Gozo

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For the statistical region, see Gozo (region). For the island's short lived independence, see Gozo (1798-1800).
Gozo
Native name: Għawdex
Nickname: Isle of Calypso
Location Gozo Malta.svg
Map of Maltese islands highlighting Gozo
Gozo is located in Italy
Gozo
Gozo (off the coast of Italy)
Geography
Location south of Sicily, Mediterranean Sea
Coordinates 36°03′N 14°15′E / 36.050°N 14.250°E / 36.050; 14.250
Archipelago Maltese islands
Area 67 km2 (26 sq mi)
Length 14 km (8.7 mi)
Width 7.25 km (4.505 mi)
Country
Largest city Victoria (pop. 6,911)
Minister for Gozo Anton Refalo (PL)
Demographics
Demonym Gozitans
Population 37,288 (as of March 2013)
Density 557 /km2 (1,443 /sq mi)
Ethnic groups Maltese people

Gozo (/ˈɡ.z/; Maltese: Għawdex, [ˈaˤːw.dɛʃ]) is an island of the Maltese archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea. The island is part of the Southern European country of Malta; after the island of Malta itself, it is the second-largest island in the archipelago. Compared to its southeastern neighbour, Gozo is more rural and known for its scenic hills, which are featured on its coat of arms.[1]

The island of Gozo has long been associated with Ogygia, the island home of the nymph Calypso in Homer's Odyssey. In that story, Calypso, possessed of great supernatural powers, and in love with Odysseus, holds him captive for a number of years, until finally releasing him to continue his journey home.[2]

The island has a population of around 37,000 people (all of Malta combined has 402,000), and its inhabitants are known as Gozitans (Maltese: Għawdxin). It is rich in historic locations such as the Ġgantija temples, which, along with the Megalithic Temples of Malta, are the world's oldest free-standing structures and are also among the world's oldest religious structures.

The island is rural in character and, compared to the main island Malta, less developed. Azure Window is a remarkable geologic feature of the island; it is a natural stone arch that was formed millions of years ago when a limestone cave collapsed. There are many beaches on the island, as well as seaside resorts that are popular with tourists and locals alike. The most popular are Marsalforn and Xlendi Bay. Gozo is considered one of the top diving destinations in the Mediterranean and a centre for water sports.[3][better source needed]

For such a small island, Gozo has a high concentration of churches (46 in all). The Xewkija church has a capacity of 3000, enough for the entire population of Xewkija village; its dome is larger than that of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. The church bells are rung daily for the canonical hours Matins, Lauds, Terce, Sext, None and vespers. The most famous church on the island is the National Shrine and Basilica of Santwarju tal-Madonna ta' Pinu.

History[edit]

Flag of Gozo
Coat of arms of Gozo

Gozo has been inhabited since 5000 BC, when farmers from nearby Sicily crossed the sea to the island.[4] Due to the discovery of similar pottery found in both places from the Għar Dalam phase, it has been suggested that the first colonists were specifically from the area of Agrigento; however, it is currently indeterminate exactly which part of Sicily the farmers came from. They are thought to have first lived in caves on the outskirts of what is now known as Saint Lawrence.[4]

Gozo was an important place for cultural evolution, and during the neolithic period the Ġgantija temples were built; they are the world's oldest free-standing structures, as well as the world's oldest religious structures. The temple's name is Maltese for "belonging to the giants", because legend in Maltese and Gozitan folklore says the temples were built by giants. Another important Maltese archaeological site in Gozo, which dates back to the neolithic period, is the Xagħra Stone Circle. Also, native tradition and certain ancient Greek historians (notably Euhemerus and Callimachus) maintain that Gozo is in fact the island Homer described as Ogygia, home of the nymph Calypso.

In July 1551 Ottomans under Turgut Reis and Sinan Pasha invaded and ravaged Gozo and enslaved most of its inhabitants, about 5,000, bringing them to Tarhuna Wa Msalata in Libya, their departure port in Gozo was Mġarr ix-Xini. The island of Gozo was repopulated between 1565 and 1580 by people from mainland Malta, undertaken by the Knights of Malta.

The history of Gozo is strongly coupled with the history of Malta, since Gozo has been governed by Malta throughout history, with the brief exception of a short period of autonomy following the uprising against the French forces after Napoleon's conquest of Malta, between 28 October 1798 and 5 September 1800.

