Auguri! After 5 hours of sleep we got a head start for the New Year and at 8:00 am we got in the hotel lobby for a tour to the island of Gozo. To get to Gozo is an entire affair. A bus or minivan would pick you up from the hotel and drop you at the ferry in the northern part of Malta after about 35 minutes drive. The ferry to Gozo goes each 45 minutes for E4.65/RT and you are picked on the other side by an open double-decker tour bus audio-guided hop on-hop off. Very convenient, thou. Gozo is small but has an impressive collection of nature and historical sites. However the highlights are for sure the nature sites that are really charming especially in a holiday as today when many of the historical sites were closed.
The first stop was at Rambla Bay followed by Ggantija, the oldest megalithic constructions (4500-7000BC) in the island unfortunately closed for the holiday and followed by the cave where Ulysses hanged out with Calypso, the nymph, for 7 years without getting a grief from Penelope who kept knitting that scarf. Imagine doing this for 7 years! For sure she established an entire manufacturing business while he had great fun on the beaches and caves with the nymphs. What a life! …The cave was closed being a little dangerous to visit but the view over Rambla Bay was spectacular. We stopped for only 10 minutes in Marsalforn the place where according to the legend St Paul landed in Gozo coming latter to Malta and living in the cave from the middle of the island. the place is way less religious inspiring than by the clubs and restaurants that pepper the newly developed resort.
Victoria, the main city of the island, was originally called Rabat being renamed as a tribute to the famous British Queen. In its middle is medieval citadel, looking menacing and maybe inexpugnable, with narrow alleys surrounded by honey colored buildings and fortification walls glowing in the mellow sun. The ramparts offer great views over the valley, a good look out for the canons that were defending the town. In its middle is a large church closed for the holiday. The buses in Gozo run every 45 minutes being timed with the ferry crossings, so the visits should be fit for such an interval that is fine for most of the sites on the island.
Gozo is green and not so built up as Malta. It is quaint and serene to walk through its fields that are separated by yellow rubble walls. The traffic in the island is slow and sparse a far cry for the busyness of Valletta.
From Victoria/Rabat we drove by a pilgrimage church Our lady of Ta’ Pinu, unfortunately closed, and we stopped to the amazing location of Dwejra where the sea eroded the shore limestone and created an amazing dantel ground with fish bones petrified in it looking like fossils that I rarely was able to see; rocks with chicken pox and a majestic natural arch going on top of the spectacular blue sea. This is one of the those places that humbles you to nothing in front of the nature. We climbed the rocks and the arch and admire the powerful surf that was changing the landscape under our eyes.
Without a proper explanation from the driver of what else is open on the way we ended up again in Victoria where we took a tour of the lower town and visited the church of St George. The churches in Malta are all impressively ornate displaying in a way the wealth accumulated in time in the island. The architecture is classic baroque for most of them with the columns draped in red brocade and abundant golden motives.
The last stop of the day was in an ex-fishing village turned resort, Xlendi that had a spectacular gulf crammed between two hills now carpeted by hotels. The ferry ride and the bus in Malta brought us to Sliema where we found again a Maltese restaurant, De Goose, advertising Hungarian Goulash without serving it but with great fish soup and surprisingly sweet pasta….