Blimey! Has it been over a week already?

A bit cryptic that title, innit? Well, truth to tell, it’s only a working title… I really can not think of a name for this latest piece of drivel… I mean I could go with the classic “What I did on my holidays”… or maybe I could try the not very imaginative “GotoGozo”… I’ll tell you what… I’ll just carry on with this… this… whatever this is… and then if I think of a title I’ll let you know… Sound fair?… Yeah that’s what I thought… 

Actually part of the reason I’m having trouble with the title is because I had all this planned out [Well there’s a first] but due to some magical wi-fi/interweb/roaming issue the photos I was hoping to entice you with [as opposed to the unfunny, dad jokes you usually open with] aren’t available at this present time…

Oh and I had better warn you… Our feline flat mate has taken exception to my laptop being on my lap so this may take a while … and any gibberish you come across will probably be down to her[Yeah, Right!] 

{I’m sorry, did you say something?}

[Nope, yeralright.. gori’aheadwi’ya…. excOO!ooses]

{Are you pissed?}

[Not fully…hic]

{Not fu…. Oh FFS!! Go sober up… I need full fact checking, the TOMT dept, Childhood dreams and … and… }

[Legal?]

{Hopefully not…. But yeah, just in case….}

[I’m on it!! Just let me grab{Leave that!…. I said, leave the bottle… Just… ju…Get out of here and get sober!}]

Now where was I?… Oh yeah, photos… Well, just to whet your appetite I shall give you a quick look at where I; That is Our Hero and his ever amazing Lone Support Angel, went for their holiday/major history fix a week or so ago..

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Yes, that really is all the way around…

I’m not going to insult you by repeating where we visited but I will, before we go any further, encourage you to visit… 

So… where to begin… ?….?….?

The journey out was pretty much uneventful… Nice trip to the magic-flying-metal-bird park… Easy check in… Forced to go through the body scanner because I would rather keep my trousers up using a belt rather than shuffle through security with them swiftly falling around my ankles… Uneventful flight… things start to go loopy as we get to the other end…

We land at about 16:30 and make our way to baggage claim… But hold on! car hire closes at 17:00 so I’ll just run through to get that sorted while LSA grabs our suitcase… Something should have warned me when I said gave our booking details and am told I am late… I continue with the booking as LSA joins usBOOM! “What the Hell was that?” Everybody is ducking and looking out through the windows as a plume of black smoke rises not half a mile from the airport… and then we all just turn back to what we are doing… No panic, no screaming… Just back to sorting out car hire, meeting arrivals, getting coffees… “Was it a bomb? Who cares, where’s my frapacino?” Humans huh?!

“Well, thank you for the car… We’ll see you in a week.”

“No. Tomorrow. At 9:00.”

“What? But we’ve booked the car for the week.”

“Not according to this booking.”

“What? We booked it all through ^Redacted-Legal^ and it’s for the week…”

“Ahh… yeah ^Redacted^ are always doing that… First thing tomorrow call this number and they’ll rectify it for you…”

Welcome to Malta :)… Now, let’s get over to Gozo 🙂 🙂 🙂 And cue a game of hunt the roadsign… Honestly, how difficult would it be to put the directions from the roundabout on the entry rather than at the fucking exit? And while we’re at it, How about cleaning the first sign everybody coming out of the airport will see?

LSA may be regretting this holiday already… Only been here less than an hour and already Our Hero is ranting about the roads, the Maltese drivers and the FECKING CAR!!!  But it was an incredibly uncomfortable car for Our Hero to drive… Pedals too close together forcing left ankle to twist awkwardly, knees rubbing against the steering wheel even with the seat fully back… Oh Glod!!! and it’s a fucking diesel *sob*…

And it’s getting very dark on these unfamiliar roads… Whoa!!   Where did that fucking bend come from?!! Oh look, the ferry… I hope Gozo roads are better than Malta…

and from the Port to Victoria they certainly are… “So where are we going LSA?” “Gharb… or is it l’Gharb… or maybe Arb…” “So where’s that?… ” Cue lots of wrong turns and calling the B&B to find where we are staying…

And here it is…

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Ladies and Gentlemen… Ta’ Matmura B&B

Let’s just fall into this comfortable bed and start all the history hunting tomorrow… 🙂

Tomorrow starts at 5am with the planets noisiest bird colony and what turns out to be about a million “hunters”… Yes, they do deserve the parenthesis because blasting birds the size of golf-balls out of the sky using a twelve bore shotgun isn’t really hunting… It’s illegal throughout Europe but the Maltese/Gozians claim exemption as part of their cultural heritage… Yeah, I’m not going there…

Now I fully understand the reasons our hosts don’t supply tea making facilities in the rooms but as LSA will corroborate, I am not good before my first cuppa and air-freshener… Wake me before the sun on the first day of my holiday and I’m one wrong word away from needing the lovely white canvas jacket with long sleeves…

Luckily for me (and probably most of down-town Gharb) we are welcomed into the dining room with a delicious breakfast and REAL TEA! Not Twinnings English Breakfast but REAL TEA 🙂

A leisurely breakfast (with fantastic scrambled eggs) later and we are ready to explore… Right, lets get to grips with this matchbox car…  I swear, I need a second knee (on a right angle to the current one) in my left leg to drive this thing… Victoria, here we come!

