Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Recycling Waste Cardboard - Making Houses for a Christmas Crib

Project - Building a House for the Christmas Crib

Yes Christmas is still far away. But February is almost over and this month of cold and rain and March too are stay-at-home months and ideal for small projects like this. For me it's fun to sit at the kitchen table listening to the rain pattering on the window panes and employing my time playing with cardboard and glue to create something interesting that I would use later on in the year.

Materials and Tools

I have some thin cardboard handy, a roll of adhesive tape and white carpenter's glue, a stapler, scissors and a sharp knife. I have some colours (see Painting below), one or two small brushes and a small tin of semi-matt varnish. These are all the tools and materials that I need. I am using some cardboard pieces that I cut from a shoe-box.


The house I am making is roughly a cube of side 3 inches. I start by cutting a piece of cd (cardboard) 9 " x 3". Mark it at 3" intervals and draw vertical pencil lines. Hold a ruler on each of the 2 pencil lines and score with a sharp knife with some pressure over them (mind your fingers here). You might have guessed why we do this, to fold back along the knife cuts and we have the three walls of the house that we need, the centre panel being the front. Draw a small door in this panel about 1.25" high x 0 .75" wide and draw a center-line. Again use the knife to score along the 2 sides of the door. Now cut through the top and the middle line of the door so that it we can leave it slightly ajar.

Let's cut a bottom. Just 3.5 " x 3". Fix the bottom with adhesive tape from the inside so that it protrudes 0.25" from each side. Apply some white glue to the underside of both doors to set it permanently ajar. There is no need to make a back wall for the house, but if you like you can cut a 3" x 3" size cd and join it in the same way by adhesive tape; but leave this step until after we have fitted the roof.

For the roof we need a piece of cd of size 4" x 3.5". Draw a pencil line in the middle and score slightly. We are fitting a slanting roof, therefore we fold along the scored pencil line to make the roof slanting to the right and to the left and slightly protruding about 0.25" on both sides and 0.5 at the front. Fix the roof as before either with adhesive tape or you can use strips of paper thinly spread with white glue.

On the front we are left with an open triangle under the ceiling which we will have to close somehow. We cut a very narrow strip of cd 3.5" x 0.25" to resembe a log. Glue and fix about 1" below the peak of the roof or about 2.5" from the floor and let it protrude 0.25" on each side. Again cut strips of cd of various lengths and of width 0.25" and fix them vertically from the roof to the log with small spaces between them. You'll have to measure these vertical logs yourself. Use white glue to fix (see Diagram above).

We can also fit a chimney on one side of the roof. Use a little piece of well-glued rolled cd or paper for this.


For colouring the house, we can use any kind of paint - oil paint, acrylic or powdered colours. Powdered colours are mixed with water and white carpenter's glue. First make a solution by mixing a little water with a few drops of glue.

1. Yellow - First as an undercoat, we paint the whole thing yellow. Again use the saucer or small lid that we used before, put in a little yellow powder add the water-glue solution and mix. If you made the paint too watery you might need to apply a second coat when the first one is almost dry.

2. Brown-Yellow - If you have some yellow paint left, add a little brown powder and mix. If not, pour yellow powder and a tiny amount of brown and mix. Test the colour to see if it is brown enough. It just has to show over the yellow, do not make it too dark. Apply horizontal strokes with a small flat brush randomly here and there on the three walls to make it look as if the house is built of stone.
Paint the logs at the front all brown.

Mix some darker brown and dab the logs here and there. Do not worry too much, we are not painting a canvas. It will look alright in the end.

3. Green - Mix green powder as before, again not too dark. Dab the stonework randomly here and there to make the stones look old and mossy. Also draw some small horizontal and vertical lines to roughly enclose some of the brown stones and make them stand out.

4. Red - Mix red powder or yellow and red if you want and paint the roof and the door to make it reddish.

NB. If you are using oil or acrylic colours just follow the same process.


