A Day Of Purposeful Meandering

We fully intended to walk every inch of Comino today, the tiny, car-free island between Malta and Gozo, but it seemed the ferries weren’t running, possibly on account of the fact the winds of the other day had started up again. We got to the ferry terminal (the Gozo one is obvious) and were directed down some steps to a small kiosk next to a snack bar, both of which were very firmly closed. Okay, so that’s pissed on that bonfire then. We ruled out Gozo for today because we’d wanted to get a much earlier start for that so we drove to the end of the Marfa peninsula to cram butties into our faceholes and weigh up our options. There were a few bits and bobs that we had on our “if we have time” list. Might as well go and have a look at those, then.

Ta’ Ħaġrat, partially restored. When I grow up and buy a house I’m 100% having a doorway like this, by the way.

There are a couple of megalithic temples in and around Mġarr we figured we’d stick into our eyeholes, they’re covered by our Heritage Malta Multisite pass so we parked up on a residential street and swanned into Ta’ Ħaġrat, waving our A4 piece of paper. The reason these were on our “maybe” list is because, like Borġ in-Nadur which we saw on our first full day in Malta, if you don’t know what you’re looking at they could easily just be a pile of weathered stones. I’m so glad we’d already been to Ħaġar Qim and the Hypogeum and filled our little brain cells with information, we could spot without being told the tell-tale holes in doorways, evidence of where lockable door coverings would have been.

Skorba. Well it’s definitely a ruin anyway.

I don’t feel too bad for thinking it just looks like rocks, before they realised what it was it was treated as just that and most of it was severely damaged by farming activity. Roof makers used the pottery they found there to crush and mix with lime to make something called deffun, some manner of shit you put on roofs. It’s been restored here and there but they’ve not bothered with a cover and I won’t be surprised if it just continues to weather into nothing. If you think Ta’ Ħaġrat is rubbly, wait until you see Skorba. Apparently it’s super important, they even found remains of domestic huts from the period of the temple builders which gave them a bit of an insight into how they lived.

Clapham Junction, the ancient cart ruts. I mean yeah, they’re all parallel and shit but couldn’t they just be… rocks?

We walked back to the car and headed onwards to something called Clapham Junction, which is clearly a name the British must have given it, and is apparently some manner of pre-historic cart ruts. They’re free to go and look at and to be honest, whilst they’re cool to look at, are they really this mysterious, ancient cart track? Or is it just geological phenomenon? I mean, they kinda look pretty parallel in parts, but didn’t they use big, spherical stones to move shit about? Was the wheel even a thing back then? And then what are you using to pull something big enough to leave such huge, deep tracks? How many hundreds of men or beasts would you need?

Yeah it’s a nice place to live and all, but where do you charge your phone?

What we did find in the area though was a really fucking cool cave which had obviously recently been used judging by the remains of a fire. It was surprisingly clean though, if this were back home it’d be full of broken glass and empty beer cans and used needles. It’s called Għar il-Kbir and according to the information board as you drive into Clapham Junction it was inhabited right up until 1835. It was the British that shifted them and moved them into a village, apparently for health reasons, though there’s nothing to suggest there was anything wrong with their health at all. The British just can’t get their heads around anyone living differently from them. It’s divided up into living by rubble walls around what was apparently a common area according to a scholar who visited in the 17th century. He said they were healthy and organised, meat was for selling and not eating, and they also produced cheese.

The little parcels of joy that are pastizzis. You buy them from pastizzerias which are just like little bakery cafe type things I guess, where you can sit down and have a cuppa and see how many of these fuckers you can fit into your digestive system. Mushy pea filling on the left, cheese filling on the right.

We headed to Wied iż-Żurrieq next for a cup of tea and to gawp at the Blue Grotto. The boat trips weren’t running of course, and we’d heard the best way to see the Blue Grotto was by boat, but it’s still pretty impressive from a viewpoint by a bus stop up the hill. We drove back to Marsaxlokk to see what it looked like when it wasn’t pre-breakfast and any sane person would still be drooling in their pillow, where I got my first taste of a pastizzi. I’d intended to eat a large quantity of this Maltese snack but I just hadn’t gotten around to it yet. It’s some manner of flaky pastry thing and you can get it either filled with cheese, which is fine albeit a bit bland, or it’s full of this sort of mushy pea thing which was fucking delicious. Kinda glad we’re not staying longer than a week. I’d need to pay excess baggage on my flab to get home after too many of these bad boys.

