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Gorgeous Gozo

by Ben

sunny 14 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Xlendi: View from our apartment

Xlendi: View from our apartment

It is still a little hard to get our heads around the fact that we are visiting the tenth smallest country (approximate in terms of land area) in the world let alone staying on its smaller and less populated island. Gozzo is little bit like the Saltspring Island of Malta. Everyone who lives on Malta likes to come here for a daytrip or for a weekend in the winter and then abandon it to the tourists in the summer. The people of Gozzo are much like Saltspring Islanders in terms of maintaining a separate identity from their larger island neighbour. It supposedly would be an insult to call a Gozzon, Maltese.

We are staying in Xlendi, one of the most popular little communities on the island. We are on the top floor of an old apartment building that has been renovated off and on for the past 25 years. We have an incredibly large patio that has a commanding view of the small harbour below and of the unoccupied rocky hill and cliff opposite. It is certainly the most beautiful vista of any place we have stayed so far.

Xlendi: Our apartment balcony

Xlendi: Our apartment balcony

As has been the common theme for our entire stay along the Mediterranean, we needed to work at getting our place warm and address some defects but that is what you face in the rental price bracket we choose . Fortunately we have a gas space heater that does wonders and by the morning every inch of our totally glass fronted apartment was warm and toasty. We awoke to brilliant sunshine. The bright light revealed what we had already noticed when we arrived; our deck and windows were covered in sand and dust from previous storms. The housekeeper for the place hadn’t done much to prepare for our visit (many dead light bulbs etc). It was difficult to enjoy the view through all the dirt on the windows and enjoy the spacious deck due to the dirt. Fortunately, a broom, bucket, mop and squeegee were handy. If we were staying for four days I wanted to enjoy the full visual beauty. I spent an hour or two sweeping, opening storm shutters and washing windows and cleaning deck furniture. The result although not perfect was a vast improvement and I truly felt I had a million dollar view I could thoroughly enjoy.

Xlendi: Our homebase on Gozzo in Malta

Xlendi: Our homebase on Gozzo in Malta

The kids decided to enjoy a well-deserved break and stay in their jammies for a good part of the day. Meanwhile, Muriel and I got out to explore. We walked down a number of flights of stairs to get to the inlet below our apartment and headed up the walkway and eventually the rocky hill on the opposite side of the harbour. In the summer the inlet is usually still and transparent and a magnet for swimming. Today is was a bit wavy but still beautiful. A rough walkway has been built to a small cave that has an outlet into the inlet that swimmers can use. After exploring this feature, we hiked up the hill taking advantage of shallow steps that have been hewn into the hill to help farmers access the ancient rocky pastures above. It looks like these enclosures may have housed sheep or goats for grazing over the centuries although we saw none of either. The view from the top was absolutely brilliant. Just around the corner are cliff faces of a 100 meters or more and a view of a small fortress below. Any hill that is not solid rock has been terraced for pasture or for growing vegetables. It really was something out of a postcard.

As beautiful as the natural beauty is the human architecture leaves much to be desired. The practical and cheap multi-storey rectangular box is the only style used for residential construction. A flat roof for drying laundry and for housing each apartments water supply completes each building. Everyone has a water reservoir on the roof to create water pressure for their dwelling. The only bit of decoration on the building may be any archway for the front balcony and wrought iron or cement railing and these were not even universal features. Nearly every building is golden sandstone and the doors a rustic pine. The notable exceptions to these rough buildings are the abundant churches with their red domes. The population of Malta is less than 400,000 people but there are 365 churches on the island and each is capable of holding a sizeable congregation. The churches ring their bells several times a day noting prayer times and services.

Next to the Xlendi harbour is a gelato stand. We took a second trip down to the waterfront with the kids to have some dessert. We are really enjoying the prices here. A generous scoop of gelato complete with cookie and sprinkles or nuts is only a Euro. We had hot chocolate and cappuccino for the four us the afternoon before right by the water for just over five Euros.

