Sightseeing in Gozo
Calypso's Cave, Gozo
Homer's Odyssey narrates how Ulysses, after the wars of Troy, set sail for Ithaca were he had left his wife and only son. After several adventurous days at sea, his boat was wrecked in a terrible storm near the isle of Ogygia and Ulysses drifted on flotsam to the sandy shore of a large bay.
It so happened that the goddess-nymph Calypso, who inhabited a cave in the hillside overlooking the bay, witnessed the event on the beach. She rescued Ulysses, took him to her cave and nursed him.
He then wished to sail home, but the nymph delayed his departure for seven long years. She promised him eternal youth if he consented marrying her, but he refused, preferring to return to his wife and home in Greece.
At long last, Zeus ordered Calypso to release the unhappy man.
Thereupon Ulysses sailed from Ogygia on a raft, and after some more adventures at sea arrived at Ithaca where he found his wife Penelope at home weaving an unending web while she waited and waited for his return.
According to tradition, the mythological Ogygia was the island of Gozo and the nymph's grotto was the cave on the hill that overlooks the magnificent Ramla Bay.
The view of the red sand bay, of the sea and of the Gozo landscape is one of beauty and grandeur. Hundreds throng to the place for a look at the legendary abode of the brave hero and the lonely nymph.
Dwejra & The Fungus Rock
Snuggled into the cliff-lined coast of Western Gozo is the small sea-inlet of Dwejra with its interesting geological curiosities.
First to strike the visitor's eye is the rocky knoll in the sea, a few meters from the coastline. On the flat, slanting top of this huge rock grows a rare mushroom-like plant or fungus to which, popular belief attributes medicinal properties for the cure of dysentery and haemorrhage. Some say it also has aphrodisiac properties.
The plant is botanically named Coccineus Melitensis; but, in Gozo, people call it the Gozitan Mushroom. The 'fungus' sprouts in December and reaches maturity in mid-spring. When ripe, it attains the shape of a reddish core, of soft pulpy substance, about 16cm long.
In 1744, Grand Master Pinto ordained that this plant be reserved for the Order's exclusive use, and he declared the rock on which it thrived out of bounds to all intruders, on pain of death.
The 'fungus' was put to use in the Order's hospitals, but the Grand Master presented specimens to his royal friends in Europe.
The famous knoll, which is also known as the General's Rock, was constantly guarded and access to it, by authorised persons, was by a system of extended ropes and a sliding wooden seat.
The rock has preserved its traditions, and today it is still a nature sanctuary protected by law.
The Stalactite Grottoes of Xaghra, Gozo
As already indicated, the village of Xaghra is poised on a high limestone plateau. As limestone is soft and porous, rainwater percolates through and by chemical action melts the more soluble materials, leaving the harder ones to stand. This explains the formation of caves and grottoes in limestone terrains.
Two such underground caves have been discovered at Xaghra: the first in 1888 by Joseph Rapa, in a field known as ta' Ninu (belonging to Anthony); the second in 1923 by Joseph Xerri, beneath his own home.
The two men were digging wells for rain water, when they came across the caves. On the two occasions, further digging and investigations revealed fairly large grottoes and an amazing sight of crystal-like formations - some hanging from the top, others shooting up from the ground, and others needle-shaped or thick as tree-trunks.
The men later learned that the strange formations were stalactites and stalagmites, formed by carbonate of lime in the rain-water seeping through the rocks. As the water evaporates, the dissolved chemical stiffens while it drops from the cave. Some of it hardens in hanging strips and become stalactites - other drops fall on the floor and build themselves in upright shafts or stalagmites. The process may take thousands of years.
The two caves soon caught the people's imagination.
Many visited the curious caves and ever since the two sites came to be known as Scerri's Grotto and Ninu's Cave respectively.
They have both been opened to the public at the owner's own initiative.
XERRI'S GROTTO lies within a private house at Gnien Imrik Street, not far from the church. It is reached by a flight of 36 steps.
NINU'S CAVE is also located in private premises, in January Street, to the left of the church. The cave is 24 metres long and reaches 18 metres in width. On both sites, admittance is at a small charge, and visitors are shown around by a family guide.
Next to their sumptuous church and the temples of Ggantija, the people of Xaghra have these two wonders of nature very much at heart.
Gozo sightseeing is truly a wonderful experience with such a wide range of places to visit. Whether you are looking to view to Gozo sights independently or would like some guided help, view our Gozo sightseeing tours where you can book a tour or just get some inspiration and idea's for your trip.