Dec 19, 2016

Exploring Gozo Island, Malta

Gozo is an island in the Mediterranean Sea, one of 21 islands that make up the Maltese archipelago. Over the years Gozo has been influenced by and/or ruled by a variety of people including the Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, Sicilians, French and British. It is a 20-minute ferry ride from the main island of Malta. 

The island is not only smaller than Malta but quieter and more rural. Because of its uniqueness it has been used in many movies. The Jolie/Pitt movie “By the Sea” was filmed overlooking a narrow bay with a great beach.  John and I recently watched “The Count of Monte Cristo” and the Azure Window and other locations were filmed on the island. The Azure Window is a 328 feet high arch topped with a flat rock that has become fragile so people are no longer allow on top but below is an underwater cave known as the Blue Hole. It is accessed by divers through a 262-foot tunnel. 

I am always astounded by what people were able to accomplish
 thousands of years ago. There are several megalithic sites on Malta. Sadly, the Hypogeum of Hal-Saflieni, considered the most unique was closed for restoration. The Ggantija Temples is another of the important archeological site and it is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. There are two
temples that date back to 3600 BC predating Stonehenge and the Pyramids. It is hard to imagine how they were able to move and raise stones that weighed many tons. I wish I had taken a picture of John next to some of the biggest stones because the images don’t do it justice. 

The island is also home to a cave reputed to be where the Greek Warrior Ulysses met the goddess queen Calypso. On his way home from the siege of Troy Ulysses had many adventures.  All his shipmates were killed and after he was caught in violent nine-day storm he made his way to land (Gozo) where he met and was held by Calypso for seven years in a cave.  Visitors are no longer allowed in the Calypso Cave but we viewed it from above. 

For an island that is about the size of Manhattan there are some
amazing sites.  Victoria is the capital of the island and home to the Citadel which is visible from most parts of the island. The Citadel was a safe place for the people when the island was under attack which happened many times. Control of the island meant control of a strategic part of the Mediterranean.  Often raiders and victors made the people of Gozo
slaves.  There is an excellent multi-media presentation in the Citadel’s visitor center. It tells the tale of one of the men defending the fortress. Bernardo Dupuo fought bravely but when the Ottoman Turks broke through the city walls he killed his wife and two daughters fearing they would fall into the hands of the invaders. He felt death was better than being taken into slavery. He then fought to his death. There is a street named for him and a memorial plaque outside his house. 

As historic as Gozo is it is still a place to enjoy the islands many
beautiful beaches, hike, dive and enjoy a fresh fish meal along the harbor. I wish I had planned on a two-week stay in Malta so I could have spent another week on Gozo. Many people, including the Jolie/Pitt family, rent farm houses there.