Today's trip was a full family affair, a trip to Gozo. The last time I was in Gozo was when I was six years old so I was really looking forward to this.
We were up bright and early and off to the ferry port at Circewwa. The ferry ride is lovely and by the time you've eaten your delicious Maltese Eccles cake and washed it down with lovely Maltese coffee your there.
We spent the morning in Victoria and had lunch at a lovely café in the middle of the market and then walked it off by and taking a turn around the battlements of the citadel. I'd recommend a trip to the citadel, it's easy to find as it is in the centre of Victoria. If you walk around the battlements you will be rewarded with a 360 degree panorama of this lovely island, you will also gain some understanding of how Gozitan settlements developed from the flat topped limestone Mesas that are the main topographic feature of the island.
When it comes to 'looking at rocks' my family and I have an unspoken agreement, they are happy to tolerate my obsession as long as it doesn't involve me dragging them around a bunch of sites or trying to convince them how wonderful these places are. So I had a choice to make, I knew I could get away with taking them to one prehistoric site on Gozo. Gozo has many prehistoric sites from standing stones to temples to Dolmens, so where would it be? without a doubt it had to be Ggantija.
Ggantija is signposted and quite easy to find. Once you get to Xaghra just look for the large car park and you know you're there.
When walking towards the temple it is worth looking at the surrounding walls. Not far inside of the main gate there are some large orthostats that have been interpreted as possibly another structure associated with the main temple.
Another feature worth looking out for is The North Cave, which is a cave just at the top of the site. The cave has been interpreted as possibly starting out as a rock cut tomb which then became a rubbish pit for the temples.
As for Ggantija itself, the scale of the walls is overwhelming. Mr Cope is spot-on when he refers to the walls as Cyclopean.
I just had to stop and take it all in. This structure is five and a half thousand years old and was build by people who had no knowledge of metal. These stones were cut, erected and had fallen long out of use long before any Eygyptian had even considered building a pyramid.
Of course the Maltese temples were not the first structures in Europe, we on the margins of western Europe had been erecting our megaliths and building tombs even before the Maltese culture had risen and flourished, but what is important about these these Maltese and Gozitan temples where designed and built as public buildings, they had torba floors, the walls were plastered, they contained ornately carved decorative stonework
as well as carved features such as holes for door posts, animal tethers, libation bowls etc.
I could bore you here with a long explanation of the lay-out of the temples but I'll spare you that. In a nutshell you have two temples enclosed by a huge wall, the older, western temple has five apses and the eastern temple has four plus what the guidebooks call a 'niche'.
The Ggantija temples should not be seen in isolation, this part of the island has many prehistoric monuments. The Brochtorff Circle which is now known as the Xaghra circle is just on the other side of town, the Santa Verna temple lie 700 metres west of town and there are various other bits and bobs including Ta Ghejzu, a cave that yielded pottery from the Ggantija phase and has the possible remains of a temple on it's margins.
Ggantija is an extremely important site and is treated as such by the Goitans, it has had the full heritage treatment but is not over the top, this is no 'Stonehenge-site-in-cage' it is a site you can still interact with and come away feeling that you've had a personal experience. As temples go Ggantija is definitely a world class site and my second favourite temple of the islands.
My only regret from my visit to the temples was that I didn't buy some of this fella's capers on my way out.
Posted by fitzcoraldo
10th May 2006ce
Edited 10th May 2006ce
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