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

XAGHRA VILLAGE IS PEACEFUL

For some days now I’ve been saying that I should visit the village that we can see from our walk on the outskirts of Victoria, high up on the hillside it towers above the countryside. I was intrigued to know more about it. On the map I could see that the village is called Xaghra (pronounced shara with the ‘SH’ of Schindler) Its population is around the 5000! Seeing that the Ġgantija megalithic temples, as well as a stone circle are found there – it must be one of the earliest areas on Gozo of human habitation.

I found the village very peaceful, the little streets picturesque, and the ambience friendly. On this visit I did not go into the temples, nor visited the windmill which, by the way, dates back to 1725. That, as well as the caves with its stalactites and stalagmites, is planned for a visit in the near future. I started off by visiting the church (our Lady of Victories) always curious about what the magnificent Baroque façade will reveal on the inside. It was well worth it too, though too ornamental for my taste. After that I walked for a long time along the narrow streets, just enjoying the limestone houses, some really old and brittle, some quite new. I eventually ended up at a museum of toys where I was shown around all the amazing things of the past, a very interesting place and very nice people to welcome you.

One very interesting building I came across, and will talk about this further down among the photos of it.

I walked for hours (my workout for the day) and took the bus home to Victoria which drove there in 5minutes, I still cannot believe how close together all the places are here.
A wonderful day it was!
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Below are the photos of the building I wanted to talk about.  Though I know nothing about it actually, only what I can see and deduct.  Both the older and the newer building are literary built on rough rock, I just wonder how this is possible, it looked as if the buildings were just plunked loosely on top, but I am sure that cannot be the case.  Also the grey rock seems different material to the regular limestone that is used here as building material.  It’s killing me and I just have to find out more about it.  The last two pictures I took to the side of the older building, there seems something going on with the cement (not sure what type of cement it is)  it gives an interesting and lovely design in the last photo.  I did see this sort of thing also on some of the other buildings in the village.  On my next visit I will go to the town council and try and find out more.  The limestone of the Maltese islands has me totally bewitched.

The lady at the toy museum is a goldmine of information, she showed me so many of the toys, explaining all about them.

NATURAL DIVERSITY ON GOZO

I walked up a rocky path along the deep blue water today.
Lizards were scuttling about all over the place. Their green skin beautiful. It was sunny and hot, very hot, water dripped from my cap and down my forehead. I saw so many wild flowers and plants around me and I wanted to record them all, like I usually do. It is then I saw the black bees, lovely, a type I do not know.
People are swimming in the creek this afternoon, and snorkelling and diving. The walk takes me up along the hot rocks, and then down to a small cave and to the water. The views are magnificent. The rocky outcrop consist of limestone in white, grey, black, and brown. I take photos, lots of them. The rocks are quite eroded in some places, making for interesting shapes and hollows.

GOZA’S NATURAL HERITAGE

This morning we made our first walk in Gozo. We are staying in Xlendi which is a little place on the South-West of the island. It consists of what looks like a ravine, or a mini-fjord, and is flanked on the one side with apartments built in honey coloured limestone, and with rocks and short shrubbery on the other side.

DSCF4526We are staying in one of the apartments, ground floor at the front door, but a very high fourth floor on the opposite side where the balcony is.

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The apartment does not get much sun as it is NW facing, only when the sun is about to go down do we see any of it, nice to get the setting sun, however, it does make the place here rather chilly for the time of year, and for the first time since we arrive on the Maltese island have I had to wear thermals inside. Outside, though it is glorious, lovely and warm in the sun, and the sky blue without any cloud. Obviously we are going to be outside most of the time, soaking up the sun as much as all the history and architecture of the island, but this morning I concentrated on the natural heritage which is simply amazing and so interesting.

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We walked down a path only a stone’s throw away, and discovered a wealth of wildlife and flora, we also saw the most beautiful blue sea and rocks stretching as far as the eye could see. I got working with taking macro photos of the flowers and insects while Ian strolled on and sat resting on one of the many benches. One of the most pleasing factors was the sea breeze which was both refreshing and warmly scented.

