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Published: January 20th 2015
Lidl Welcomes You to Gozo. If ever there was proof that they are taking over the World, it is there staring you in the face as we enter Mgarr harbour - gateway to Gozo.
There was no plan to take in Gozo during our stay on Malta, but that ever comprehensive bus network and bargain ticket had tempted us up to the top of the island. Mosta was the initial aim of the day, but the much vaunted Miracle of Mosta did little to hold our attention for more than 1/2 an hour. The Rotunda of Mosta sits in the centre of town and is without doubt a fine church in it's own right. The dome is the 3rd largest unsupported version in the world. The infamy of the building however stems from the attempts by the Luftwaffe to test out whether it could survive a direct hit. On 9th April 1942, a bomb hit the roof but failed to explode and allegedly bounced off down the street. The good folk inside at the time were lucky and the church has survived quite nicely on the tourist income the near miss has provided ever since. The tourist group being shown
round inside when we arrived were taking an active interest in their fore fathers activities, so we hung back until the party had moved off. The replica bomb is housed in a small room to the left of the alter area and is a bit of an anti-climax. The postcard and souvenir seller sits behind his stall eager to relieve of any stray Euros.
There seemed little else to amuse us in Mosta, so we boarded a bus for Cirkewwa - ferry port to Gozo. The modern ferry terminal could be anywhere and there is nothing to see of note. A hotel near the entrance suggests that others take a diferent view. At just over 4 Euros for a return trip, it made sense to head to Gozo. Gozo is visible across the channel and the trip only takes 20 minutes. The majority of passnegers were just like ourselves ............. curious having exhausted land on which they could travel free on their Malta bus pass tickets. A couple of barefoot hippy backpacker types were looking for escape and a few were Gozo residents going home. The ferry reversed out of the harbour in a strange fashion with the bow
door not appearing to be fully closed. The Man in the Middle started comparing it to events of yesteryear in Zeebrugge ............ Anyway, all was well and in 15 - 20 minutes we were sailing into Mgarr harbour in a similar fashion. A large church dominate the small harbour. A spare ferry was moored up to one side with it's Lidl logo. A few taxis waited on the jetty. They were keen to do business at 5 Euros for the trip to Victoria, the capital and only significant town. We would opt for a bus as usual. A new ticket was required, as Malta tickets are not valid on Gozo. A red double decker also waited patiently on the harbour. It was one of those hop on hop off shuttles that people seem intent on paying ridculous sums for, when the same trip could be had for a fraction of the sum on the regular bus service. In the summer of course, there is the added bonus of getting a burnt head as well as the lighter wallet!
I made a schoolboy error on spotting the Rotunda of Xewkija and we alighted from the bus. The desire to get
the photo left us some distance from the actual capital. The plus point was that there was nobody else much around. Alas, that included other buses. We had become spoiled on Malta, where buses run thick and fast. The Rotuda has a dome larger than Saint Paul's in London and a capacity of 3,000. Photo complete, we wandered off down the road and fortunately another bus route converged on the junction so in a few minutes we were on our way. The downside of that was that the Gozo Stadium was just across the way and there was no time for an inspection visit. The ground has been extensively renovated for a UEFA U17 tournament last May and now has a capacity of 1,644 - somewhat less than the church up the road. I was left wondering about the average crowd in the Gozo Division 1 and the average attendance at Church on a Sunday morning up the road!
Victoria (also commonly referred to as Rabat, but not the same one as on Malta) is the capital. We arrived at the loosely described Bus Station a few minutes on after Xewkija. The car park at Lidl was more substantial.
The whole population of Gozo is 37,000, so the town is a bit more than just a backwater with a few shops. The Citadel was above us, so we climbed in the general direction. We were amused by the signs stating Victoria Centre, as there was no immediate sign of a John Lewis anchor store. The route was not as straightforward as it could have been. Gozo Council or whoever were taking advantage of winter to dig up the roads and pavements to beautify it for the following tourist season. Digging seemed a popular winter sport on Gozo - even the Bus Station was not exempt.
The Citadel is worth a look, although “closed” was pretty much the order of the day for most of the attractions. A view over the island was available from the walls. The big camera prompted a couple to seek my assistance for their holiday snap. They are possibly considering whether that was a good decision, as we speak. The journey back across to the “big island” was a bit more lively than the outbound sailing. The sea legs were required, as a brisk wind was blowing. The Merchant Navy heritage came in handy.
The newspaper headline in the Times of Malta the following day was all about how financially challenged the Ferry Company was at the moment. Good job, we got back when we did then! We broke up our return journey with a side trip to Bugibba, where the Man in the Middle had a brother of a friend to visit. We spent an unproductive ½ an hour in a pub that could have been transported from anywhere estate in the UK – the said person not being in attendance. The rest of the street was identical, catering to the summer visitors who must head for this plastic destination rather than the culture of Valletta. If I was generous and thinking of something positive to say about the place, it did redeem itself with the strongest wi-fi signal of the trip
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