FAREWELL GOZO, for the moment.

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A beautiful Red Admiral butterfly came across my path the other day, or was it I that came across its path.

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It is no wonder that we see bees and butterflies these days, the abundance of flowers is breathtaking, such a joy for both insects and humans.

Both in the wild and cultivated the delightful colours of flowers greet one, every inch of towns and village are made beautiful by these displays.

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In another day we are leaving Gozo for the summer months, we are already looking forward to coming back though I must say that we are also looking forward to spending the summer in Ireland and seeing everyone again.  Most of all we are just grateful for everyday we can live in peace and in beautiful nature among family and friends.  Living in the moment is the best way to enjoy life.

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We will leave some friends behind and the many people we interacted with the last few months have been lovely and very generous with stories, information and their time.

I’ve had a lovely and interesting time with my Gozitan bobbin lace making class, my great teacher, and fellow students, it was very enjoyable and I learnt a lot, and discovered that making lace can become addictive.

Ir-Rabat has been a wonderful place to live in and explore, all the artistic corners and the lovely ambience that is tangible in this great town have been top class, and the Citadella has been top of the list as have the little alleys around St.George Basilica and St.Francis Square too, and of course the library there.

Gozo has had so much to offer us, nature, people, art and culture, all much enjoyed.

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We are very grateful, that is Ian and myself, for having found a flat in Ghajnsielem for next winter, the view from the place is incredible, more and new adventures await, all being well.

Feeling very grateful and appreciative to avail of this opportunity.  So for now it is back to Ireland and to West Cork.  I must have taken thousands of photos while here and in the coming months will still be posting stories about Gozo, that is for sure.  But for the moment I am taking a week off from blogging, we will be with family in UK for several days, I will not be near WiFi perhaps.  So I wish all my dear friends and followers a good week, thank you for reading my blog, and see you soon.

PEACEFULNESS AND BEAUTY

Somewhere on the island of Gozo, towards the west lies a small village called L- Ghasri, it is close to the sea and high up on a hill the Ta’Gurdan lighthouse keeps watch over the land and the sea. A little way inland a basilica was build many years ago in request of the Blessed Virgin according to a local woman who had received this request in a vision when she was praying in a chapel standing on the same site where the basilica is now today.

The Blessed Lady of Ta-Pinu basilica stands tall and majestically in the middle of fields full of, at this time, colourful spring flowers. A few days ago I paid the area a visit. In the brochure it said that the place is one of peacefulness. This Ta-Pinu is a sanctuary, it is a place where pilgrims go and where sometimes people get healing.

It was a beautiful morning with a warm sun shining over the land. I took the bus to my destination which it reached from Ir-Rabat in less than ten minutes. I had read that the church is built in the Romanesque Revival style so there was interesting architectural treasures to discover, the beautiful sculptures, fine capitals and mosaics I noticed immediately. Among my favourites are the stunning mosaics over the main altar in gold and bright colourings. But also the intricately woven stone carvings of the capitals and other decorations. In the background and very quietly there was Gregorian chant being played, well I was not sure as it sounded so real and I did notice that there were people and a priest celebrating mass so I thought maybe somewhere hidden there were also monks singing… no not true. But really the atmosphere did get me and I felt ver peaceful.

Coming out and back into the blazing sun I turned my attention to the surroundings, and what a beautiful panorama I could see! Towards the South lies another village called Gharb. But I decided to go and have a look at L Ghasri, a picturesque and very small village, on the walk along to the first of the houses I noticed many wild flowers, some of which I had not seen yet on Gozo, so photos had to be taken you can imagine. Lizards darted here and there on the warm limestone. I chatted with a lady sitting in her doorway and also talking to a South African man who was visiting too. After a lovely walk I went looking for the bus stop to return home, but on the way a local friend happened to be passing and gave me a lift, his car loaded with stones for building something and his dog was also in tow, and more chatting of course was done.

The day had passed in a most lovely way, getting the feel of the land, the people, and their heritage is something I really enjoy here, as everywhere really.  I hope you enjoy my photos.

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TA-PINU GOZO

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The small village of L-Ghasri has many beautiful corners and little alleys, and it is so peaceful and quiet there, expect for some birds singing and people talking.

These shrines are often found on older farm houses.

 

MUSIC FOR THE SOUL

Ever since we came to Gozo, and from our own choice we have lived without radio or Television, because we wanted to do other things with out time. But we do use our laptops to keep up with world events. We are finding that we go about our business in the flat either singing, humming, or whistling and that’s fine, however, music means a lot to me, an awful lot if it is the kind I enjoy and so I have been keeping an eye on events here in Gozo, an eye on upcoming concerts. There have been quite a few during the winter and I have not always taken advantage of them. The Gozitans love their music, Ir -Rabat has got not one but two opera houses in full use. Many of the churches also have their choirs, and children’s choirs abound. I have heard their singing and it has been very appealing.

