Sunday, July 30, 2017

I BRING THE STRANGEST THINGS HOME FROM VACATION

I wonder what other people bring back from their vacations? I wonder if, like me, they bring back salt? This is the third time I have brought back salt in the last few years.


This summer we found ourselves on the Maltese island of Gozo. I would never have heard of this island save for the fact that the Best in Show garden at The Chelsea Flower Show this year was a garden modeled after a quarry in Gozo. We never did come across the quarry on our visit but we did spend a wonderful day on Gozo.
Mgarr was one of the ports of call on our Adriatic cruise and we had a memorable day exploring this tranquil island.



For such a small island there is plenty to see, so we had to pick out a few things in the time we had. The rental car office was close to the dock and we were soon on our way to the Unesco World Heritage, megalithic temple complex, the Ggantija Temples(3600-3000BC).


To be honest if you have seen the pyramids then these ancient structures might disappoint, but they have a nice museum and do a good job of explaining who built them and why.


The landscape is dry, seemingly desolate and blindingly white, so as we were leaving we were surprised to come across a man selling some of his home grown produce; pickled capers, honey, pomegranate jam, olive oil and Gozo salt. I'm not sure what the prickly pear pad was doing there but he may have had prickly pear fruit jam as well.



We made a few purchases including a tub of salt. Incidentally you may not be familiar with the flower of the caper bush, Capparis spinosa, which you see growing wild all over the Mediterranean. It is a real beauty. I would love to grow this for the flowers alone.

Caper flower
A short distance from the temple complex was the Ta' Kola windmill, converted into a museum, and included in our Temple visit. This gorgeous bouganvillea just beckoned us to take a photo and the tour of the windmill was interesting.


The guys were determined to find a beach but the one we did find was not up to expectations. With no shade it was just too hot for us to eat our picnic lunch.


We pressed on the the north side of the island to find the area where they harvested the salt. The rock-cut salt pans date back to Roman times and the salt which forms in the pans is still harvested by a few families today.




Across the road a cave had been carved into the hillside and a very elderly gentleman was sleeping inside in the heat of the afternoon. It turned out it was his wife down below selling the packages of salt that he had harvested. In halting English she shared with us how 5 generations of her family had worked the salt pans. Now her children had left to live in Malta and had no interest in continuing the family tradition.



After leaving the road and continuing down a dirt track we finally found that perfect swimming place. A cleft in the rocks with a small pebbly beach below the steep pathway. There were only a few people there and Mark swam all the way out to the open sea.


It was then time to make our way back to Mgarr and the tender that would take us back to the ship. It had been a great day and I was taking home salt as well as more suns and moons.....but that's another story.

10 comments:

  1. You do visit the most interesting places!

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    1. And most of these places come as a surprise. Such fun.

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  2. Thank you for taking us along on your adventures!

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  3. What an interesting place to visit! I love those old structures, and how cool to see how they harvest salt traditionally. I wouldn't have guessed that the flowers from caper plants would be so pretty. Salt sounds like something my foodie husband would come home with!

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    1. we have seen Salt pans in Taiwan and Peru but those didn't compare to the sheer vastness of these pans carved all the way along the coast. Sadly, now almost a thing of the past.

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  4. Leaving for work, my dad used to say, "Off to the salt mines!" Now I know it's "salt pans." I've always wanted to see Malta, but had never heard of Gozo -- it looks like the land that time forgot!

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    1. I think he did mean the salt mines. I don't know where you grew up but I remember seeing a program once on the salt mines beneath Minnesota. There are vast underground caverns into which they drive trucks. Also there are some wonderful salt mines in Europe. The people who lived and worked down there carved churches and statues into the salt. They may have been sent there for punishment. Life would have been lot easy in the salt pans.

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  5. What a fascinating place, esp. the ancient salt pans. We love capers butad never seen the flower.

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    1. These are the largest salt pans we have seen. They were all along the coast, bit most were not in use.

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