We were up at an hour even the ubiquitous sparrows would have raised a sleepy eyebrow at to catch an early ferry over to Gozo with the intention of watching the sunrise from Malta’s smaller sister. Yeah nah so that wasn’t going to happen. As we sat in the small queue of cars to board the RORO, rain spattered lightly on the windscreen. Oh. Good. We didn’t actually have to wait long before we drove onto the ferry though, it was pretty full by the time it got going too, definitely earlier than scheduled. No one got out of their vehicle either which freaked the shit out of me. It buggered my brain up, I could feel the ferry rolling gently from side to side but my brain thought I was in a garage, it didn’t like it. I willed the cereal bar I’d eaten to stop me from murdering anyone to stay where I left it.
So the plan was to watch the sunrise, check out a few things along the north coast then drive down to Victoria, the capital, before checking out another megalithic temple then finishing up at Xlendi (shlen-di) Bay. We sat in the car at a beach which is apparently sandy, a rare thing here, as pissing rain tipped down on us, and re-planned. Victoria had a bunch of indoor shit we could look at once the Citadella (pronounced chitadella) opened. We headed there, parked in the car park just up from the visitor centre and found a place to apply hot beverages to our faceholes whilst we waited for 9am.
There are four Heritage Malta museums in the Citadella and only the Old Prison is kind of worth a look. I have to be in the right mood for museums, I get antsy and impatient wandering around and reading displays and there are only so many museums I can look at before my frontal lobe starts rebelling and my brain shuts down. They’re all included in the Heritage Malta Multisite pass though and they all have roofs so you’ll stay nice and dry. The Old Prison was apparently not an awful place to be incarcerated. Prisoners apparently were fed well enough and checked over regularly by a doctor.
It’s generally where the Order of St. John sent their “troublesome” knights. Apparently they used to use Gozo in general as a place of exile for knights who got a little bit too murdery. All the doors are original and there is a lot of graffiti, mostly of hands and boats and different kinds of crosses. It’s actually quite interesting to see the defaced walls and floors, to see the old cells and read about the history of the prison and Gozo as a prison island.
We traipsed around the Citadella, checking out the three other museums which are really only worth looking at if you need shelter from the rain and have the Multisite pass, then headed up to the walls for some lovely views over Gozo. The sky still looked pretty threatening but at least it had stopped pissing rain. Right then, let’s go gawp at this last megalith then, the Ġgantija Temple. I have no fucking idea how you’d pronounce that.
So there are two types of limestone used in the construction of the megaliths; the hard upper coralline limestone, and the much softer and easier to work with globigerina limestone. Most temples are built with the latter but Ġgantija uses a lot of the former. It’s harder to shape so the stones are more irregular in parts. There’s also evidence here that the walls were plastered and painted in red ochre which is very cool. It’s not a huge site but it’s worth a visit I reckon, especially if you’ve been to Ħaġar Qim and know what to look for. There are plenty of information boards too, and an interpretation centre.
A mere stone’s throw from Ġgantija is the Ta’ Kola Windmill which is actually kind of cool and now we’ve decided that we could probably live in a windmill. Seriously, we redesigned the whole thing in our heads to include a sitting room and a cocktail bar. We don’t have a cocktail bar in our actual flat but our imaginary windmill abode has a fully stocked bar ready for all the entertaining we don’t actually do because it’s far too much effort. But anyway, this whole place is full of all of the last miller’s tools and tonnes of information of the importance of bread in Malta.
When the wind conditions were correct the miller would blow into a conch to let the villagers know they could bring all their cereal and grain to be ground into whatever. Bakeries would allocate a specific time slot to families for them to bring their flour into be made into bread, and they’d have to bring a bit of fuel for the oven in too. The Order of St. John made sure that bread was always obtainable and affordable for the people as it was their staple, but the British, of course managed to fuck it up to the extent there were riots. Kind of the MO of British colonists really. Oh look at this thing that works very well for the local people, let’s make it so they can’t afford the thing any more and ruin their lives.