Anyway, the other day I saw this poster, it said Gaulitana – A Festival of Music and I noticed that this Festival was happening right now. Going down the list of concerts I found out that there was a lunch-time concert coming up the next day, to be held in the Old Hospital on St.Francis Square, this building is lovely to look at and houses the Minister of Gozo Hall now. One of its front halls is used to show exhibitions some of which I have attended, and the concert was to be held in the other hall which used to be the hospital’s chapel, a lovely room hung with paintings and having an arched ceiling. The program looked totally my cup of tea; recorder music of the early and Renaissance periods by Jacob van Eyck, Telemann and Jean Braun. The musician, Romero Ciuffa played on three different recorders, the Ganassi recorder for the first pieces, the Alt recorder for the Telemann and the bass recorder for the Jean Braun compositions. Romero explained all about the different types of recorders and a bit about the music too. It was wonderful, the music was so uplifting and the audience very appreciative you can imagine. What a wonderful way to spend a lunch time!

I often listen to some music on YouTube and find a good variety, I also follow some Facebook sites specialising in Baroque and early music, it gives me immense pleasure. Music is such a joy, it connects us with the very fibre of the land and with the souls of the people.

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Last two photos are the two opera houses in Ir -Rabat

THE FERRY PORT OF MGARR

Mgarr in Gozo has been a fishing harbour and a Ferry port since medeaval times, since the thirteenth century. In the olden days a small jetty was used for passengers to board a ship and for fishermen to unload their catch, it is still there just below the Gleneagles bar.  (which by the way was the name of a ship which operated between Malta and Gozo 1885 – 1914)

The little town was build around this harbour. Further away from the port the rocky shore rises high and steep and is now quite built up in parts. The oldest part of Mgarr still has this feel of days gone by about it, and is quite charming. There are little restaurants and chairs and tables outside where one can watch the goings on of boats and fishermen, but also sample nice fresh seafood of course.  There is a chapel high up on the cliffs, and a plantation of trees near Fort Chambray which also overlooks Mgarr from the West.  We often come here as there is a lovely walk along the shore.  There is a great buzz also of comings and goings.  I guess though that there is even more to Mgarr and that I will discover more in future, something that to look forward to.   I have enjoyed it very much so far.

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Overlooking Mgarr Ferry Port, taken from Ghajnsielem.

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This is the
Il-Kcina Tal-Barrakka Restaurant during winter, so no tables outside.

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A great vantage point where men sit, chat and watch the world go by.

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Down at the water and the colourful fishing boat brighten everything up, there are also many modern yachts, and a variety of ferries and pleasure cruise boats.

WISHPERING TREES

“If you reveal your secrets to the wind, you should not blame the wind for revealing them to the trees.”  Kahlil Gilbran

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Trees have always been my among my best friends, I love the feel of being near to them, their scent, their whispering, rustling of leaves, the first buds opening in spring, their beautiful and delicately fresh young green filtering the first rays of the warming sunshine. So much about trees talks to me and inspires me. But I also like to know their botanical names, their medicinal uses, and their importance in the landscape and to the earth. I’ve been taking photos of trees here on Gozo, but obviously I am not familiar with most of them. Some of the trees that came to my attention a lot here are the Olive and the Carob tree, two most lovely trees that produce health giving and delicious fruits. The Eucalyptus grows here too, I’m quite familiar with this tree as it grow in Ireland too.  I know there is a lot more to learn and explore about trees on the Maltese islands, something to look forward to next winter.
I’m just going to add photos to my post as I am still working on identifying and looking up information on the tree in my pictures.

Foto above are a row of Aleppo Pine  Pinus Halepensis (Siġra taż-Żnuber/Siġra tal-Prinjol)

20170305_151310Bark of above Aleppo Pine

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More photos of the above Aleppo Pine.

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Young shoots.

Strongly scented sticky resin, and some of the open cones to the right.

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CARNIVAL IN VICTORIA – GOZO

Last week, and for five days there were carnival celebrations on the Maltese islands. Gozo had celebrations in all the different villages, and then for several days also in Victoria, the main town. I’ve never been one for carnival, I had always looked down on the wildness that I had seen snatches of on TV, but I never knew it could be good fun too and here on Gozo it is a very family oriented festivity with plenty of choreographed dancing, some of it beautiful to watch, and very colourful. So many children and young people taking part. They work hard to get their moves all year long, it creates a good community spirit and comradery and that’s got to be good for a town. I’m just going to share some of my photos, in the past week I did not do anything on WordPress as I was out sick, and then I was touring Gozo with a friend, so no time or energy to write and post, but back on track now and I have plenty of new photos of Gozo to share.

