It is wonderful here in Gozo and we are enjoying life to the full, grateful for blessings. We are here now a week and a half, our second weekend already! The first week or so I was very busy with sourcing shops locally. In doing so I have started to explore the village where we live at this moment, Ghajnsielem. It takes me about 15 to 20 minutes to walk to the shops depending on how often I stop to admire something or to take a photo. At first, and because I went shopping during the closing hours (12 to 4pm) I thought that there were no shops at all except one supermarket on the main road between Mgarr and Victoria. But then I went to the village after four o’clock and discovered a bakery, a hardware store, a green grocer, and a small food shop, also several cafés. The fact is that generally there is nothing advertising that it is a shop, and when the door is closed you cannot see that it is a shop. Here is an example of the hardware store, it is one long narrow room filled with glass jars containing screws and nails and what have you, a delight to go hunting for something you need, and to be sure to find it!
But I’ll tell you a little more about this village.
It has a population of 3000 souls, there are several churches, the main one is in a neo-gothic style, rather impressive and amazing inside. Another older church is much smaller, was built mostly by voluntary labour of the farmers around the area and I fancy this one much more, it has simple architecture, and it has many steps leading up to it.
This is a photo of one of the squares in the village, I really like this square, people go and sit outside in the evening enjoying each other’s company, it is found in the oldest part of the village. There is a butcher shop in this square and a young woman who grows her own organic vegetables and sells a number of other products like gram flour and sesame seeds and so on… she has told me how to cook rabbit the Maltese way because I ordered some at the butchers, I like to cook at least some of the local dishes. I’m getting to know some people and finding so many friendly and helpful folks, making me feel at home.
But there are several other squares in this village, all with plenty of benches, important for Ian, but also nice to just sit and take in the atmosphere. Beautiful trees and flowers are also in plentiful supply in these squares.
There is also the huge Band club café where a coffee only costs 50cent. This is sort of the hub of the village where young and old gathers and where the local band holds its practice.
I like to walk through the narrow streets and the squares, there is a special atmosphere and often I find some beautiful features in the vernacular architecture using local limestone. Old doorways are also always a joy to admire and take photos of, they are so picturesque that I always feel I want to paint them, well this time I brought my watercolours and we’ll see how it goes. There is a lot to explore yet around here, I read that remains of a prehistoric temple complex are to be found within the limits of Ghajnsielem, but they have almost been destroyed by road building, but what does remain are two groups of megaliths, they were probably originally part of the same structure, can’t wait to plan a walk out there to go and see what I find.
These are photos of an old washing place, the source of the water is an ancient well and women used to communally do their washing here. The rest of the village would have been built around this area. The above photos are of a reconstruction of the original washing place, a shame that the original one got destroyed but at least the original well is still there and the water is still running! There is a story attached to this well. Long ago when the village was only starting to be formed a local farmer named Anglu Crech used to take his sheep and goats to this spring every single day, and because the sun was so hot he would take shelter under the surrounding trees and say his prayers. Well one day while doing this he saw an apparition of what he thought was Mother Mary who invited him to raise a statue close by and this the farmer, together with his friends, achieved and they would gather there in prayer, and eventually a church was built close by. It’s nice to learn something more about the places we stay, it makes it so interesting, it is the small church I was talking about above.
This photo is the neo-gothic church, I took it today and include it to show the blue sky and the way the sun shows off the honey coloured limestone which is most commonly used as building stone here and sourced locally. I have not messed around with this photo, the colours are real.
Close by is the library which is so small that I won’t have a problem reading those books that I fancy. I found some there on the history of the village, to my delight. Most of the books are for children and just like at home there was a class of them in there yesterday, all excited about getting their books. I was laughing as one little girl was told she could not take that many books because she had still some out… she went over to the table and found the books, just like what we often came across back home when I was still working in the library, I did not need to know Maltese to understand what was going on!
Also along the main road between Mgarr and Victoria, are some beautiful trees. It is an alternative route to the village from where we live and even though it is uphill all the way I like it because of the interesting plants and rocks along the way. So shopping is no hardship even without the car and as it is always nice outside the walking is a pleasure.
This is the view from our balcony, mostly in the day it is almost too warm to sit here, but in the morning and evening it is lovely. At night the view too is great with the lights of Malta and Comino in the distance. The ferries come and go every 45 minutes and there is always plenty of life to observe. There are little fishing boats at the marina, typically Maltese – at the moment they go out fishing for Lampuki, a fish locally used in traditional dishes. This fish migrates past the Maltese islands during the autumn so it is then that you can find it everywhere and it is very popular here.
One of the Luzzu boats, original Maltese fishing boats, they go out early in the morning or at night to try and get their catch. We used to see very many of them while staying in Marsaxlokk, Malta. Very colourful boats, and usually having an eye painted on its bow, said to protect the boat and those in it.
So this is only the beginning of another winter’s stay in Gozo and there will be plenty to discover and learn and write about, it seems that in order to experience a place fully I have to write about it, then it becomes more real for me. It is always very exciting though and no matter how many times I walk the same road, there is always something new to find and see or experience. Awesome! I hope that you all enjoy coming along with me on my journeys.