The flower of the Mallow plant, and an ant lost on the large hot rocks. The shrubs and wild plants are low and stay small mainly because there is such a water shortage here, it is April right now and the people have not seen any rain since the New Year. The rocky soil also contributes to the stunted growth of the plants. Everywhere we see lizards, beautiful little creatures, very fast, though they love to just sun bathe, difficult subjects to take photos of.  Their colour varies, but like this one green seems to predominate.

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There is a steep road down to the little harbour, apparently at some time there are many of the Gozitan fishing boats anchored there, but now, now we only saw clear aqua marine water and fish of which I do not know the name.

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This is the path leading down to the sea, there is also another path that leads over the hill towards the tower seen on the left and to some of the salt pans. But that is going to be a walk for another day.

 

 

In the photo on the right, Lichen, these lichen are growing colourfully on some of the rocks, the rocks are mainly limestone, with plainly to see fossils.

Here is one of the fossils, they are so interesting and make for an exciting walk, to think that these creatures are the makings of the sedentary rocks surrounding us.

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One of my favourite photos and views of the morning was this flower, the name of it escapes me totally, please if someone knows can you tell me.  It was delicately scented.

DSCF4590Among other plants and trees I’ve seen are the African Tamarix trees here, they are considered an endangered species, but seem to do well here.

And yet another creature I came across, a type of beetle I guess.

I know that there is a lot more to explore in nature here, this is only the first day and we have a whole month here.  I hope to keep writing about what I discover and illustrate with my photos.  Thanks for reading, I hope that you enjoyed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE EYE IS DRAWN UPWARDS

As we walked through the gates of Valetta city I was impressed with the modern design of the enormous and fabulous building that rose up in front of me, what an effect it has on one! We walked over the beautifully paved floor toward a couple of chairs and tables and drank our coffee while taking in the view, it was very pleasing to the eye, first of all the gate itself which you come to by crossing over a bridge, looking down into the ancient surrounds of the city, I felt dwarfed walking through the gates, and then this unusual building on stilts, façade covered in Limestone (sourced from the island of Gozo). I read that the architect of this building, which by the way is the new Parliament building, was Renzo Piano, an Italian architect and engineer, who has designed some other wonderful buildings and projects, among them the Paul Klee Centre in Bern, Switzerland. The building of the Parliament House was part of the City Gate Project, it also included the open air theatre. The stone which was cut in Italy was perfectly smooth and sharply angular. I just loved it, it enticed the eye upwards where the honey coloured construction made a perfect line against the blue sky. What an entrance to a city, I don’t think I have ever seen something like this before.

On the way out of the city, Ian drew my attention to the stone slabs on the floor of the square – I was still looking up – and what we saw there delighted us too, fossils on every single slab, beautifully smoothed to a perfectly shiny surface, but clearly visible.

I’ve added some photos but I don’t think they do justice to the experience one is treated to when actually there, still it is a try.

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I got to thinking about these huge structures, the massive high walls made of stone, the amazing way the stone is held together and the buildings are engineered, and I must admit that they give me a feeling of being protected, against what – I do not know, and why we build such huge structures I know even less, I only now realise that they can have a good effect on one, I noticed it at first while we were in Budapest recently and the solid buildings made me feel more grounded, maybe it is something personal, maybe I am in nature so much of the time that I literally disappear in the landscape, maybe a little bit of being among huge man made structure is good for one too. Who knows, all I realise is that it has a good effect on me and for that right now I am very grateful.

ROCKS AND FOSSILS

Malta is entirely composed of sedimentary rocks. The specific area around Marsaxlokk consist of Globigerina Limestone. Globigerina Limestone is a soft stone that is easily eroded. It is full of planktonic fossils and according to what I read this indicates that its deposition was in deep waters below wave action. I have seen this soft Globigerina Limestone around here and have some samples, it is white and fine grained. My interest though, has mainly been in the upper Globigerina Limestone which is harder, coarser, and honey coloured, it is used as a building material, and has been since ancient times in the island, I love its colour and texture, it also makes the villages look bright and full of light. I have walked along the houses of this village and seen the fossils in the walls of the older buildings, fascinating and beautiful! We have also stayed in a Maltese house that is 200 years old, its stone walls bare and hand cut, I did get to thinking one night while I should have been sleeping, about the fact that all that surrounded me was fossilised beings, once alive, now there in another form, amazing to ponder on.  The walls throw out a warmth and a good feeling.