This is not the House that we are talking about, but similar

When the paint is dry some hours later, apply a thin coat of semi-matt varnish which will make the colours brighter, look wet and shiny. This is the simplest form of Christmas crib house that we could make. You can experiment with more complex forms and use your creativity to make even more arty-looking rustic dwellings to use in your Crib come Christmas.
As children we used to buy these houses/huts during the days preceeding Christmas while in the process of preparing the Crib. We also used to buy clay figurines (pasturi) for pennies from 2 particular shops that I remember.
View my other Page about: Games Children Played in the late 50's
How to build a Christmas Crib. Step by Step directions - - Go Here

Monday, February 22, 2010

Living on a Small Island Like Gozo

Living in Gozo has its advantages when you come to think of it. Some people would say that living on a island the size of Gozo, only 9 miles by 5 would make them feel like living in a prison, marooned and shut off from the rest of the world. Well they are entitled to their opinion of course. It may have been so way back in the 19th C when air transport was non-existent but it is obviously not the case any more. Times change and perceptions change too.
Nowadays, people look on Gozitans with a faint twinge of jealousy perhaps, because in Gozo, the inhabitants enjoy many advantages, blessings if you like. Those who visit Gozo for the first time become immediately aware of its redeeming features.

1. One is conscious of the clean-air environment as soon as one disembarks from the Gozo Channel ferry. The circulating fresh air prevails on the island of Gozo as a result of its small size and owing to the fact that every slight breeze tends to sweep clean the atmosphere from one end of the island to the other.

2. The tranquil way of life of the inhabitants. They are as energetic and active as they come, but they tend to go about their business and take life at a leisurely pace. Observe the attitude of the car drivers. Even when caught up in a slow-moving line of traffic* they do not swear at one another and you do not hear the angry honking of horns. They let the pedestrians use the zebra-crossings as they should and they give way to other cars coming out of the side streets. I drive in Gozo all the time because I live there and I have repeatedly noted with satisfaction this 'tolerant' attitude of the local drivers (bless them).

*(yes, this happens in Gozo too, once in a while and especially on some week-ends when people from Malta, the sister Island cross over for a quiet break)

3. In a small island like Gozo, people are not hindered by distances. One can go anywhere in 10 minutes at the most. I know that some people abroad have to travel 2 hours to their place of work and back every day. That makes their work day 12 hours long, poor guys. Many people here have their own car and they only use it to go from one village to the other since in any one locality people go on foot or sometimes they use a bicycle. 

Environmentally speaking, I would wish to see more people using bicycles in Gozo because they are really quite adequate.  I use one almost every day to go shopping and for an occasional short ride, to Ta Pinu for example. 

4. In Gozo the villages are still separate from one another by relatively vast stretches of countryside. Apart from the primeaval appearance this gives to the island, this implies that many folk from the villages still have enough space to practise part-time agriculture and this results in fresh produce in the local market every day. It is a treat to go for a morning stroll to the market in Victoria and see and smell the freshly-picked green vegetables, the appetizing red tomatoes and many kinds of other fruit. Some items are imported but nothing beats the Gozo products for their taste and goodness. Everybody knows that. As regards fish the villages of Xewkija, Gh'Sielem and the seaport of Mgarr are synonymous with the fishing industry and some of the residents of these localities are full-time fishermen. They supply the market with their fresh catches although again some varieties are imported and nowadays we have fishfarms as well.

Note: The Maltese islands produce 50 million kilograms of vegetables and fruit every year. In Malta and Gozo together we have 700 hectares of vineyards and the production of Maltese wines which are among the best in the world reaches 3.5 million gallons annually.  Not too bad for such a small island.

5. Living on a small island implies always having people that you know around you, not just your relatives and your closest friends but the men and women you work with, people that you know only by sight and all sorts of other acquaintances. It's almost like living in a large extended family and hence as a general rule the great majority of the towns-folk perhaps subconsciously tries to stick to the inbred rules of the social circle. Which is a good thing, in my opinion since there is less underhand activities and more harmony. 

In the big cities no one knows anybody else or cares about anybody else. Nobody nods at you as you brush shoulders on the sidewalks much less smiles a good-morning at you. I was in Palermo once and I saw a man who got hit by a car on a busy street. The poor man fell to the ground and the car kept going - an outrageous hit-and-run.  I ran to his help and assisted him to the pavement. Luckily he was not badly hurt but what astonished me most was the fact that nobody else offered to lend a hand. The people just looked on. They just couldn't care less or just plain afraid to interfere?