The Gozo Civic Council was set up as a statutory local government in the island of Gozo on 14 April 1961, the first experiment in civil local government in Malta since the French occupation of 1798-1800. The law authorised the Council to raise taxes, although it never actually made use of this power. In 1971 the Labour Party was voted into office. As its support in Gozo was weak and it favoured a more centralised administration it proposed a referendum on the abolishment of the Council putting emphasis on the unpopular possibility of it raising taxes. In the Gozo Civic Council referendum, 1973, the overwhelming majority of voters (76.97%) voting for the abolition of the Gozo Civic Council.

In the mid-1980s attempts were made to set up a Gozo committee, chaired by the Prime Minister and with the Gozitan Members of Parliament as members. However, it was only in 1987 that the Ministry of Gozo was set up (demoted to a Parliamentary Secretariat between 1996 and 1998). Local government in the Gozitan localities was restored with the introduction of Local councils in 1993 with Gozo having 14 councils.

Connection between Malta & Gozo[edit]

Getting to Gozo[edit]

In the past, there were various options for reaching the island. A sea plane service once operated from Valletta to Mgarr harbour, but its operations are currently "suspended until further notice".[5] Similarly, a helicopter service which connected the two ceased operations in 2006.[6]

By ferry[edit]

Main article: Gozo Channel Line
MV Ta' Pinu, one of the three ferries operated by the Gozo Channel Line, on its way from Gozo to Ċirkewwa.

Visitors can currently reach the island by ferry. There are regular crossings between the port of Mġarr on Gozo and Ċirkewwa on the north-west coast of Malta. The Gozo Channel Line makes the trip every 45 minutes during the summer and almost as often in the winter. A round trip costs €4.65 and takes around 25 minutes each way. The service is used by tourists and commuters (including Gozitan students, who are studying at the University of Malta) and is also used to transport goods between the islands. Each year, the route is used by around 1.1 million cars, and many more foot passengers.[7] On arrival at Mġarr, visitors can take one of the 'Hop On Hop Off' buses, which depart outside the ferry terminal and operate on a timetable synchronized to the ferry timetables. Public buses, taxis and hire cars are also available.[8][9]

Proposed[edit]

Permanent link (bridge/tunnel)[edit]

Several proposals have been made to construct a road link between Malta and Gozo. In 1972[7] the newly elected Labour Party administration carried out a feasibility study that concluded building a bridge between the two islands was possible, but would have negative environmental effects. A tunnel was also considered, but found to be too expensive at the time.[10] An online poll by The Times of Malta in 2006 found that 55 percent of respondents supported a road link.[11]

In June 2013 a "mega Chinese state-owned company [China Communications Construction Corporation Limited] will finance a €4 million study to assess the feasibility of a bridge between Malta and Gozo." ....."Depending on the feasibility of the tunnel and bridge projects, popular consultation will take place giving particular weight to what Gozitans have to say." [12] "Gozo Minister Anton Refalo [...] alluded to the possibility of calling a referendum to determine whether Gozitans prefer a tunnel or a bridge to connect Malta and Gozo [13]

Catamaran[edit]

"Expressions of interest have been issued for a fast catamaran service between Gozo and Valletta as well as between Gozo and Sicily." In June 2013. The services would be aimed for use by both tourists and Maltese and would involve public service obligations.[13]

Air[edit]

An airstrip on Gozo was proposed in the 1990s, but rejected for environmental reasons.[10] In June 2013: "The government intends to issue a call for expressions of interest for the operation of a scheduled air service between Malta and Gozo" [14]

Getting around[edit]

Hop-on Hop-off Bus[edit]

City Sightseeing Gozo Hop-On Hop-Off open top bus FPY 004 at Mġarr.
Gozo Sightseeing Hop-On Hop-Off open top bus COY 001 at Marsalforn.

A hop-on hop-off bus service operates in Gozo. The open top bus tour of Gozo starts from the harbour of Mġarr and there are 'Hop on and Hop off' stops located along the route.[15] In Gozo, there are 2 hop-on hop-off providers, City Sightseeing Gozo and Gozo Sightseeing. Both offer a tour service linking various places of interest on the island. Each tour includes an audio commentary in 16 languages and each tour takes 45 minutes.

Public Bus[edit]

Transport Malta buses are used in Gozo

Like the bus system in Malta, the one in Gozo is recently owned and operated by Malta Public Transport Services Ltd. The bus tickets that are bought in Malta are not valid in Gozo and vice versa. Tickets can be purchased directly on the bus where a 2-hour ticket costs €1, a 1-day ticket costs €1.50 and a 7-day ticket costs €6.50.

Though Arriva ceased to operate in Gozo and Malta in January 2014, their old vehicles are still being utilised and most routes remain the same, although there have been some amendments and additions. The most noticeable change at the moment is that the discrepancy between resident and non-resident fares has been abolished with all passengers now paying €1 for a 2 hour ticket and €1.50 for the "all day" ticket.