That was it for me. I was Gozo’d out. I couldn’t look at another fucking tourist attraction. I think starting with the mental saturation of the museums at the start ruined my little brain, I really enjoyed Ġgantija and the Windmill but I was ready to not look at a bunch of history for a while. The salt pans at Xwejni (nope, not a clue how to say that) however, 100% up for staring those for an hour whilst taking burst shots of the waves. You can drive right along the side of them under the cliffs, at first glance it doesn’t look accessible by car but it is and there’s a little place you can park whilst you watch the waves and your long-suffering girlfriend snores in the car.
Even without the crashing waves these things would look amazing. It was the Romans that converted the salt pans into ordered squares and installed an irrigation system, because order and irrigation are kind of their thing, and they’re still used these days by some Gozian families to produce salt between May and September. Okay yeah, so technically it’s still history I was staring at but chuck in a bit of nature and I’m happy. I did the standard thing where I took so many bloody photos that sorting through them would take half my life before retreating back to the car because myself and my camera were covered in a fine sea spray and I couldn’t feel my fingers any more.
I woke Tarrant up and we headed further along the coast to where the Azure Window used to be. I think Malta as a nation went into mourning when it collapsed into the sea. I mean, you can still see it if you have gills or SCUBA gear but if you fancied remaining dry, or dryish, depending on if the wind is trying to relocate the sea to the land or not, the coastline along here is still worth a couple of litres of your drool. It’s an utterly beautiful stretch of cliff and water. There were people getting quite close to the edge and I’m sure they got much better photos than me for it, but I didn’t fancy my chances against the waves if I got swept in.
It was that time of day whereby if I didn’t eat something soon I was going to start chewing the limbs off passersby. We drove through Gozo to Xlendi (shlendi) Bay because I’d been told if was a good place to get some food with views and it didn’t disappoint. It’s a lovely little bay surrounded by eateries so we just chilled there for a bit, stuffing our faces and admiring the bay. We’d intended to stay and watch the fiery sky ball fuck off for the night but I was pretty tired and quite aware of the fact we still had to catch the ferry back to Malta, then get us and the car back to St Julian’s, and the car still had to be car shaped and we still had to be human shaped, and if I didn’t get to lie horizontally with my eyes shut quite soon then none of this was going to occur. So we bailed and headed back home.
We’d fully intended on Saturday to go and see if the ferries were running to Comino but my eyes were having none of this “being open” business. It was nice to actually have a lie in, and a couple of hot organic suspensions and a spot of breakfast later and we decided that actually, we just wanted to chill the fuck out today. No sightseeing, no driving, perhaps just a bit of ambling, lots of eating, and probably more booze than your liver would consider acceptable. A fantastic way to end a fantastic holiday. We got to see and do most of the things on our list but if you want to come to Malta and “do it all” I’d say give it longer than a week. It’s a a country so rich in history, some of it so unimaginably ancient it make Stonehenge seem like a child, it’s a shame to not take it all in.
Stayed at: Boho Hostel
Useful shit to know…
- If you drive up the hill past the Citadella visitor centre you’ll see a carpark. We were there stupid early so it was quite empty but it was full by the time we left. We asked how much it was to park but he waved us off with a laugh and said we were tourists. Not sure what that meant.
- If you don’t have the Multisite pass I believe it’s €5 for all four museums and the visitor centre at the Citadella.
- The Ġgantija Temple is €6 without the pass, or if you want to combine it with a visit to Ta’ Kola Windmill it’s €9 for both.
- The salt pans and the former site of the Azure Window are free to apply liberally to your eyeholes.
- It’s €50 for a Heritage Malta Multisite Pass which gets you into several places but not the Hypogeum. It’s a case of just writing down what you want to see, working out how much it’ll cost, then seeing if it’s worth it. If you’re only here for a week and actually wanted to relax at some point it’s probably not worth it as most places are only a few Euros to get in, it’s actually quite difficult to cram €50 worth of attractions into your eyeholes in a week. We had absolutely no intention of relaxing so we bought one each. If you have a couple of weeks and are really quite fond of history and museums then I’d say go for it.