Malta and Gozo - Day Four

 by Martin Belam, 23 June 2005

Earlier this year I spent a week in Malta and Gozo with my wife and a couple of our best friends.

On day four we started our 'holiday within a holiday', as we headed off to to get the ferry to Gozo. We had booked to stay overnight at the Maria-Giovanna Hostel. The owners there were lovely, and even offered to drive from Marsalforn to Mgarr to meet us from the ferry. In the end we opted to hire a car for the two days, so we didn't need them to, but they still took a description of our hired car and then waited on the street corner by the hostel to wave us in just in case we had trouble finding it.

Marsalforn harbour    The Maria-Giovanna Hostel in Marsalforn, Gozo

Hiring the car was interesting, as we went to a place near the harbour recommended by our guide book. However, I don't know if we actually hired the car from the place we intended to. The hire place was above a supermarket type store, with seemingly no way to access it - an enquiry inside the shop generated a mobile phone call, and next thing we new someone had picked us up and whisked us to a garage in a nearby village where we did the deal.

The hostel was beautiful, and the rooms were lovely, with big old fashioned beds. Once we had settled in and had a quick mooch around Marsalforn, we got back in the car and headed towards Gozo's capital, Victoria (Rabat). It is a funny testament to how hard it is to exert colonial influence through placenames that over a hundred years since the city changed its name to Victoria to celebrate the British Queen's Diamond Jubilee it still has to be known generally as Victoria (Rabat), and is on many road signs simply Rabat.

We had been warned that it was difficult to park in the city, so we opted for a car park on the outskirts, and headed into town on foot. Sadly this was the day with the worst weather during our trip, and we got pretty wet - we also, I suspect, didn't get a chance to see the city at its best. We pottered around for a bit, and then stopped for a coffee by the main bus station.

We then emerged and wanted to head for the walled part of the town. Now, ironically, virtually wherever you are on Gozo, because the island is so small and hilly, you can see Il-Kastell which crowns Victoria (Rabat). In Victoria (Rabat) itself, however, the streets are so narrow that you can't see it - so I then completely failed to orientate our map properly and strode off in totally the wrong direction.

This wasn't the end of the world, as we saw some lovely and bizarre sights, including the HQ of Victoria Hotspurs, the Pjazza Santu Wistin, St George's Church, and also had a walk down the astoundingly picturesque narrow side-street of Triq San Gorg.

Once we finally found our way to Il-Kastell, we were rewarded with spectacular views across the island from the ramparts. We also went to the prison museum, which retains some cells in which errant knights and colonial prisoners were held, etching graffiti into the walls dating back hundreds of years. The cells were very small and claustrophobic, even with modern lighting. There was one where the light had failed, and so we were able to shut the door and really get a strong impression of how dark a place it must have been to be held there.

The guy selling the tickets gave us a talk before we went in, which helped put what we saw in context. The ticket office also had a series of displays on the fortifications of Gozo, and the attendent again took the time to take us through some of the important facts, asking where we were staying, and specifically adapting his talk to the places that were near to us. Unfortunately at the time we visited the main Cathedral museum was shut for renovation, which was a real shame.

We did visit the church which had an odd mixture of decoration, some of which was beautiful and some of which seemed quite crass. It also had one particular woman who seemed to be hanging around simply to preach some very hardline Catholicism to passing tourists - everytime we walked passed she seemed to be talking specifically about the evils of abortion.

View across Gozo from the top of Il Kastell    The ceiling of the Cathedral in Victoria (Rabat), Gozo

The weather was still pretty poor, so we decided to lunch in Victoria (Rabat). We headed back down from Il-Kastell, and on Pjazza Indipendenza we headed into a little bar called "Café Jubilee". The interior was smothered in posters from the twenties and thirties, and it had a really nice ambience to it. We had a very pleasant bite to eat, and I had a rum and coke that was about four parts rum to one part coke!

We then headed out to the western side of Gozo, to Dwejra, the home of Fungus Rock, and my navigation got us there despite the four parts rum to one part coke. Dwejra Point is very rocky, and apparently a great place for diving, but even on foot without equipment you can get down the side of the rocks to the waters edge. We also walked past Qawra Tower and down some rock-cut steps to Dwejra Bay. The steps led to a couple of boat slip-ways, with sheds cut into the side of the rock. There was no sand, but it acted as a sun-trap, so we lounged around on the rocks for half-hour, then went back to Marsalforn, taking a route that avoided passing through Victoria (Rabat), instead taking us through the villages of Ghasri and Zebbug, and through the coastal road at Qbaijar.

Dwejra in Gozo    Dwejra in Gozo

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