On foot[edit]

Many of the distances within villages are negligible and most of the roads are fairly quiet and pleasant to walk along. There is also a footpath network, though the paths require good shoes and a good map (they are not always clearly marked on the ground). There are longer distances if travelling between different villages, ranging from 1 to 5 km (1 to 3 mi) from one village to the next.

By car[edit]

You need to be over 18 years old and hold a valid driving license. It's fine to travel to the mainland Malta with a hired car and the only extra charge incurred for doing so will be a pricier ferry ticket at €15.70.[16]

By taxi[edit]

White taxis are also found in Gozo, (as soon as one exits the ferry terminal in Mgarr) with their competitive price rates they are the most comfortable means of public transport on the island. Also the ideal for one to visit the hidden charms this Island offers. All taxis are modern, meter priced, air-conditioned and luxurious cars with all of them offering a vast range of pre-determined price tours going to all touristic attractions around the island. All drivers-owners are local, very helpful and full of experience.

Demography[edit]

In 2005, the island had a population of 31,053, of whom 6,414 lived in its capital Victoria. As of March 2013 the population has increased to 37,288.[17] The crude birth rate was 7.93, considerably lower than that of 9.59 for Malta. The town with the highest birth rate is San Lawrenz (15.93) and that with the lowest is Xewkija (4.89).

Geography[edit]

View of Mġarr ix-Xini, with Comino and mainland Malta in the background.

Gozo covers 67 square kilometres (26 sq mi), approximately the same area as New York City's Manhattan Island. It lies approximately 6 kilometres (4 mi) northwest of the nearest point of Malta, is of oval form, and is 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) long and 7.25 kilometres (4.50 mi) wide.

Gozo is famed for its character and places of interest. Some of these include the Calypso cave and the Ġgantija Neolithic temples which are among the oldest surviving man-made structures.

Notable beaches in Gozo include San Blas and the beach at Ramla Bay.

Culture and traditions[edit]

Gozo is also much known for its "Festa's" (carnival). Festa's are also a very important tradition on the island with celebrations including fireworks and bands every weekend in the summer season. During the weekend of the various festas in the villages, many Maltese people (Malta is a separate Island) come over from Malta to experience Gozo’s unique carnival. In the past, Festas were a time for young Gozitan men and women to meet up and many of those meetings resulted in formal courtship and subsequent marriage. In the village of Nadur many locals dress up in colourful and also outrageous costumes with the intention of not being recognised.[18][better source needed]

A number of Maltese dishes or variants of these dishes are associated with Gozo. Gozo is particularly known for its local cheeselet.[19][better source needed]

Sport[edit]

The island of Gozo also has its own national football team. Because it is a part of Malta and not a state on it own this team isn't official and thereby is on the N.F.-Board. Gozo F.C. play in the Maltese League, while a Gozo Football League is also maintained. Football on the island is managed by the Gozo Football Association. In Gozo one can also find a rugby club. The Gozo Rugby Club opened it doors in 2011 and nowadays compete in the Malta Rugby Football Union and Malta Rugby League competition .

In film[edit]

Gozo was used to depict "Resolution Island" in the 1953 film Single-Handed, based on CS Forester's book Brown on Resolution. For much of the film, the German raider Essen (depicted by HMS Manxman) is holed up in the semi-circular Dwejra bay, behind Fungus Rock on the west coast of Gozo, and there are several scenes set among the desolate limestone cliffs above the bay as Able Seaman Brown single-handedly detains the German ship until her pursuers can catch up with her.

In 1978, Kevin Connor's film Warlords of Atlantis starring Doug McClure (The Virginian) was shot in Marsalforn Bay.

Two days of shooting in Gozo's strong Mediterranean light provided shots used to represent the desolate surface of the alien planet in the 1981 British horror film Inseminoid (known in the U.S. as Horror Planet).

In 1981, parts of Episode 7 from Brideshead Revisited were recorded on the island, particularly in the village of Kercem, to depict Fez in Morocco.

Gozo was the location for Calypso's Island in the 1997 Hallmark miniseries The Odyssey based on Homer's epic poem.

Dwejra was one of several filming locations in the Maltese Islands used for the 2011 HBO TV series Game of Thrones.

The upcoming film titled By The Sea, starring Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt would be partially filmed at Mġarr ix-Xini starting from August 2014.[20]

Villages in Gozo[edit]

Notable features[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 36°03′N 14°15′E / 36.050°N 14.250°E / 36.050; 14.250