Living in a somewhat close community might be considered a harassment by some people who are used to live in the big cities, but for myself I accept these little benefits as god-sent gifts. Nowadays, in this chaotic existence of construction, congestion and noise,
peace and quiet are the most sought-after qualities in a place of residence. Hence I consider myself lucky to be living in the tranquil surroundings of the small Island of Gozo.

Take a look at my newly-restored Town House for Rent in the heart of Victoria, Gozo.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

It Happened in Gozo 2 - Murder for Money

The story of Salvu ta' Grabiela (grah-bee-lah), poor guy a victim of greed. It happened many years ago. 'Ta' Grah bee lah' was his nickname. Many of the families in Gozo and Malta were more commonly known by their nickname than by their surname. This is part of the folklore of the Maltese Islands and is still in some use to this day. The nicknames sometimes generated from the trade of a particular family like 'Tony of the blacksmith' or 'George of the Sailor'. Other nicknames were derived, strangely enough from colours, 'of the yellow', or 'of the black', others from nationalities such as 'of the Italian', 'of the English', 'of the Russian', 'of the Turk' while others ring with a sense of humour like a nickname of 'Fred the Giant' for a man of very short stature.

This man Salvu (Sal-voo) lived in Victoria, in an open terraced house a few meters down from the city centre. His house like many of the houses in those days had an open central courtyard with rooms opening onto it. He used to frequent a certain wine-shop in the evening after work, where he used to sit for hours with his friends munching peanuts and drinking a glass of Gozo wine or two. This was a common habit among low-class labourers who after dinner made their way to one of these wine taverns to spend time with their friends. Some people even took their food with them wrapped in a piece of cloth to eat in the shop. As we know, wine loosens the tongue and in his happy moods, Salvu used to brag a little bit about how much money he had stashed away. He even carried some gold coins in his belt and it was not the first time that he showed the gold to the men in the shop. Well the sight of gold is a temptation for some and it proved more so in those hard times.

It so happened that one dark night two men planned to rob Salvu. They broke into his house by climbing a low wall and waited for him in an upstairs terrace overlooking the courtyard. When the poor man arrived home somewhat late and a little tipsy, the two men murdered him in cold blood by dropping a stone slab on his head. He was killed instantly and was found in the morning by his neighbour in a pool of blood. Tragic and very sad. Nobody knows how much money the murderers stole. Was it true that he had a hoard of money or was Salvu only bragging about his wealth? One thing is certain, that his murder remained unsolved because the police could not prove anything. Poor Salvu, may God rest his soul in Peace.

It Happened In Gozo 1 - Rape and Murder

The Mysterious Disappearance and Murder of a Young Girl

This is the tragic story I heard many a time in my young days. Her name was Cenca (Chencha), a beautiful girl of 13 who disappeared mysteriously one evening way back in the early 1900's.

Her mother sent her to the grocer on an errand and she never returned home. The general opinion was that she was kidnapped and carried to a house not far from her home where she was murdered. In those days the streets of Victoria were lighted by a few kerosene lanterns which only produced a small circle of light directly beneath them. It was easy for a man to hide in a doorway and remain unseen as long as he wanted. Furthermore the streets were deserted in the evenings since the locals were accustomed to stay in and sleep early so as to wake up with the lark in the morning fresh and ready to attend to their chores at home before going out to work. Life was hard in those days. For many the early morning house chores were related to the few animals they kept at home, like chickens, rabbits and maybe a few goats and sheep and the occasional cow.

The murderer had another factor in his favour. About 80 years ago, the women-folk in Malta and Gozo wore the 'ghonella' (on nel lah) whenever they went out. Also known as a 'faldetta', it was generally made of black satin and was a kind of a veil-cloak garment that covered the body from head to below the knee. It was open at the front but could be kept closed at will. It was very unwieldy especially in a breeze when it acted like a sail. They wore it in the morning and in the evening, when they went to church and to the market and on special occasions such as a wedding or a baptism they wore a more elaborate silk 'ghonella'. The murderer could have deceived Cenca, poor girl by putting on an 'ghonella' to make her think that she was approaching a woman.