We spent the rest of day just enjoying the view from our seventh storey apartment and each other’s company. We are feeling like we have the town mostly to ourselves even though we are in one of the most densely populated countries in the world. It also has one of the highest per capita rates of car ownership in Europe-but that is a story for another day.

It is never a good idea to generalize about a people, because you usually get it wrong. However here are a few impressions we have had of the people so far. They are not easy to smile and seem to have fairly stand offish mannerisms, although Hannah has described it more accurately gruffly hospitalible. The language is a mix of Sicilian, Arabic and English which is unlike anything we have heard before. It is semetic language and is the only semetic language that uses a latin alphabet. Malta is definitely unique unto itself in terms of unique layout of its villages and roads and the amount of churches.

Zoom in on the map below to get up-to-date on our recent travels.

Posted by KZFamily 12:03 Archived in Malta Tagged malta gozzo xlendi

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What a view! I'd be tempted to camp on the patio.

I read in the paper that there are plans for the vacant lot across the street from the hospital. The proposal mentions a Quality Foods, Shopper's Drug Mart, Tim Horton's (guess you'll be glad about that Hannah), Cascadia Liquor Store and more.

by Jane1

What a view! Isn't it an adventure renting apartments. You never know what surprises are in store, and so much more homey than hotels all the time! Gelato seems to be a recurring theme. Over here, Kindergatrten registration started today and the numbers are looking good. Choir sang at Pink in the Rink again and we really thrilled with the whole experience.

by CBecker

Dear Family,
Reading your wonderful updates is always such a joy. This is a lot better than reading any travel brochure. You sure must have put a lot of planning into this trip. Visiting the Mediterranean countries in the winter makes sense: you do not have to worry about the crowds and your weather seems to have been a lot more sunny than back home!
I also wonder if the price for a gelato would still only be one Euro in the summer? Enjoy and thanks again for sharing.
Wondering where your trails may lead you next.....

by Edith Roslee

21:30pst 01/28/13
Well, hit the wrong key and all went poof. Good thing is you will not get a long msg :)
One thing for sure is your trip has a base need, find local food at an affordable price at a grocery store. I'm surprised you have not discovered the more european way of another need, the Loo.. Another srory for sure.
I have a friend, about my age I think that I chat to on a cruising board (Gemma) who lives in Malta.
I sent her a msg to see if she has any thoughts for you all as I gather you still have a few days in the area.
As to the lack of dishes, might be tourists based on price bring their own as I know for us my SIL keeps a list of any item to be accounted for..
Amazing how an Island as you say becomes its own culture, just like us.
Have to admit, no blogs for a few days and then boom, a whole pile.
Great information by all
A lot of us in Victoria aeem to have this nasty cough again.. Enjoy the sun

by RobBar

Whoops... just in case my friend 'Gemma' reads this blog,, I meant to say "you must be way younger than me." :)

by RobBar

Rob - don't worry - we're in the same age group. This is such a detailed Blog I'm amazed. The people in Gozo are very insular and very different to the Maltese. For many years most of them had never found the need to cross over to Malta and I suppose it takes a few generations for attitudes to change. My niece lived in Gozo because of her husband's work a few years ago. She found that the Grocer would open at about 6am and close at noon, women would look down on her because she'd go to the village shop at about 9, they wouldn't dream of buying any frozen food and so on. She used to go regularly to the modern supermarket in Rabat (Arcadia). In fact there is even a difference between the residents of places like Xlendi, Rabat and Marsalforn which all have a number of tourists and the more isolated villages. You still see men in the bar while the women are at home cleaning, polishing, cooking. The younger generation has changed thanks to a good education system and so I suppose in a few years time the difference between the Gozitans and the Maltese will disappear.
Do e-mail me if you need any information.

by Gemma

gruffly hospitable...I like it!!

by Gordon

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