Posted by Vi Warkentin on
Gozitans are the inhabitants of Gozo, the second largest island in the Maltese archipelago in the Mediterranean. Some of the nicest and kindest people on the planet live here. We spent a day wandering around this tiny and peaceful island in the Mediterranean.
A short ferry ride from the main island of Malta took us past the tiny island of Comino, arriving at the Harbour of Mgarr located on the eastern edge of Gozo and the town of Ghanjsielem. The island itself is no bigger than Manhattan - 14 km at its length and just over 7 km in width.
Gozo is home to the world’s oldest free-standing structures, the Ggantija temples, built during the Neolithic period (making these temples over 5500 years old!). We had planned to make a second trip out to Gozo before heading home but plans changed and, sad to say, I never got the chance to see the Ggantija temples after all! I was relieved to know that I got the chance to see Hagar Qim, on the main island of Malta earlier in the trip - one of the world’s oldest free-standing structures.
Even with its tiny size, the island of Gozo has 22 churches!
In the center of the island is Victoria, the capital of Gozo but fondly referred to by Gozitans as Rabat.
The cathedral within the citadel in Victoria.
We wandered out of town on foot to the west side of the island, in hopes of locating a place I had read about (an important centre of pilgrimage for the Maltese people) - a chapel from medieval times and also the tomb of Carmela Grima, a local fieldworker who, in 1883, heard the voice of the Virgin Mary summoning her to the nearby chapel in the countryside.
I didn’t know exactly what road we needed to take to get there. Besides, it wasn’t like the island was that big so with my tiny map in hand, we headed out. Along the way, we found fields filled with calla lilies - growing wild everywhere!
Each time we thought we were close as we came to the next town along the road, the locals would point west and say “about 15 more minutes that way”. And so we walked…. and walked… and walked some more, through a few more towns, each time being told, “oh, it’s about 10-15 minutes that way”, always pointing down the road in the direction we were headed. Another interesting thing we noticed was that many of the homes had keys hanging in the locks. (At the end of our day, we inquired with one of the taxi drivers about the keys in the doors of homes and he looked at us oddly. “Well, how would your neighbour get in if they needed something and you weren’t home at the time? It’s still small island mentality here in Gozo where people know and trust one another”, he said. We, no doubt, met some of those wonderful people that day!
Now back to our wandering in the countryside of the Gozitans.
We finally arrived at the medieval chapel (or at least WE thought we had) and took a very quick tour on our own through the church (which I thought was in great condition, by the way, for a structure from medieval times!) We had wandered for such a lengthy time in the Gozo countryside looking for this place that time was ticking away and we had to get back to the other side of the island to catch the last ferry back to Malta. We had no time to waste but with no taxi in sight, we managed to talk a chauffeur (who had just dropped off his clients at the church) to drive us back into town. He finally agreed, leaving his guests to wander the church on their own and drove us back into town. Arriving back in Victoria within 5 minutes, it was clear to us that we had initially taken the wrong country road out of Victoria earlier in the day and weren’t really that far from where we had started!
The church we toured through (and THOUGHT was the medieval chapel) turned out to be the Basilica of the Blessed Virgin of Ta’ Pinu only to be told by the driver on our way back to the ferry that, in fact, the original medieval chapel and tomb that we had been looking for was actually located at the back of the present church we had just been in minutes earlier, reached by corridors on either side of the alter which are now apparently cluttered by votives left behind by those allegedly healed by the Madonna’s miracles.
We had literally been steps away from the medieval chapel and tomb that we had trekked across the countryside to find and now we were literally across the island waiting for the next ferry back to Malta. So close!