Oh wow, we’re here… But I can still see l’Gharb in my rear-view mirror! Oh well, lets find a parking space… A puddle filled football pitch, in the centre of town, for €1.50 all day? Don’t mind if I do…

[Are we going to get a minute by minute account of every day?]

{You’re  probably right… This should probably be more of a personal impressions piece… After all Gozo isn’t really that big (well the bit that we were in wasn’t; though one couple that were staying in the same B&B claimed they had walked around the whole island in one day) and if I do go day by day all the unlucky reader is going to get is “wentherelookedatthat wenttherelookedatthis” and even I’m not that cruel – or boring}

So let’s try this a little differently… There will still be a bit of wentheresawthis but that can’t be helped…

I will try not to sound like a snob… pull me up on it if I do… because I know that living and working where I do I’m a bit spoiled when it comes to Heritage Preservation, Interpretation and Presentation… Add to that my own expectations, privileges and historical knowledge… but I have to congratulate the Maltese/Gozitian heritage/tourism sector… when you consider the relative wealth of Gozo compared to the UK… the cultural differences…  the dominance of the Catholic Church within society and the current economic climate… they have certainly endeavoured to entice and enchant their visitors… at most of the sites at least…

If you are doing an historical tour of a place then there are obviously sites you wish to visit… I mean you don’t sit down to plan your trip and go… “Oh lets go to Wakanda and see if they’ve got some historic things just laying about”… No, you do some research… You say to yourself “Where have I always wanted to visit?” and you go from there… Well I have, for as long as I’ve known of them, wanted to visit the Ggantija Temples on Gozo… So let us go there… Or rather, let us go visit the Citadella and save the Temples for tomorrow because looking at this map, they are miles away and it will take us forever to get there… And there we go with my preconceptions… Gozo would easily fit inside the London Orbital Motorway (M25) [Indeed according to a couple of websites I’ve just visited…]

{You visited?}

[And who else pray? Five Year Old Self?]

*did someone call… because… CAT!!!*

{Great, now look what you’ve done… I’m going to have him badgering me all the way through this now…}

[I wouldn’t worry about it, he’s too busy playing with your four-legged flat mate… But yes, to answer your question, it was I that did the web-search… and according to the top three sites I checked Gozo is about the same size as the part of the City that you live in… In fact if you think about it it took you longer to go from your home to the supermarket last week than it did going from your B&B to the port on your last day… and that’s with accounting for traffic or lack thereof… Just saying]

So OK, Our Hero and LSA had miscalculated the distances they would need to cover during their trip but we had planned our days very carefully and saw no need to change those plans

Tell you what, how about a few photos while I change the music and grab a cuppa…

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Just some of the phases of the Citadella

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Goddesses brought from the Ggantija Temples

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Lone Support Angel doing bird

Now one of the reasons we wished to visit the Citidella, beyond it’s own historical significance of course was the fact that it houses a number of small museums…

And the first one we entered was? The Archaeology one of course 🙂

 

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How a fish would see the trap… If the fish were flying vertically through a room

The islands have a very long and sometimes quite turbulent history [Where doesn’t?] but suffers from being ignored for much of that history… Gozo in particular has never been either strategically or economically important enough for most of history’s superpowers to treat it with anything more than benevolent indifference… As a consequence, the people have pretty much just got on with life… I don’t mean to be dismissive here, but when (during most of it’s history) the entire population could and did fit inside the Citadella, the importance that population is going to represent to Classical Greece, Carthage, Rome and the Northern European Empires is negotiable…

Having said that, the different occupying groups did each leave enough of an impression on the island and it’s inhabitants to give it it’s own unique culture… and the tiny Archaeological museum reflects that perfectly… Charting the history of the islands in a small number of artefacts and unbiased interpretations… Indeed the lack of bias in the historical reporting was rather refreshing… Yes, there was a larger focus on the Christian (particularly Catholic) heritage but the superior attitude prevalent towards the Romans, or the sneeringly apologetic representation of the influence of Islam that can be observed in other nations is not in evidence here… The entire purpose of the exhibits appeared to me to convey a simple message… “These people (be they Pagans or Muslims, Roman merchants or The Knights Hospitaliers) were here, here’s some artefacts to prove it, but don’t think that that is all we are”