The Blue Grotto as seen from the viewpoint by the bus stop up the hill. Gutted we couldn’t take a boat trip but hey. It’s just an excuse to come back.

I’ve got to admit though, this was one of the most enjoyable driving days for me this holiday. Driving in Malta isn’t something you’d ever do for fun, it’s so fucking stressful. There are too many cars, people tailgate you so closely you can’t see their lights in your rear view mirror, everyone cuts everyone else up, no one fucking indicates properly, and to compound everything the roads are so confusing that if Google Maps were sentient even that would have a nervous breakdown. You think you’re approaching a roundabout but it turns out to be an unnecessarily complicated junction. There are tunnels and flyovers everywhere. Turn offs are small and easy to miss and sometimes don’t even look like fucking roads! Driving here is usually a chore but today it was lovely and a bit more chilled. It was fun driving down the little roads lined with the ubiquitous rubble walls and cacti.

The impossibly pretty Marsaxlokk

We nipped back to Boho for a quick feed before heading out to Mosta to have a look at their big church dome thing, the Rotunda of Mosta. We wanted to look at it all lit up at night so we got there just before sunset, not expecting it to be open to visitors. It kind of wasn’t, you’re meant to pay €3 to see the church and the bomb shelter that is apparently next to it, but we pushed the door open and there was a service going on. We thought we might as well stay, if anyone said anything I planned to throw Tarrant at them and get her to say something Bibley. She was raised a Catholic, she knows some Bible shit.

I’m addicted to these rubble walls. They’re all over the country, everywhere you drive or walk. They’re exceptionally photogenic. Y’know. For walls.

As a bloke with a cross stood in front of each station of the cross in turn as a voice read out what I assume were prayers over a tannoy, Tarrant whispered to me that it was quite different to the Irish Catholic service she was used to. She though that perhaps they were doing some manner of special service. There are fourteen Stations of the Cross on a Catholic church (I know this because Tarrant told me) telling the story of Jesus’ betrayal, conviction, punishment and ultimately his crucifixion and burial. Obviously this thing is round, eventually he got to the back of the room and was visibly startled when he saw us. I’ve never stared so intently at a floor before! We waited until the entire bloody congregation wasn’t looking at the back of the room and made our escape.

The Mosta Dome, or the Mosta Rotunda, or if you’re really fucking showing off it’s The Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady.

We don’t have any photos of the inside of course, it’s probably considered quite poor form to take photos whilst a service is in progress, but it’s pretty elaborate. I mean, we’re not talking o the same level as the cathedral in Valetta but it’s still pretty impressive and is definitely worth a visit. We waited for dark at a cafe nearby called The Cake Box. Oh my, what fine cake they do! And the tea is pretty good too, it’s hard to get good tea here, they tend to put the milk in for you and even if you ask for the tiniest bit of milk they’ll still dump half a fucking cow’s worth in there. Tarrant confirms that the coffee is excellent too and she’s not sure she’s going to sleep tonight. I grabbed a few long exposures of the church then we drove back to St. Julians for the night.

Stayed at: Boho Hostel

Useful shit to know…

  • Ta’ Ħaġrat costs €3.50 if you don’t have the Heritage Malta Multisite pass but you can’t buy the tickets there, you’ll need to get them online or from another Heritage Malta site, or various hops listed on the website.
  • Skorba also costs €3.50 and same as above, you’ll need to buy the ticket elsewhere. You can buy a combo ticket for both sites for €6 but again, not onsite.
  • The car park at Wied iż-Żurrieq is free but there’s an attendant and you pay him what you want. I don’t think it’s obligatory. It’s quite a small car park though, I can imagine it getting pretty packed pretty quickly in the high season.

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