A Travellerspoint blog

Victoria (Rabat) and the Salt Pans near Xwejni Bay

sunny 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:
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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:
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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:
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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!
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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).
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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???
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More adventures to come...

Posted by atw41year 02:34 Archived in Malta Comments (0)

On Planning, Persistence and Parenthood

On Planning:
Those who know the O'Pachs well, know we are planning a gap year global trip in the near future. This trip to Malta (Grandparent safety-net notwithstanding) was supposed to be an opportunity to practice carrying everything needed in individual back packs. This meant packing with purpose, and planning ahead to ensure the most important items were brought and the superfluous ones left behind.
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We all packed well in advance of the trip, then re-packed a day or so before leaving. This way we could ensure the best distribution of items, while respecting the size and weight limits for carry-on baggage. I was all ready and realized I had room for an extra couple of items. Keeping this windfall of space to myself, I decided to pack two extra watches. I've got my compass watch, an automatic and a hand winding vintage one as a back up. A man needs to be on time and in fashion.
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However, I only packed one pair of pants - and in fact I didn't even pack them - I wore them on the flight. But I've got three watches for three weeks.......face-palm.

On Persistence:
Erin is nothing if not persistent. We had heard about this bakery in Xaghra that made bread fresh, daily using the last stone bread oven on the island. Gozotan bread is famous for its hard crust and light fluffy innards. We tried on four separate occasions to purchase bread from this place:
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On Parenting:
Extended travel with kids could be a challenge. Separated from their friends, class mates, toys and other creature comforts of home, keeping them entertained can be hard to do. Don't get me wrong - my kids are troopers. They will walk for miles, while only complaining ever so rarely, and they know we didn't come all this way to lay on the couch and watch Netflix all day. However, considering this is a three-week trip, they can, on occasion, get a little out of hand.
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I have found that in these circumstances, traditional methods of punishment are less than effective, and that alternative methods may be necessary.
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However, these are rarely effective either. Best to just let them have the ipad (stupid Judo lessons....).
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Posted by atw41year 13:14 Archived in Malta Tagged xaghra Comments (0)

Malta 2016

Gozo - a tiny, happy chunk of coral

sunny 14 °C
View Gozo Malta 2016 on atw41year's travel map.

We landed in Malta on Sunday and made a bee-line for the northern-most island of Gozo. It's a short ferry ride across the channel and past the tiny island of Comino (the home of the famous Blue Lagoon and some goats). It was windy!
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The house we have rented here is unlike anything we have experienced before. These are apparently quite common here, and people come here from all around the world to retire. There are Aussies, Canadians, Americans, Brits and various EU ex-pats who have homes with names like "Kangaroo Valley" and "God Bless Australia" - well, OK, those are Australian examples, but you get the idea. Our place, located in Xaghra (pronounced Sha-rah) is a renovated 300 year old farm house with a pool and front court yard designed by Escher:
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We have sampled some local cuisine, including pizza with egg on it. This is an entirely new experience:
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The Mediterranean is too cold for swimming. However, the upside is that you virtually get the beach to yourself. This is the most popular beach on Gozo - it's called Ramla and has the coolest red sand, with clay cliffs:
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There are Neolithic temple ruins scattered about Malta. One of the most significant is Ggantija. It dates from 3000 to 2500 BC and is the oldest free-standing structure in the world. Jamie thinks it doesn't really count as free-standing, given all the supporting scaffolding holding it up. Semantics, I say... It is a very cool place - a perfect spot to learn how to use the panorama feature on my new camera:
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The streets are narrow and twisty. It pays to look over your shoulder, as you never know when a right-hand drive Fiat (OK, maybe not a Fiat, probably a Peugot, the Fiat will be in the shop) will come barreling down on you:
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Posted by atw41year 21:21 Archived in Malta Comments (0)

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