Gozo’s Timeless Salt Pans

The small island of Gozo offers some of the oldest heritage sights in the world. The Xwejni Salt Pans have been mined the same way since Roman Times.

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Gozo is part of the Maltese Archipelago, and much smaller than it’s sister island, Malta. The tranquil island is much greener, and life is dictated by the seasons.

On the north coast of Gozo, just west of Marsalforn, the 350 year old rock-cut saltpans protrude into the sea. These coastal pools stretch for 3km along the ragged coast. Our full day coach tour around Gozo included a ride on a trackless that took us along the coastal road

Gozo is a small island, 14 km long and 7 km at it’s widest point. There are 12 villages and 1 town. As our coach wound through and along the hilly roads I noticed that the size of the village did not restrict the size of the church. Ghrasi, the smallest village on Gozo, with a population of 560, sits in the shadow of huge Parish Church that was dedicated to Corpus Christi on 9 January 1916

In was mid afternoon by the time we loaded on the train. We travelled, slowly along the coastal road, I stared out at the amazing sight of the rocked carved pools, enjoying the fresh sea and the slight breeze drifting in. Our local guide explained the process as I photographed shot after shot.

The salt mines are surrounding by some rock formations eroded by the wind and rain into unique forms………..

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This is small portion of my travel article about Gozo’s salt pans. Come back next week and I’ll tell you more about our trip to Malta.

Follow in the Footsteps of Malta’s Knights Templar

 Next to the Knights Templar, probably the most well known group of Crusader knights were the Knights of Malta, also known as The Knights of St John.

hallway inside the Grand Master Palace
hallway inside the Grand Master Palace

The famous Knights of St. John left their mark on small island on the Mediterranean, called Malta. To gaze out on their fortresses and wander through their palaces is a dream come true for many history seeking tourists.

Our journey started in the magnificent residence where they made their home. The Grand Master Palace is located on Valletta’s main street, Triq ir-Repubblika.

the ornate ceiling inside the hallway
the ornate ceiling inside the hallway

You can read about the rest of my journey in my travel article.

 

Springtime in Garmish-Partenkirchen

frescoed storefront in Garmisch

Garmisch-Partenkirchen in snuggled in the Alpine Region of Bavaria.  It was a delight to wander past the traditional frescoes on homes and storefronts, called “Lüftlmalereien,”.

The paintings date back to the 18th century when wealthy merchants, farmers and craftsmen showed their wealth and status with colourful frescoes on the façade of their houses. The paintings often incorporated existing architectural structures, such as windows or doors, or took the form of medallions or scenes from the Bible, fairy tales or folk festivals.

The city is the perfect base to explore the nearby palaces and castles. With so much to see Garmisch is a forever destination that I will return to

. another beautiful building

Rathskeller Schnitzel House

You can savour a taste of Bavaria right here on Vancouver Island. The family friendly tavern is located downtown Victoria, on Quadra and View.

Lively music met us at the door when we entered. Small etchings from around Germany lined the walls. Shelves were stacked with beer steins and other local crafts from around the country. Every sight and sound in the German tavern reminded me of our amazing trip to Deutschland

Our server, dressed in a brightly colored dirndl, guided us to our cozy booth. The time worn oak tables reflected the restaurant’s popularity amongst the locals and tourists. Little has changed since the restaurant opened for business 40 years ago.

My mouth was already watering for the potato pancakes that I enjoyed in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, a ski resort town an hour out of Munich.

After much deliberation, I ordered a Jägerschnitzel, topped with onions, bacon, mushrooms sautéed in a red wine sauce. With each mouthful, delightful memories from our exciting journey around Germany trickled back.

My husband and I spent a lovely hour planning our next trip to Bavaria over a tasty meal. The potato pancakes, that I spent a week anticipating, were as good as the reviews suggested. The visit to Rathskeller was my birthday celebration, and our perfect meal ended with a free schnapps.

Our next visit will be on a Friday or a Saturday night when the accordion entertainer plays traditional folk music. I can’t wait for the next family celebration

Idyllic Ischia’s Oasis of Wellness

The thermal waters on the Isle of Ischia have been an attraction since the Romans ruled the world. This volcanic origins of this island, located on the Bay of Naples, have left behind the richest hot springs in Europe.

We heard that the neighbouring Isle of Capri was crowded, and selected a laid back day tour to the Isle of Ischia. The tour included a four hour visit to Parco Thermal Tropical located in the small village of Sant’Angelo d’Ischia

Our hydrofoil left Sorrento at 9:30am and we enjoyed a view of the magnificent Castello Aragonese as we pulled into Porto Ischia. Our coach followed the coastal road into the small fishing village of Sant’ Angelo.

Parco Thermal Tropical spa park is spread out over 30,000 square feet. A number of brightly colored tropical flowers, palm trees, and shades trees, create a peaceful environment that invite guests to linger all day. The complex includes change rooms, a restaurant, and a spa.

We paid our half-day entrance fee $18 Euros which allowed me the use of ten thermal pools, a whirlpool, Kneipp Pool, Sauna, Roman Grotto, Sunbeds and Sunshades. For a fee, guests would enjoy a variety of health treatments: mud baths, Ayurvedic Massages, hot lava stone massage and so much more.

We wandered from pool section to pool section, savouring the scenery. The ever-silent roman statues that guarded each entrance filled me with a sense of royalty. Shrouded in my white towel, I felt like a roman ruler, pampered, entitled, and fully relaxed.

tranquil lava pool in Garachico

Tranquility in Tenerife

The seaside town of Garachico, on Tenerife’s northwest tip of the island, is my favourite place to chill out when we visit Tenerife. The tranquil atmosphere of this small harbour town is a friendly change from the busy streets of the sun soaked Playa de las Americas on the south side of this tropical island.

