GGANTIJA TEMPLES

It has been quite a few days since I wrote in my blog, so now I am back and with pleasure. My sister was with us and we had so much to see and talk about that nothing came from writing. It was, of course, a very valuable time.

Gozo is still a place where, now after nearly two months I’m totally happy, relaxed, and feeling joy in everyday walking around the beautiful limestone houses, churches, other buildings and landscapes. The flowers, plants and insects are very attractive to me and to learn about them is a delight. The people are friendly and very nice. I have now attended two of my pillow lace making classes and have become friendly with the women there, delightful, and I just totally adore making the lace – well that is to say – learning the first stitches. It is a very relaxing activity and the work is beautiful to look at.

With December coming up there is a lot of activity planned by the local people to celebrate Christmas, religion is still very much part of it, which is only normal in my view and it is refreshing not to be in a total commercial way of celebrating Christmas. It is warm, feels like it is around 20C and sometimes over 20C. We have had thunder storms and one week of much needed rain, you could see the fields becoming greener as the days went by. Now I see farmers tending to their vegetable plots.

I cannot help taking photos, some of which I hope to use in starting to draw in pencil, and I like to share them too. This place is a photographer’s paradise if you are interested in architecture – which I am too. But also if you just like to document the local flora and fauna. I know that in the coming month I will have the opportunity to photograph people at their festivals and that too will be interesting.

And so I will share our last day together. My sister and I delighted as we visited the ancient temples in Xaghra and walked for two hours around that really charming town. We had a lovely lunch in the square as well. And we descended 10 meters down into the earth to look at caves, it was a strange feeling being in the bowels of the earth, very strange and my first time being in such a low cave, our heads nearly touching the ceilings.

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Man selling little jars of Carob syrup or honey on the way to the  temples.

Views of the Ggantija temples which date back to between 3600 and 3200 B.C.  The outer shell of the temples has been well preserved because it has been made from Coralline limestone which is hardwearing, while the inner structures like doors or altars had been made in the softer Globigerina limestone.

Lunch at a nice little eating place near the church and in the square was delicious.  We walked for hours along the narrow roads of this town, we saw beautiful lacy curtains on the double doors which is traditional here.  I love the arches, the different features in the architecture of the houses, and the use of a little colour is striking as seen in the blue paint on the gold stone.  Often people may be sitting on a bench or chairs and enjoying the peace of the place here in Gozo.  My sister Josefine posing near a beautiful historical door.

Inside the caves.  Though fascinating it is not totally my cup of tea, I was too aware of being so deep underground.

We came across this man making his lace.  My teacher later told me that he is the only ‘man’ in Gozo that makes lace.  His work was so very neat!

And this are the leaves, bark, fruit, and flower of the Carob tree (Ceratonia silique), and evergreen tree the pods of which are used here to make a syrup used for cough and sore throats.  Originally also used as animal fodder, the tree belongs to the pea family.

I hope to be back now to writing as I have so much to share of this amazing place.  All my senses are at top performance to take it all in and reflecting on it is what my blog at the moment is all about.  I hope my friends and followers will enjoy some of it too.

 

THE LAND – AFTER RAIN

It is nice to see that after the recent heavy rains on the Maltese islands, the land is showing signs of breathing easier, of coming to life again after the long drought which in some cases made the trees start to show signs of stress and the land of totally drying out. As can be seen on the photos, and these I took around Victoria, there is still a lot of small area farming going on, vegetables and grains are grown small scale by part-time farmers.

According to Philip von Brockdorff, (Department of Economics at the University of Malta), there are several challenges of agriculture on Gozo. Full-time farmers are becoming fewer and fewer, it is the way like it seems to be in other countries too, farmers are becoming older and their children are less and less interested in farming as a means of living. On the other hand part-time farmers have been very much on the increase. To help with the future of agriculture on Gozo, reliance on EU subsidies is unavoidable and useful and should help a lot with rural development.

Dairy and vegetable growing, especially tomatoes which are used for processing, of ketchup and sauces which are exported to many European countries, UK and Ireland being the largest importers.
There is some local wine produced too, and of course lovely local honey. It is lovely to see cottage industries on the rise where foods are produced locally.
One of the problems with food production on Gozo is the lack of regular precipitation. When we arrived here in beginning of October it had not rained for many months and you could see it on the land, the farmers sure were praying for rain! And now they got some of it and the growing can continue. There is a lovely acre of potatoes growing vigorously close by here. The photos I took on one of our walks around the outskirts of Victoria, show lots of small but fertile plots of land being worked on and producing some sort of crop. It is good to see, and to see similar all over Gozo.

I’ve only loosely written down some of my own observations and thoughts about agriculture on Gozo and I read the article which Philip von Brockdorff wrote back in 2013 in the Times of Malta. I’ve a lot more to read and understand about agriculture on the Maltese islands and in particular on Gozo. One of the observations which I made very soon after we arrived is that you see none or very little cattle on the land here, coming from Ireland that is really a big difference. It means that the animals both for consumption and for dairy are never on lovely green grass and I think that would make a large difference in the quality of the end product, this also goes for the eggs and poultry production. I guess we are very spoiled in this regard, but then every country needs to have its own ways of dealing with particular problems, in this case it is the lack of lots of lush grass to feed the cattle, the lack of precipitation and the thin layer of topsoil which plays a role I think.

One development I would like to see on Gozo is more organic farms, but then I don’t know if a lot of pesticide and fertilizer are being used here, I asked a vegetable seller at a stall in Victoria about this and he said that some of the vegetables he sells are produced by what they call the ‘old way’ he indicated that this meant that no or very little chemicals were used in the growing of them. Well, who knows.

You see all the lovely terraced fields around Gozo and you think that in times past the place must have been totally self sufficient when it came to food production. Something for me to read up on I guess.
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