I went to Gozo, saw the Azure Window, explored World War II tunnels, slept in a monastery, milked a goat, walked the tracks of ancient cart ruts, and swam in crystal clear blue Mediterranean seas.
The country of Malta is actually broken up into three main islands, Malta, Gozo, and Comino, as well as several minor islands. Malta is the main island, Gozo is the larger island to the Northwest (pop. 37,342) and the smaller island of Comino is located in between (pop. 4). Gozo has been the location of multiple film sites, one of the most popular being for Game of Thrones, which I am apparently going to have to start watching so I know what’s going on around here.
On Thursday, as the final component of our orientation, we took a field trip to Gozo following our morning session of class. Following two bus rides, a ferry, and another bus ride, we finally arrived at our destination for the evening. We spent the night in the Church of St. Augustine in Victoria, Gozo. During World War II, Malta was one of the most heavily-bombed countries due to its location. Touring the monastery, we got to see a vast network of underground tunnels that were dug to protect the priests during wartime.
We had several field excursions during which we examined the different ways in which agriculture, tourism, and development have affected the available resources on the island, and how the economic and social issues are slightly different in Gozo than Malta due to the smaller size and population. Overall, Gozo does not get nearly as much tourism as Malta, due to its smaller size. Most of the people who visit are Malta natives who go for day-trips. Most of the trip was spent observing the area and getting familiar with the island just to get a reference for future discussions.
Aside from staying in the monastery, we visited a location that featured cart ruts (http://www.cartrutsmalta.com/) which are exactly what they sound like- grooves cut into the ground stone from cart movement during ancient times. We stopped at the salt pans where Gozo takes advantage of one of its few abundant natural resources- salt water- and then we ate lunch at a farm that produces fresh goat cheese every day and got to see the process first hand. Before we even got to eat, we were put to work. The farmer asked for volunteers to help milk the goats. Of course I was all over that. Someone even asked, “Rachel you live on a farm right?” Well, no. Apparently I might as well though because after several people attempted, it was my turn, and I don’t mean to brag, but I am an excellent goat milker, definitely the best in the group.
After work, we got to eat, and lunch was a vegetarian’s delight! We had fresh tomatoes, onions, capers, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and fresh goat cheese with olive oil and bread, and fresh homemade wine. We couldn’t have been more Mediterranean if we tried.
After lunch we spent a few hours at the beach, soaking in the sun and enjoying the impossible-to-drown-in waters. Another bus, a ferry ride, and one final bus got us back home to our island, where we were wishing we were still in Gozo, surrounded by the natural beauty and years of ancient history.