As we wandered the ancient streets in the warm afternoon sun, all the way down to the lava pools by the harbour, we felt transported back in time. The once premiere port town, was devastated by a sudden volcanic eruption back in 1706. In an instant, the wealthy town was completely covered in ash.

Years later, this enterprising isolated city turned their worst nightmare into a unique place to relax in the island sun. All year long, locals lay by the unique rock formations and watch the fish swim by in the crystal clear harbour waters.

As I turned here and there, between the rocky pools, I noticed that some formations have been worn down by the wind and rain into inviting stool sized chairs. Tucked into a private corner, I noticed a man lost in the pages of a book. The dark stoned harbour escape, hilly in places, allowed plenty of personal space and people stopped to gaze out at the ocean to watch small boats drift by.

The fresh sea air was blessedly silent as I stood in the sun and watched the seagulls circling above, dash down to snap up food tossed into the harbour. It was the perfect place to refuel my energy after several full day excursions on the other side of the island

On the half empty streets, visitors mingled easily with friendly locals, smiles light up their faces. Pace was slow, everyone was on island time. This authentic northern gem, an hours drive from the Playa de las Americas, is often overlooked by coach tours headed for the more famous Puerto de la Cruz.

If you’re looking for a peaceful escape, head straight to Garachico for an authentic Canary Island meal.

War Cemeteries at Cassino

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On our day trip from Sorrento, in Southern Italy, we checked out Cassino War Cemeteries.  The Cemetery is the second largest Second World War Two cemetery in Italy.  More than 4,200 Commonwealth graves are located here, of which 200 are unknown, and 855 are Canadian. 

We wandered silently through the massive graveyard, snapping photo after photo of headstones of Canadian soldiers, saddened that so many had died before their 25th birthday.

Before our tour group moved on to Abbey of Montecassino we grabbed a photo of the Cassino Memorial with the names of 192 Canadians inscribed on the 15-foot high slabs of green marble.  It was an impressive monument to witness, I took a moment to reflect on how the Battle of Monte Cassino had changed history, before boarding the tour bus.

The Battle of Monte Cassino is considered one of the most important battles of World War Two.  In next week’s blog I’ll talk about the history of Abbey of Montecassino

Goreme Open Air Museum

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We enjoyed a half-day tour of Goreme Open Air Museum; our private tour also included entrance fees and entrance to one the best churches in this stone complex, Dark Church.  We toured this enormously popular sight after three pm, long after the many coach tours had departed.

This unique museum has been a member of the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1984 and is the most visited sight in the region.  A tour of this sight is the best way to learn about the history of this area.

Standing at the entrance to the complex our guide explained that during the 4th century the Cappadocia region became known as the “Land of the Three Saints”, because these three remarkable priests, known collectively as The Cappadocians, contributed a great deal to the Christian doctrine and to the Eastern Orthodox, in particular.

There are over 10 churches in this open air museum.  If you don’t book a tour the best way to explore each cave church is to follow the well marked pathways, counter clockwise.  Our guide pointed our the sign posts, explaining that each church has been given a modern Turkish name, assigned by the local village.

The cave’s interiors are painted with beautiful frescoes, the Byzantine murals are from the 900-1200AD.  Many are still in remarkable condition, but nearly all the eyes in the painted figures have gouged out by superstitious locals afraid of the Evil Eye.  Only the frescoes in the Dark Church are unmarked; the walls were protected by pigeon markings.

If you are short on time, remember, the best churches to visit in the complex are the Buckle Church (Tokali Kilise in Turkish), the Apple Church (Elmali Kilise), and the Dark Church (Karanlik Kilise).

Our private tour included a guided tour of the Dark Church; so named for the little light that penetrates the interior.  The church was used a pigeon house back in the 1950’s and it took nearly 14 years to scrape off the pigeon poop and restore the beautiful frescoes.  The murals are now considered the best-preserved frescoes in Cappadocia.  Above, I have uploaded several photos we took of the interior of the Dark Church.

 

 

Checking out Kaymalki Underground City

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There are 36 underground cities in the Cappadocia region.  The underground city in Derinkuyu are the deepest, and Kaymakli Underground City is known to be the largest.

Kaymakli Underground City was first opened to tourists in 1964.  It consists of eight floors below ground, but only four levels are open to the public.  We paid an entrance fee of 10 Turkish Lira, and hired a guide for 35 Turkish Lira more, per adult. 

Our guide, Shakri, was a retired school teacher and spoke excellent English.  In his quiet, respectful, tone he explained that in the 1960’s, his family had lived in a cave house near the underground city.  The government had suddenly moved them to alternative accommodation so that the city could be developed for tourism.  I could only imagine what he must be feeling as he guided our group through the tunnel on that cool May morning.

Archaeologists believe that the upper layers were first carved out by the Hittites in about 2000BC.

Our guide’s soft voice echoed as he explained that Kaymakli Underground City is the most complex below ground city in the region.  He explained that, over the years, they have found everything from living space, stables, communal kitchens, to a church and graveyard as well.

We moved carefully through the chilly tunnels.  Our guide stopped to talk, only in rooms where we our small group could stand and listen in semi comfort.  His torch lite the dark corners of many storage rooms.

Shakri explained that even though the whole city has not been completely opened, many are certain that Kaymakli is one of the largest underground settlements in the Cappadocia region.

Archaeologists believe that the large number of storage areas, and earth ware jars support the belief that as many as 3500 residents, at one time, sought safety in this ancient cave cities.

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