There are six museums* inside the Citadella… As well as a number of shops selling traditional craft-work (Silver and Lace) as well as the HUGE church and the wall walks and abandoned houses… as you may imagine, in a structure smaller than the average top flight football stadium, things are kinda on top of each other and a bit cramped… But on that first day we did three of the museums and the shops, as well as the new interactive exhibition space in the undercroft… All of them were informative and amusing for a pair of tired old history buffs like us… The weather wasn’t particularly kind to us on that first day… Just as we had found a nice table on the piazza St George the heavens opened, forcing us to move further under the umbrellas… just long enough to order our food before the rain found gap between the umbrellas… and it’s “can we have another table?”… inside and up the tightest spiral staircase ever onto the mezzanine above the bar… followed by another move (just as our food arrived) so that a party of eight wouldn’t have to sit a table set for three… “Here, have our table so now the eight of you can sit at two tables together set for five”

Lunch was followed by a siesta back at the B&B that lasted longer than anticipated… Cue day two….

Today we do what we came here for…. But first to find it… Our Hero has adapted quite well to the idiosyncrasies of Gozitian driving now and LSA has solved the puzzle of directions (namely if the road sign doesn’t direct you to turn off then just keep going straight) which works well up to a point… and parking? well that appears to be just pull in anywhere… Today it’s the twin temples at Ggantija… When we eventually find it behind the coach park we can see that quite a bit of money has been spent on the visitor centre/museum… and it is appreciated… well by us anyway… maybe not so much by the German tour groups that have got a total of twenty minutes at the site… including gift shop!!! twenty minutes? I spent that in the first room of the museum!!

I’m not sure where the originals of the famous goddess’ sculptures are held and nowhere did it say so, though I do have my suspicions… But unless there were dozens of them, each an exact replica of the rest, then I suspect both the ones we encounter today as well as the ones we saw in the Archaeology museum yesterday, are all copies… Not that I care… for copies or not they are beautiful… And judging from the facial reconstruction of one of the original temple users, so were the people that made them… But let us step outside the dimly lit, air-conditioned splendour and see the Oldest Free-Standing Structure in the World for ourselves…

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Not very impressive from the back

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Lone Support Angel welcomes me into the home of the Goddess’

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The alters in a side chamber

Now I could go off on one here about how much I hate antiquarians… Yes, I know that they are the fore-runners of today’s archaeologists but I just can’t forgive them for their attitudes towards our physical heritage… So much has been lost to the treasure seekers of the past… But that is all I’m going to say on the subject…

I do wish though that modern archaeologists and engineers could come up with a way to ensure the Ggantija temples remain standing and safe while removing the ugly scaffolding…

I know it is needed to prevent stones that weigh up to 50 tonnes, that have stood here since before Stonehenge was even a gleam in its architects eye… But a lot of money went into building the visitors centre and the security for the temples but surely something can be done to prevent any further damage or loss beyond that which has occurred since the Governor of the island made convicts demolish most of the structure in the 19th century…

I’m not saying the scaffolding makes it look too much like a building site to fully appreciate the structure but I feel the casual visitors would not get the most of of their experience…

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Another alter, this one in the younger temple

 

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The smaller temple in all it’s glory

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So now we have seen the temples… and my head is abuzz with theories and possible paintings… so let us venture forth to the windmill… via the world’s smallest gift shop…

The windmill on Gozo is the last of it’s kind… dating back to the early 18th century… Today it’s a “folk museum”… That is a museum that focuses on the lives of the general populous rather than military or religious rulers… and we love it…

We have been on Gozo for about 48 hours and we are hooked…

[Boss? Boss?! BOSS!!]

{What?}

[We have a problem… Have you seen how much you’ve said so far?]

{About 2 days worth…}

[Boss, you are at nearly 3000 words…]

{So?}

[So don’t you think people might be getting bored?]

{I doubt anybody’s actually doing anything more than skimming through looking at the pictures, to tell you the truth…}

[Well I just think you should be considering wrapping it up…]

{But I’m only on day two…}

[Then write a follow up…]

{Will people go for that, do you think?}

[they did with Pompeii and The Wall… I don’t see why not… I mean you’ve still got a lot to cover… the Salt pans.. The Natural history museum… The…{yes, alright… don’t tell them everything now… OK, I’ll do it…} Good idea… I’ll just let the rest of the crew know…]

He does have a pint dear reader… [Oi!] Sorry, I meant point… well that was a slip wasn’t it 😉 … So while LSA and Our Hero settle down to a pastizzi or two before going on the hunt for Ninu’s Cave, I shall bid you all farewell…

If you really want to follow our further adventures on Gozo come back in a couple of days… but for now…

Seeya xx

Oh… Before you go… How about a photo of the windmill?

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Inside the reconstructed top floor

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Don Quiote was nowhere in sight…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*In no particular order:

  1. Archaeology
  2. Natural History
  3. The Old Gaol
  4. The Courts (still in use)
  5. The Folk Museum (cultural/reconstructed period)
  6. The Cathedral

 

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