Saturday, October 11, 2014

Gozo, Malta's magical sister island

After a healthy breakfast in the apartment we walked to the main bus station. Today we were going to Gozo, Malta's sister island. The bus finally arrived, almost half an hour late. This meant that we had to stop to pick up or drop off people at every single stop as we crawled through numerous towns and roadworks. The scheduled one hour trip took closer to two. It was a tedious journey through mostly built up areas, two storey buildings with shops on the ground floor and apartments above.

As we approached the north of the island, the landscape changed: hills with arid vegetation, rocks, olive trees and some fields that had been ploughed leaving huge furrows and mounds of clay. We passed through St. Paul's Bay. I don't think I have ever seen a bay so full of boats. Finally, we reached the ferry terminal.

After a lovely twenty-minute ferry ride passing the small island of Comino, we reached Gozo. Since it had taken us so long to get there, we opted for the ‘hop on hop off’ double decker bus tour of the island. Our first impression was that the island was much greener than Malta. The bus climbed the hillside behind the harbour, passing a tiny church. Apparently, when the priest could not reach neighbouring Comino Island because of rough seas he yelled the mass across to the islanders. I don't think there was the slightest chance that they heard a thing. In days gone by it could take sixteen hours to sail from Malta to Gozo in rough seas.

We passed many beautiful golden sand beaches in Gozo but the one I liked best and the most famous of them all was Ramla Bay, known as Ramla l’hamra (red sand). It has no tourist developments close by. A well photographed land mark in the form of a white statue of the Virgin Mary has appeared in several Hollywood films. Speaking of movies, many movies have been filmed in Malta and Gozo. While we were there Brad and Angelina were filming in Gozo. This spot would be perfect for walks in the spring and fall.

On the approach to Ramla Bay we saw Odysseus' Cave, where legend has it he lived for seven years, seduced and enchanted by Calypso. Below the cave are the remains of a Roman Villa. Ramla Bay lies below a tabletop plateau, which could be seen for miles around.

We passed through many picturesque villages with lovely, ornate stone balconies that you could reach out and touch from the bus. There were old and new farmhouses for rent, and stunning views of the sea.

We stopped at a crafts centre that was filled with the usual ‘crafty’ things but also food items. Since we hadn't eaten since breakfast and it was now mid afternoon we were more than happy to sample the olives, sun-dried tomatoes, pecorino cheese with black pepper and sun-dried fig chutney on crackers. All the food came from Gozo. We bought some crackers, cheese and the tasty chutney.

Our hope was to eat in the capital of Gozo, Victoria, so we hopped off the bus, but all we found were small bars. What to do? Finally, we found a take away restaurant with a Maltese specialty, pastizzi, flaky pastry filled with mushy green peas. Delicious.

Because we were running out of time, we skipped the various sights of Victoria and took the bus back to the ferry terminal, where we were just in time to take a very busy ferry back to Malta. Again it was a lovely trip. Once we arrived we went in search of the bus to Valletta but there were already a lot of other people waiting. Hot and tired we negotiated a taxi ride back to Valletta and I'm glad we did. The car was air conditioned and we followed a scenic coastal route.

Once back in our apartment, we sampled our crackers, cheese and sun-dried fig chutney while watching another cruise ship head out to sea.

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