The first thing you notice when you get to the Cirkewwa ferry terminal is how close you are to Comino and Gozo. All this talk of using EU funds to build a bride, doesn't seem that far fetched. One hop to Comino, another to Gozo. Nevertheless the short ferry ride gives you time to anticipate the day ahead. After weeks of cool and rain we had a fantastic weather day to visit the island.
I was trying out the GeoTag Photos app for the trip, that would use the gps in my iPhone to track our movement around the island. Later you upload the gps data and sync it with your photos. Since my camera doesn't have a built in GPS, this works well for adding location data to your photos. It worked great, and you can even use the data you capture to build a map of your day.
We hired a van and a guide for this day because we wanted to cover a lot of ground. You can get everywhere on public buses but you end up spending half your day waiting around bus stops. It is also a law on Malta that at many of the outdoor attractions groups of 10 or more must be accompanied by a licensed guide. So, our guide, Joseph, met us at the ferry terminal on Gozo and we were off on our whirlwind tour. Now you may think that this was quite a marathon day but you have to know that Gozo is only 8.7 miles long and 4.5 miles wide.
Our first stop was Ramla bay, a red-sand beach and lots of green space. Yes, glorious, fabulous, wide open space free from limestone buildings and paved roads. Over the course of the day it became very clear to me that this is exactly what I have been missing, and I'm really coming to understand that although there are things I like about the city I am really a small town guy at heart.
After some time of watching the students cavorting on the beach we moved on to Calypso cave, where we had a great view of the underwater sea wall built by the Knights of St. John as part of the islands protection against the Turks. You can see the wall, closer to shore than you might think pretty clearly in the picture.
From the bay we headed to the Megalithic temples at Ġgantija that date to Neolithic times. We had heard a lot about these temples in our History lecture and so it was great to visit and see these massive structures first hand. They truly are massive. There are some hints about how the giant slabs were moved around, in that they have hundreds of stone balls that have been discovered. The theory is that the balls were used like bearings and the slabs were rolled on top of the balls. Pretty clever for 5000BC if you ask me.
From the temples we made short stop at the salt flats in Marsalforn. It was only a five minute stop but is definitely on the list to return to. I managed to purchase a bag of sea salt from the guy who owns the salt flats, and so I should be set with some great salt for cooking the rest of our time here in Malta.
Next was a stop in Victoria for a quick slice of pizza as we walked to the Citadel. Today was really about great outdoor scenery, but I include one shot of the citadel. Bonus points to anyone who can spot the problem in this photo.
The highlight of the day was the Azure Window. This is nearly iconic place for Malta, and it certainly lives up to all expectations. What I wasn't expecting was the awesome little boat ride from the inland sea to the Azure Window. You start out in this little bit of inland water, and the boat takes you through a tunnel out into the mediterranean sea, into a few caves and finally under the big arch that forms the window. It was so beautiful and I can't wait to get back to Gozo again to visit this place. You could easily spend half a day hiking around and on top of the arch.
Our final stop, and another highlight is the town of Xlendi (pronounced shlendee). The first thing I said to our guide was that I felt like I had just driven into Cinque Terre, and he agreed. This is a beautiful blue bay, with lots of space for hiking and enjoying the outdoors.
Although there were a lot of places that needed more time, the trip was a real success in that we got a great taste of all the places we want to revisit.