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A WILD FLOWER WALK

Yesterday I decided it was time to explore one of the cliff villages of Gozo. Ta-Sannat, and Il-Munxar were on the program, then to walk back from there to Ir-Rabat. It was a beautiful sunny and warm morning. Not sure what to expect as I had not read up on these villages, I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity of wild flowers that were in bloom, it really did fill out my inventory and photos of wild spring flowering plants that I have encountered so far here on Gozo. I was rather overwhelmed at the diversity, never having seen such a variety yet around the other villages, but that could be because the further in spring we get, the more flowers will be opened. The bees were buzzing, probably because the sun was rather hot, birds were singing, including the canary birds that many people here own and give fresh air whenever they can. Ta-Sannat also proved to be the first village where I heard a cock crow and saw horses and cattle outside. I got a lovely feel of the place, it is situated high enough for one to see the surrounding villages, like Ix-Xewkija, and Il-Munxar, I could also see the sea at L-Imġarr (Mgarr) from where I stood, and part of Victoria. A wide horizon is visible, and virtually the whole island of Gozo can be seen. The village itself was quiet, I was chatting with a lady in a small shop, apart from that and from the usual vegetable van which I had encountered on most of my village trips, all was still.
I know that there are quite a few things that I missed seeing around Ta-Sannat; the cliffs, the dolmen, the temple, and the ancient car ruts, but these were all outside the village and I did not like to go and see them on my own. I have a plan though, next time we spend the winter in Gozo I will link up with some friends to do things I do not like to do on my own, these activities will be on that list, I will organise that.
After taking many photos of the wild plants and flowers I started to walk toward the village of Il-Munxar. This is a very pleasant walk, it takes one along a whole stretch of farm land, land at this moment full of vegetables and here and there a farmer tending to his plants, heaps of manure were also to be seen lying ready to be spread out on places that were bare. I had a chat with one farmer who was obviously enjoying being on the land on such a sunny morning. Il-Munxar is another small village lying between Ta-Sannat and Ix-Xlendi, there is a walk that takes one from the Ferry Port of L-Imġarr (Mgarr) along these coastal villages toward Ix-Xlendi, the walk must be so beautiful as all along there are to be seen the highest cliff of Gozo. In Il-Munxar where I walked some bit out of the village, I saw meadows so full of flowers, like a painting with full blocks of bright yellow, so cheerful I just sat and watched it all and tried to take it in so I could take it away in my heart and mind, such a beauty!
Eventually I kept walking toward Ir-Rabat (Victoria) and reached there well in time to share lunch with Ian who had been at home meanwhile and working on writing his children’s book. We both excitedly shared our mornings adventures and decided once again how much of soulmates we really are and how thankful we can be for all that we are given day by day.

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A SPRING IN MY STEP

Some days ago I decided on a trip to Santa Lucija, a village which is said to be probably the first human settlement in the Maltese islands. It’s not far from Ir-Rabat, but I took the bus and my plan was to walk back. The day was lovely, excellent weather for a long walk, the form was good, an inward smile that I sometimes find difficult to suppress, and which happens quite often when I’m walking on this great island, was making me light-hearted, and I had a spring in my step.

It is said that caves in the area (Il Mixta) of Santa Lucija were peopled by early settlers, this would have been around 5000-4500BC, or during the Neolithic period. At this stage people are said to have come to Gozo from Southern Sicily, according to similar pottery style found in both places. It is only after this period and around 700BC that the Phoenicians are said to have colonised Malta and Gozo. Remains of a settlement during the Punic period have also been found around this hamlet. The Punic period was followed by the Roman and Medieval times. The Romans took over from the Phoenicians in 218BC. Some sources think that Santa Lucia had a Roman settlement as shown by lots of Roman artefacts found at and around the village. After this time the Maltese islands were conquered by a whole variety of colonizers, at some stage nearly the whole population of Gozo was led into slavery or killed. Santa Lucija, like most other villages grew out of a hamlet, the hamlet was called St.Katerina at the time. It grew into a decent village with a good variety of different trades being practised, and many farms were to be found around the area too, to this day there are still many farms around this village, the land is very fertile due to natural springs. Like many of the other villages I visited on Gozo, there is a stillness about the streets, a tranquillity, only the birds I heard singing and the odd car would pass me. The little church was closed, the façade simple and small, but with a stylish bell tower.  The motto of Santa Lucija is “I pour light upon my fellow citizens” and this has everything to do with St.Lucija being the saint of the visually impaired, obviously people in the past would have travelled here for help with their eyesight.

I did not walk to the caves all though I did want to go and see them, but not on my own. I saw the old mill, and the remains of It-Torri tal-Warda. Because Santa Lucija is actually a hamlet belonging to the village of Kercem, I only had to keep walking direction Victoria to arrive in Kercem and later on to find myself back in Victoria, it was a lovely walk, a couple of kilometers. From various places I could see the dome of the St.George Basilica which showed me that I was still going in the right direction, and as it was, it was there that I was heading – to sit down in the square and relax with a well deserved cup of coffee.
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The It-Torri tal-Warda, this was a sort of watch tower, standing in the middle of the fields at the time it was apparently used by the landlord to oversee his field labourers and prevent thieves from stealing the produce of the land. The tower was damaged during a storm.

Top left is the remains of Il-mithna, the windmill which used to have sails to catch the wind and make it function.

 

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The whole village is surrounded by farmed land.

SIMPLICITY

“As we live and as we are, Simplicity – with a capital “S” – is difficult to comprehend nowadays. We are no longer truly simple. We no longer live in simple terms or places. Life is a more complex struggle now. It is now valiant to be simple: a courageous thing to even want to be simple. It is a spiritual thing to comprehend what simplicity means.”
― Frank Lloyd Wright, The Natural House
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Santa Lucija, Gozo