. Fortunately, the place is bi-lingual and everyone speaks English. Malta is a popular Mediterranean resort, 3 hours from London, with all the amenities, and then some, drawing all sorts of nationalities, and especially young people. You can spend all your time at the beach or shopping, or in the clubs and casinos, if you like. Other than enjoying a week of 4- and 5-star luxury, we mostly did the towns, the museums, and the archaeological sites.

The population, approaching half a million, is divided unequally between the two larger islands, Gozo, the smaller, more tranquil, and Malta, the big island, with its capital of Valetta, and, surprisingly, much industry. We spent three nights on Gozo and then five more at St. Julian's, on Malta island.
We flew into Malta on Alitalia, took the bus to the ferry port, and then the Gozo
Channel Ferry to Mgarr, Gozo's port

Approaching Gozo; only a mile or two separate the two islands; both islands
are limestone wonderlands, great sea cliffs and other such features; more on
the limestone, which really defines the place, in due course

A sea cave, one of many, on Gozo; in one such cave Calypso captivated
Odysseus for seven years

Mgarr harbor, our home for three days; our hotel was the Grand Hotel Gozo,
over on the right

View from our suite

Speaking of which, through some confusion, this was the only picture we took
of our very nice and ample room; we spent way too much time re-acquainting
ourselves with television, especially the Travel Channel

Another view from our room

Dinner that evening at the nearby Country Terrace restaurant;
baked brie, asparagus, prosciutto...

Pork and veal dishes

Among the peculiarities of Malta is the night-time architectural illumination
provided by some 87 gazillion incandescent bulbs; more anon

The abundant creamy limestone means that nearly all the
structures, from 4,000 BC to the present, are of creamy
limestone; note particularly the enclosed balconies, another
of Malta's interesting features; on residences, they are very
nearly universal

We took the bus--Malta has a superb public transportation
system--into Victoria, Gozo's capital and principal city; here
is the theatre/opera house, where La Traviata was being

Gozo is also the cathedral city for the island; note the bishop's reserved parking
place here, being sacrilegiously violated

City square

An amazing cafe, where we had breakfast

Decorated in old posters and other items

The most astounding of which was this, a poster announcing
the EUR, the Exposition Universale Roma, the world's fair,
which was to be held in 1942, in Rome; the exposition
never occurred--Mussolini's bungling troops were busy
bring rescued by Rommel in North Africa--but the nice
southern EUR suburbs are still there, and we see them
every time we take the Metro from Laurentina into The
City; Malta itself was being bombed to smithereens in
1942, by the Italians and German; more anon

Gozo is noted for its relative tranquility; here's an alley
scene in Victoria; you wouldn't see a scene like this in
Valetta, on the big island

Another feature of the place is its religiosity, 99% of which
is Roman Catholic; lots and lots of shrines and creamy
limestone churches

Personally, I think Gozo could help itself touristically by changing its name;
Gozo sounds too close to Bozo (of clown fame); I propose it be called Geauzeau

More of the incandescent light bulb thing; and the
religiosity thing

Creamy limestone church on the square

Interesting shopping; the cups mirror the saucers

What with the Mediterranean climate and the limestone, Malta has plenty of
vineyards and its own brands, one of which has a whole line of "Caravaggio"
wines; he did some time here trying to become a Knight of Malta and indeed
left a couple paintings behind (no pun intended)

Speaking of which...a plaque from the Knights in our hotel at Mgarr

1 comment:

Tawana said...

Oh, wow! Can't wait for more photos. Interesting place.