Gozo – The Origins
For the justifiably ignorant readers, Gozo is a TINY rock (island) in the middle of the Mediterranean sea. It is also the place from where my own not-so-tiny buttox emerged. Just for you to get a general idea of ths size, the island (all of its 67 square km of it) would fit 4500 times into Italy…. It is also practically unidentifiable on any world map which now makes us infinitely grateful to Google for its almighty map zooming abilities!
[single_map_place] Gozo, Malta [/single_map_place]
General information about Gozo:
- It is an island
- It is very small
- It is the smaller sister of Malta (the humangous island of the Maltese archipelago)
- It has a population of just under 40,000 (sadly increasingly aging)
- It has quite a mild climate with temperatures rarely dropping below 5 degrees Celcius but sometimes going up to 40 in July and August.
- Most people speak good English (with a Maltese accent)
- First thing you realize when landing in Malta, after you've recovered your breath from the heat and humidity, is that the island is generally yellow.. dry grass and yellow buildings made of globigerina limestone (locally called Franka!)
- It has some pretty cool beaches
- It is generally a rural place
Lifestyle and People
Gozitan people are particularly friendly! They are normally loud and forward and can come off as rude to earthlings from more reserved areas… If you go there, please do not get offended or take it personally if in the first 5 minutes of meeting a local they would have already asked you how many hairs are growing on your great uncle's chest… It is their kind of small talk… The size of the island does not help out one bit. No need to bury any facts, everyone is going to get to know about it anyway so might as well wear your guilt and shame proudly and get those skeletons out of the closet cause they're only taking up extra space in there.
Do not let all this scare you however! All the sharing and caring makes the place more homey and actually quite safe! Crime rate on the island is very low and you can quite safely roam the streets at night on your own without fear of any mishap.
The outgoingness of the people is also reflected in their outdoor activities! I think I am quite safe saying that not a lot of young people spend their evenings at home, be it a weekday or a weekend! There is always something to do even if on the outside it does not seem like it! The island might strike you as boring if you do not know where to go.. but it only takes a bit of asking around to find out which pubs are open when and which activities are happening where. The thing about Gozo is that, due to its sheer tinyness, there is usually only 1 or 2 interesting places open at a time during winter. However, they will also be very close and easily accessible. If one has a car, nothing is more than 10-15mins away! Also, everyone else will also be there since there is nowhere else to go and people do love going out in the evenings! It is therefore very easy to meet the same people over and over again without planning to and so very easy to make friends! In the very near future I will be uploading another post indicating the best places where to go out in the evenings 🙂
Lifestyle in Gozo is normally a relaxed one. There is virtually no traffic and stress levels are generally low. Services and public transport are quite efficient even though most people do not think so. There are busses that go through all villages and it does not take you long to do all your chores since there is everything you need in the center of Victoria.
Places to visit
Please do excuse the long Gozitain lifestyle section, but I do assure you, that if you do happen to visit the place, the locals will make up as much of your Gozitain experience as the landmarks and the swimming trips! So… what is there to see on Gozo? One might think that such a small area would not have much to offer, however, people have dwelt on the rock for over 5000 years and in the meantime they , together with mother nature, did manage to come up with some pretty monuments to admire!
- Dwejra bay – Dwejra is a bay on the far west of the island which is a must-see for any visitor!
- Here one can observe the majestic, yet degrading Azure window, which is a natural archway formed by water erosion.
- In another part of Dwejra there is an almost enclosed pool of water known as the inland sea. The only entry for water into this area is through a tunnel in the rock. It is possible to get really cheap boat rides from the inland sea that take you through this tunnel and circle onto the Azure window.
- Right in front of the Azure window is the Blue Hole. It is a natural pool which is connected to the sea from an underwater tunnel. It is a very famous and very beautiful diving spot!
- A bit further up there is an inlet in which a rock as been cut off from the mainland forming a small island called Fungus rock. It is actually illegal to climb on to that rock since unsustained harvesting of a certain endemic medicinal fungus was causing the latter's extinction.
- Ramla bay – The biggest sandy beach in Gozo. Covered in orange sand and white pebbles. There is also 2 caves, one on each side of the cliffs surrounding it. The one on the left is called calypso cave, is accessible by car. It is impossible to enter the cave due to falling boulders, however standing on top of it gives you a magnificent view of the beach below!
- Ta Cenc Cliffs – The south west coastline of Gozo consists of rugged cliffs which emerge from the water to a height of about 120m. There is a road that passes along them which makes them accessible by car or by foot through the village of Sannat.
- Wied il-Ghasri – Going west from Marsalforn, passing the salt pans in Xwejni and going further in, one arrives to a downhill steep staircase that takes you to an isolated pebbly beach, quite far inland engulfed by high cliffs on each side. It is one of the most stunning beaches in the Maltese islands. There is no light or electricity down there, so if you do manage to find this place, try not to linger after sunset.
- Several other beaches including Marsalforn, Xlendi, Hondoq ir-Rummien, Ix-Xatt l-Ahmar, Dahlt Qorrot, Mgar ix-Xini, Qbajjar and Xwejni are also worth a visit.
- Rightly starting from the neolithic, Gozo has what is possibly the oldest free standing building in the world. It is a megalithic temple called Ggantija, built in 3600BC. Sadly it is very badly preserved since priority was given to the temples in Malta *angry face*. It is also quite expensive (last I checked about 5 years ago, it was 8 euros entrance) to visit and if you are not so much into prehistory, for you it might just see it as a pile of rocks. However, if one does appreciate its age, its size and the size of the stones used, and the history and mystery behind it, it can be a very magical place to find yourself in.
- The citadel – Currently in a state of restoration. It is a fortification in the middle of the city of Victoria. They say that in olden times, the whole population of Gozo could fit inside it in case of an enemy attack. It is a very prominent structure from which one can look upon the whole island. I do suggest to go there at dawn. It is purely breathtaking!
- Watch towers on several points around the island. Some are even sometimes open to the public. The one in Dwejra you can also camp inside.
- Lots of churches and chapels. The most famous being the one of Ta' Pinu which is standing on its own practically in the middle of nowhere. Every village has its own main church and several other chapels so they are worth a visit wherever you are staying 😀
- The salt pans in Xwejni. Some of which are still in use while some have long been abandoned but it is still a fascinating place for an early morning or afternoon stroll.
- Salvatur statue. It is a statue of Jesus – the Risen Christ on top of Tal-Merzuq hill overlooking Marsalforn.
There are a lot more places to visit than the ones mentioned here.. my best advice is, grab a bag, fill it with sandwiches, pastizzi and a bottle of water and just wonder off into the countryside. Do not worry about getting lost! It is a common saying in Gozo, walk for 10 minutes in any direction and you will either hit water or a main road! Happy travels!