Collapsing Rock Arches


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Europe » Malta » Gozo » Xlendi
August 31st 2017
Published: September 1st 2017
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Louis and Lily again pick us up and we head off to catch the ferry to Gozo. We came to Gozo when we were in Malta two years ago. I am feeling a lot more relaxed about coming here this time now that I know that Issy's family was stretching the truth a bit when they told me that everyone here had two heads and rarely left their cave like homes. We thought that Gozo was really beautiful when we came here before, and we think that maybe the people from the main island are really a bit jealous of their Gozitan cousins.

We head towards the capital, Victoria, and its spectacular citadel. There was a lot of construction going on here when we visited last time, but this is now complete and the site is looking very clean and impressive. We visit the Citadel’s Cathedral and its museum, and then walk around the ramparts and admire the excellent views across the surrounding countryside.

We were very saddened to hear that Gozo's famous azure window rock arch collapsed during a storm about eighteen months ago, and I suspect that most of Malta is probably still in mourning over the loss of this iconic natural wonder. Louis tells us that there are fortunately still many similar, less spectacular but still standing rock arches around the coast of Gozo, and we head towards one of these near the village of Gharb. I think that the Maltese government was probably a bit relieved that no one was standing on or under the azure window when it collapsed, but it seems they're not taking any chances with any of their other rock arches. There is a pathway down towards this one, but there is a firmly locked gate blocking our way from getting anywhere near it. As we look past the gate we see that the lower part of the path, which it seems was once a steel walkway attached to the cliff, is now a pile of rusty steel and rubble down by the waterline, where it is being pummelled by the waves. I think that it is good that the Maltese government has decided not to take any chances with any of its other rock arches.

We drive back into Gharb and stop for lunch. There is a traditional red English phone booth in the square outside the restaurant. I'm not sure that they even have any of these in London any more, and it's been quite a few years since I remember seeing a phone booth of any sort in Melbourne. I'm not entirely sure that any of our offspring would know what a phone booth was. I hope that the residents of Gharb realise how privileged they are to have one of these icons in their main square. We had heard that progress is a bit slow in Gozo. I assume that the phone booth is here as an icon and not because none of the houses in Gharb have had phones installed in them yet.

We drive on to the Ta Pinu Basilica. In 1883 a young local girl heard the voice of the Virgin Mary here, and several miracles here have subsequently been attributed to the Virgin. We visited the church when we came to Gozo previously, but some very impressive mosaic murals have subsequently been added to walls which have been built in the forecourt.

We drive onto the popular and very picturesque seaside resort village of Xlendi which is built around a small bay surrounded by cliffs. I walk up some steps up the steep cliff face on one side of the bay to take some pictures. When I come back I see Issy and Lily swimming off into the distance. so I decide to swim after them. I see a boat coming straight at me. It seems that I am swimming across the main shipping channel. I wonder how I’ll go trying to swim back to shore after the boat‘s propellers have sawn off both my legs and half an arm. Not very well I suspect. I wave vigorously at the boat and at the last minute it swerves to miss me. Disaster averted.

We finish swimming and head back to the car. There is a sign in the car park saying that until the early 1960's Xlendi was a small fishing village. In winter it was virtually completely deserted, and the only residents were a policeman and the owner of a wine shop. I wonder how this arrangement came about. I can think of two possibilities. The first is that the owner of the wine shop was a dangerous career criminal who required constant one on one surveillance by a dedicated member of the police force. The second and more likely explanation involves long lunches and the hope that police work here in the early 1960s didn’t require a lot of good hand eye coordination.

We watch the sunset from Hondoq Bay which is not too far from the ferry terminal. From here we can see across to both Comino and Malta.

We catch the ferry back to Malta and head to the Balzan club, where we have arranged to meet up with Louis' brother and Issy's cousin Gabriel, and his wife Maria. Issy hasn't seen Gabriel since she left Malta as a three and a half year old in 1964. Gabriel was only five in 1964, but he says that he clearly remembers everyone crying on the dock as Issy's family left to start a new life in Australia. Gabriel was a decorated army officer and has been retired for five years now. He served some time in Iraq and Afghanistan, and shows us a big scar on his hand which he got when a land mine exploded.

Louis tells us that the Balzan club has been having trouble recently getting enough staff to cook and serve meals. We order three pizzas to share. After an hour and a half the waiter comes back to tell us that they have only made enough dough for seventy pizzas today, and our order has taken the total number ordered to seventy one. This is yet another excellent example of Murphy’s Law in action. The waiter offers us a hamburger and chips instead of one of the pizzas, and wants to know which of the three pizzas we ordered we don't want. The other bad news about this conversation is that we're pretty sure it means they haven't started to cook any of our food yet.

Louis hasn't had a lot of luck with ordering food today. He ordered lampuki pie for lunch. Lampuki is a local fish that migrates past the Maltese islands, generally during autumn, and is regarded as a local delicacy. Louis looked like he was drooling when he saw lampuki pie on the menu at lunchtime. It seems however that the waitress wrote down the wrong order. After about an hour's wait she came out with pumpkin pie instead. She then told Louis that it would take another hour to make the lampuki pie, so he decided to settle for a bowl of spaghetti instead. I think that the recipe for lampuki pie must be very complicated. I hope that's the reason and it's not that Malta's restaurateurs have taken a sudden dislike to Louis.


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