C3’s back from his mission and we’re reunited again. It feels so good. There’s plenty to see and do before we leave Calypso’s Isle and as the nymph hasn’t made an appearance yet, I’m figuring I won’t have seven years to do it like Odysseus did.
We’re braving the northern roads again, heading out to Ramla Bay. I haven’t been to a red sand beach before and interested in what some people consider to be Malta’s best beach might be able to serve up. The weather Gods aren’t playing their part though and have served up their own dose of clouds and occasional rain. The Greek deities can be fickle and might have heard me dissing Calypso earlier.
The beach looks inviting but there’s no way in Hades’ hell, that I’m heroic enough to enter the chilling waters beyond. It’s time to beat a hasty retreat back to C3 when we spy a café serving hot refreshments to other people stupid enough to visit on such an inauspicious day. Thinking the gods are smiling on us now, we order coffees. It’s pipingly, scaldingly, insanely hot which is normal for round here. It tastes like….. I don’t want to talk about it.
I’m trying to find Calypso’s Cave which the sign outside the Café says is visible to the West. I look out to the East and spy Tal Mixta Cave, instantly proclaiming it as Calypso to a couple of German tourists. At least I think they’re German from they’re accent, although as they’re not wearing lederhosen, I can’t be sure. Google says Calpyso’s Cave is closed and before I can start questioning how do you close a cave I’ve smashed back my coffee. Anything’s drinkable when your taste buds are burnt off. I later learn that Tal Mixta Cave has superior views to that of Calypso’s but surely this only counts when the nymph isn’t resident in her cave.
We’ve planned to spend most of the day at the medieval hilltop Cittadella of Victoria. Rising up like an merry pimple on a backside, its hard to miss and can be seen from miles around. The first fortifications date back to 1500 BC. By any reckoning, that is old.
The Visitor’s Centre seems like a good place to start but we walk right past it and instead head into the Gozo Museum of Archaeology inside the Citadel’s Walls. After shelling out 15 Euro for the family we’re about two information panels in when some old Sea Hag rushes over asking to see our tickets again. I’m starting to seriously think I shouldn’t have pissed of Calypso earlier.
The Museum is interesting in a “it’s better being in here than out of the rain”, kind of way. There’s a collection of clay pots, stone tablets and other material from various archaeological sites in Gozo, that takes us through from prehistoric times to the early modern period. Even with the scalding pain of my burnt mouth, I’m not likely to mistake it for the British Museum.
There’s only so long you can stay in a Museum that doesn’t serve coffee and at any rate I’m not about to drink anything the Sea Hag might serve up. Raining or not, we make a decision to head outside, although we still don’t have a map, even after visiting the Museum. I’m not willing to talk into my watch to C3 like Hasselhoff did to KITT, so instead I consult Google to find the Visitor Centre. Unlike most males, I’m never to proud to admit when I’m in lost and in need of direction. In fact, I’m consulting Google so much on this trip, my wife is beginning to ask questions.
The Visitor Centre is modern, interactive and in a rare oddity for visitor centre’s in general, extremely helpful. It’s included in the price of what we’ve already paid for the Archaeological Museum and we find out plenty of information with regards the history of the Citadel. This is all then summarised in a ten minute 360 degree cinematic display. I’m guessing they figure most people won’t read the short display screens in the main theatre. Regardless, the kids love it and after its finished we’re then exited out of the building. Too bad if we had some other things we wanted to see in the Visitor’s Centre.
After re-entering the Citadel proper we hook our way past the Gozo Cathedral and Museum. Dedicated to the Assumption of Mary, it has been the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Gozo since the formation of the diocese in 1864. There’s plenty of people who also haven’t quite realised it’s raining and who insist upon wandering through my photos. How can they not realise that I need fake photos with no one in them to impress no one back home? I mentally visualise calling C3 to mow down the errant tourists in order to make myself feel better.
Next up, we’re heading to the Old Prison, which saw action between the 16th century to 1962 and is covered by our entrance fee.
I’m about ready to bemoan how lame it is when I stick my head into one of the last prison windows and literally jump back in surprise. Inside is a reasonably real life looking model of a prisoner from years’ gone by. In fairness, it’s not about to grace Madame Tussauds, but it’s still pretty good. I immediately amuse myself by getting the girls to look in as well, who have the same reaction. They’re not keen to look in any windows after that.
A quick walk around the ramparts and we’re pretty much done. The girls have quickly progressed to having achieved ABC status already. Another Bloody Church and Another Bloody Castle. They don’t yet realise how much more is in store for them.
The following day, I’m given another leave pass by Veronica. Which is to say that she says “of course she doesn’t mind if I go and explore some sights on my own”. The kids have surrogate caregivers courtesy of Ms Apple, so I figure all is good with the world. There’s something nagging that says I might’ve misread the situation, but I don’t trust that feeling and plough ahead anyway.
Today’s outing with C3 is to the megalithic Ġgantija Temples in Xagħra. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, there are two temples which back to between 3600 and 3200 B.C. If you thought the Citadella was old, these things put them to shame. The temples also predate both Stonehenge and the Pyramids and are considered one of the oldest free standing monuments in the world.
The name of the site actually derives from the word ġgant, the Maltese word for giant and I find it easier to pronounce it as Gigantia in order to remind myself that the site was commonly associated with a race of giants. As some of the megaliths weigh over fifty tons it is easy to see why people have made this connection.
To be honest, and Gonzo AJ is always honest, except when he’s not, I’m a wee bit disappointed. It is pretty cool when you consider the site is 5,500 years old, but it’s hardly Angkor Wat. As historically and archaeologically important as it is, it lacks a certain amount of je ne sais quoi.
As part of the same 9 Euro ticket I’ve also got entrance to the Ta’ Kola Windmill. Again, I’m not quite sure what to expect from visiting a Windmill, but this probably isn’t something that you’d ordinarily go out of your way to visit on its own. Originally constructed in 1725, there is a good amount of information on the windmill and traditional rural life in general that keeps me entertained for 15 minutes.
Like Ulysses, or Odysseus as he sometimes prefers to be called, I’ve felt the sirens call and pull of the Isle of Calypso. This is a enchanting place that is far removed from that experienced on the island of Malta. And as much as we’d love so spend longer on the island of Gozo, we too need to return to Penelope. Or in our case, the south eastern part of Malta, before we depart her fair shores.
It’s only on the ferry ride back to the main island, that I get some idea of what Veronica really thinks about me heading off on my own sightseeing…..