Victoria is the capital of Gozo…
It used to be called Rabat but in 1887 the British renamed it to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. I can’t help thinking that it is rather arrogant to go around changing place names in such a superior way. A lot of people on Gozo still call the place Rabat.
The bus dropped us off and we made our way to the centre of the city, to St George’s Square and the Basilica of the same Saint. As it was 23rd April there was a lot of bell ringing and celebration but the disappointment was that the square resembled a construction site as it was in the process of restoration and improvement. Kim was devastated – the daily market was cancelled!
We tend to think of St George as an English Saint but a lot of the rest of Europe has claimed him as well because St. George is also the patron saint of Aragon, Catalonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, Palestine, Portugal, and Russia and I wouldn’t mind betting that all of them will do an awful lot more to celebrate 23rd April every year than we do! We English do tend to ignore Saint George and take him a bit too much for granted.
We moved on from St George’s building site and made our way to the Citadel at the very top of the city which as the name suggests is a medieval fortress city in the most defensible position on the island. This also turned out to be rather a disappointment because this was another construction site. The Citadella is on the UNESCO World Heritage tentative list and it looks as though the Gozians are putting in a bit of extra effort (courtesy of EU heritage funding) to give the application a boost.
I am not against restoration and improvement but to be honest I think it looked better the way that it was when I last visited Gozo in 1997.
The time was passing quickly now and there was still more of the island to see so we returned to the bus station, stopping briefly to buy a Maltese cheese pie for lunch before rejoining the tour bus for the remainder of the trip.
First we went to the fishing village of Xlendi where we only stayed a short while until the next bus arrived and went back to Victoria and then to the other side of the island to the holiday village of Marsalforn where we stopped for forty-five minutes and walked around the sandy beach and the pretty harbour.
Rejoining the bus we went next to the UNESCO site megalithic temples at Nadur and the directly back to the port to catch the six o’clock ferry back to Malta. Twenty years ago the ferry used to arrive and drop passengers off directly on the quay side but now there is a posh (EU funded) ferry terminal with ticket desks, lounges and rules and regulations. I preferred it the old way.
Ferry and Bus queues in Malta and Gozo
Now there was a problem. There was a massive queue waiting to go through ticket control and I really didn’t relish the thought of waiting in line, so I did the French thing and jumped the queue. With some style, even if I say so myself. I went into the terminal via the exit and joined the line near the front, cutting out at least three quarters of the queue.
If challenged my plan was simple, I would give an arrogant Gallic shrug, say something like “Bonjour Monsieur, Allez Oop, Vive Jeanne d’Arc, Vive Charles de Gaulle, Merci Beaucoup” and give a contemptuous sneer as I asserted a natural French divine right to barge in. Anyway, as it happened no one bothered and we slipped through unchallenged to the boat.
The ferry was rather crowded so it occurred to us that there might well be another problem queuing problem for the bus when we arrived back in Malta so we devised a plan to get to the exit first and make a dash for the bus stop.
Everything went brilliantly to plan until we got to the stop and there were no buses. It didn’t matter that we were first there because soon after the French arrived and they had no intention at all or forming an orderly line. Eventually a bus turned up and the crowd surged forward until it resembled one of those Catalan fiesta human pyramids.
My subtle, sneaking around the side approach had no chance of working here and there was no way that we wanted to walk back to the hotel so we reverted to Kim’s more direct approach of just punching our way to the front of the queue which I have to say worked perfectly.
The bus driver was a miserable specimen and although I pressed the bell for our stop we couldn’t push our way to the front of the bus in time so he just didn’t stop. I took this up with him and he was adamant that I hadn’t pressed the bell. I told him that he had an attitude problem and that he should seek treatment for his anger and for some reason this made him even more unsociable and it was only with some reluctance that he pulled up at the next stop and let us off the vehicle.
Kim went back to the hotel and I went to the shop for some essential supplies and then we spent an hour or so on the balcony enjoying the view over the bay before we made our way to what was already our favourite restaurant.
Going to Gozo was a brilliant success. Kim was beginning to like Malta and she was starting to agree with me!