Anyway I am not a geologist, but I have a life-long interest in stones and minerals, and have a huge collection at home, I cannot resist picking up more stones, though these days it is to take photos of them, examine them with a magnifying glass, and ask myself what they could be (luckily for me I have a good Geologist friend). So I am going to post photos of some of the interesting stones I found along the beach at Marsaxlokk, but also some of the fossils I found along the walls of the village houses.

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What a fossil!

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 Tempestite is a storm deposit. Tempestites are rocks which show evidence of a strong storm, which have redeposited pre-existing sediments.  This happens in shallow waters, and it are the waves that redeposit the sediments.  I found this little gem of information on Wikipedia.org

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This is a conglomerate rock type.

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Here I am not sure, but found quite a few of these rocks that had what seemed a layer of fossils or some sort of deposit (the white stuff).

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This on the same rock, a beautifully intricate design (fossil) can be seen here.

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Me examining one of the rocks

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The coarser, honey coloured upper Globigerina Limestone

Two samples, one the chalk, the other I think is more of the upper Globigerina Limestone

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Somewhere I read that the holes could have been made by mollusc boring into the soft material back in time?

Some of the fossils I found in the walls of old houses, I obviously only took photos of them and let them be where they were.  So beautiful, but as far as I believe this house is marked for restoration, I hope they will preserve the fossils.

I have loads more photos of stones, rocks and fossils that I came across here, it has been one of the highlights of my stay in Malta, I hope that some of my dear blogger friends will have enjoyed these wonderful creations as much as I am.   And I would be very pleased and happy to listen to reactions and knowledge from other Rock enthusiasts.

Websites which I have found interesting are:  http://www.sandatlas.org/limestone/#comment-40236 and http://karsteneig.no/2013/11/malta-a-country-shaped-by-limestone-and-a-bit-of-very-old-shit/#comment-15952    and    http://www.maltainsideout.com/11993/living-stones-a-brief-guide-to-maltas-geology/

 

 

 

THE BEAUTY OF MALTA

Soaking up the sun while staying in this fishing village in the South of Malta. Lots to see and lots to write about, but all my energy has gone into actually enjoying things that come our way; so far it’s been on the sea, the warmth of the sun, the local people, the seafoods and the amazing, most beautiful limestone buildings. All I can share right now are photos. In a minute I am off to document a procession here at the local church, something truly local and belonging to the people of Malta, that I want to witness. But I will be back with more stuff.

And some more photos.

ANGLESEY ABBEY

During last week we were privileged to make a visit to Anglesey Abbey and gardens near the village of Lode in the UK. A faint sun and a slight cold wind made the walk around the gardens pleasant enough. There was so much to be seen, I did not know where to turn may attention first. The lovely fresh snowdrops made a carpet underneath the beautiful ancient trees their branches low to the ground.
Here and there I could see some yellow aconites among the snowdrops.  Further along a splash of bright lilac among the borders were the European cyclamen.  The hellebores also gave us a most pleasing show, many different varieties.

The lanes and walk ways weave along the shrubs and trees giving off a wonderful woody scent even in winter, now and then there was a gate which opened up into a landscaped space created according to historical values, all along there are interesting sculptures, some of them covered right now against the cold weather.

The abbey itself, was established in 1236 as an Augustinian priory, and is a beautiful Jacobean building in almost white limestone.  I did not get a chance to go inside the building but took the tour around it with a guide who told us a huge amount of history about the building.  Everywhere I saw beautiful features, the layout of the out-buildings and the surrounding gardens, especially the rose garden, were nice and interesting.  I could imagine how nice the scent of all the roses during the summer months.

We did not walk as far as the mill, but I am sure that I will visit this place again as we are due back in the area during the summer.  The place is in care of the National Trust by the way.

I do hope that you enjoy my photos, it just goes to show that even during the winter months there is so much to see and enjoy in nature, something to be very grateful for.