16.03.2016 - 17.03.2016 15 °C
As we've seen earlier, Malta is an old place. People have been living, conquering, annexing and colonializing these little islands several years before the dawn of recorded history (Spinal Tap reference....). Here we explore the main city on Gozo - Victoria (or Rabat) and the citadel at the heart of this neat old town:
Rabat is much more touristy than our "home" village of Xaghra. This seems to be the economic and tourist hub of the island of Gozo. That doesn't mean there aren't some neat spots though - very European feel with narrow winding streets - and friendly merchants with yummy Easter treats on offer:
The Citadel (or Il Kastel in Maltese) has been situated on this high point of ground since about 3500 BC. The actual walls and buildings aren't as old, but given the geography, this has always been a strategic place from which to keep vigil. It was the Romans who started the main fortifications that were added on to by the Aragonese in the 1400s (I have no idea who these people were) and later the Knights of St. John. At its peak, the Citadel was able to house the 350 odd Gozitan families over night to protect them from raiding Turkish pirates (the first official tourists to Malta- now its just Brits and the odd Canadian family). In fact it was a law, up until the late 1600s, that the people had to sleep in the Citadel. Now, it's a great spot to survey the surrounding country-side and explore ancient nooks and crannies:
On to the Salt Pans
We decided that yesterday's walk was not enough. Today we set out from our comfy home base and trekked to the north, to the town of Marsalforn (Marsapan according to Poppa) and the nearby salt pans. The walk from the plateau on which Xaghra is perched was pleasant, with many breathtaking views of the adjacent environs. When all was said and done, Gramma's Fitbit had recorded close to 20,000 steps!
We finally arrived at Xwejni (Shway-nee) Bay. Its more or less an extension of the tourist town of Marsalforn, but has an 18th Century battery facing the Mediterranean and really cool salt pans. These are shallow depressions either dug in the limestone or bermed using small stones and masonry. These get filled with sea water and then left to evaporate. The resulting salt is then harvested and sold in little baggies (we have some in our kitchen here). The Romans apparently started the practice, but the current salt pans are about 100 years old. This is a very cool spot, even if the battery had been turned into a disco in the 80s (its empty now).
There's some really neat geology here too (all over the island TBH) with limestone, coral and clay beds. The intertidal limestone has tonnes of shells/fossils and funny little globs of tar - any sedimentary geologists care to comment???
More adventures to come...