|M'dina, peeking into a courtyard|
The others were patiently waiting for us at the bus stop in front of the Roman villa. We hopped on for the return trip to Valletta.
Gozo -- all the guidebooks say you must go to Gozo. We had booked a guided tour with a French-speaking guide for Thursday. We had to get our bus from the Phonecia Hotel at 8:00. We were there; the bus finally came at 8:30. This was a bus that only took us to the ferry. At the ferry terminal there were lots of buses unloading and all the passengers were being divided into language groups for their guided tours. Ahh. We thought we were a group of 10; instead we were part of a group of 52 French and Dutch speakers! Our guide was fantastic, in my opinion. Not only did she flow from one language to the other, she really knew her stuff. There were so many groups visiting the same sites, I think it would be hard to visit Gozo on your own. You'd always be fighting the group traffic. The Ggantija site, which is the very, very oldest discovered -- older than the Tarxien or Hagar Qim and Mnajdra temples -- is also made of the biggest stones. These temples all have, with an occasional exception, the same layout, the same orientation, but each one has something marvelous to admire. There's an exterior wall, like an outer shell. The temple apses are built within that shell, and when discovered, the space between the outer wall and the apse walls was filled with dirt. The temple entrance is to the south, with a threshold and door; there are two apses on each side of the passage way followed by another door and two more apses. Each apse has its structure of altar, shelves, or other. The doorpost stones have handle like holes bored into them, apparently to hold rope for cloth doors to close off the area. The main decoration is dots pitted into the stone. There are altars with spirals and there were gigantic Botero-like statues of women. At the exit of the Ggantija temple, there was a farmer selling his jams, capers, and onions. I bought a couple of jams and a pack of olives. He told me that this year had been a very bad year for olives.
From the temple, we went straight to lunch, canteen style: salad, chicken or fish, very colorful pink ice-cream for dessert. The site was beautiful. We went on for a stop at an artisan shop where one could see lace work in the making and, of course, buy it. It is beautiful, but what would I do with lace, now? Even as souvenirs, I can't see anyone I would give a gift to actually setting out the lace. There were some beautiful knitwear.. I don't know if the wool is from local sheep or it's just the knitting. They were selling liqueurs, jams, and other local produce. There were some old village wash basins nearby, fed by natural spring water, the only spring water on the island. After our short obligatory stop at this shop, we went on to a window rock. It was just too hot; I didn't go up to get a close look for once. Paul and I settled for a cold drink at one of the little cafés around the parking lot.
Victoria is the capital of Gozo. Gozo's total population is about 30,000 and yet Victoria is a big city! The city is also known as Rabat. It has developed around the old citadel, which is not quite as picturesque as Mdina, but from which there is a fantastic view of the other major towns on the island. On a clear day, one can see Malta and even as far as Sicily, according to our guide. Our view was hampered by a smoggy haze, but we could see these towns near the coast. When the wind is from the south, that's what you get, although I think the light smog is a local production. When you get up in the morning, there is a distinct diesel odor over Malta. It was getting late and we had to get the bus back to the ferry and then back to Valletta. Upon return, we stopped at the Ordinance Pub, not far from our hotel, and had a fine dinner, with a very attentive waitress. I was surprised because the guidebooks were full of recommendations to stay away from these pubs that catered to the British tourists.
Links to Wikipedia articles that might be of interest to you:
Malta, general article
Co-cathedral St. John
Museum of Fine Art
National Museum of Archeology
St.. Paul Catacombs