The man (many believed it was a man) probably took her by surprise as she passed him, easily overpowered her, covered her mouth and ran to his house with her. What happened there one can only imagine but since her body was never found nothing is certain. However, the man must have killed her in the end and buried her in his own house, maybe in a cellar or behind a wall. Who knows, maybe one day some evidence of her ordeal would be uncovered and the tragic story of Cenca would be a mystery no more. God rest her soul in Peace.

The police were unable to solve the crime. What drove the man to murder? The motive was not vendetta or revenge since the father and the mother were simple people and had no enemies. It was not for money either, because the parents were poor like most of the other families, so many are of the opinion that the murder was in all probability a sex-driven one. Would it have been avoided if Cenca's mother had not sent her out alone that night? Who knows?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Gozo Carnival 2010

I have produced here some photos shot during one session of the activities organized by the Carnival Committee, the official Carnival so to speak. This year more than the years before we saw a couple of magnificent dancing companies that were in a class of their own. One company was made up of 70 dancers, all women and girls except for 4 male participants. It was clear that they were very well prepared. They executed the longish dance so gracefully, perfectly swinging to the tempo of the well chosen playback music that they received ear-splitting applause from the appreciative spectators. Our congratulations go to the organiser, the choreographer, the designer of the wonderfully coloured and original costumes and last but not least to the graceful dancers themselves. Well done!!

ThePhotos of the spectacular dance company executing their splendid dance were taken at Victoria, Gozo on Tuesday evening, the last day of Carnival 2010.

Very different from the organized Carnival parade is the spontaneous Carnival at Nadur, Gozo. The pictures were taken on Carnival Monday night at 11 o'clock. The weather was perfect, a little cold perhaps but there was no wind or rain. There were quite a few spectators who came to Nadur for the occasion. Some people even crossed over from Malta to enjoy this bizarre spectacle. Many folks put on some old clothes grab a stick or unbrella or anything that comes to hand put on a mask and step outside to parade. The more bizarre the outfit the more attention it draws from the onlookers and from the people taking photos. It was not raining but these guys even managed to make some rain fall on their unbrellas. Some of them improvise and invent things and are really funny while others put on such ugly masks that they make some of the onlookers nervous to say nothing of frightening the children. Well anyway, I do not think that the Nadur Carnival is the ideal place for small children.

Playing with Hoops

Back in the late 1950's there were not too many cars in the streets of Victoria, Gozo. In fact I remember the time when only the doctor had one, brown and shiny (if my memory serves me well). I remember this car only too well because one evening I had a narrow escape when he almost hit me when rounding a corner at some speed. At about 4.30 pm I was on my way to the Oratory a sort of Catholic Youth Club and as I rounded the curb, there he was missing me by inches.

We played simple games, almost always in company with other boys, running around barefoot most of the time. We wore shorts in those days supported by braces. The braces were part of the trousers made of the same cloth and attached at the back to the waist. We wore them crossed at the back and buttoned them in front. Young boys used to wear short pants above knee length up to age 12 or 13 and then as we came into our teens we changed over to long trousers. At first we were a little shy to appear in public in long trousers, but eventually we got used to them.
In the quick sketch above the 3 boys are seen playing with hoops. We used to drive them or control them with a wooden stick with a bit of bent wire attached to its end. We ran races and became quite experts swerving and rounding corners. The hoops were sometimes of thick solid iron about 12 inches diameter and sometimes less and were probably part of the hub of a large cartwheel. At other times the hoop was made of sheet-metal like tin or zinc and these came perhaps from broken wine casks or were discarded by the coopers.
In the old days, children had much more fun. The games were more enjoyable since children played together, competed, shouted and screamed and learned to live with each other. They played in the open air and spent their energy in a healthy manner unlike the children of today who spend hours on end huddled over a computer keyboard.
Note: Hoops are used by a cooper (a skilled tradesman who makes casks) to hold the numerous staves of a cask pressed tightly together.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

New Luxury Townhouse in Victoria, Gozo up for Rent. Long and Short Lets. See Video below. 3-storey house with 2/3 bedrooms, large internal yard, basement and well, 4 terraces, etc. Built to high standards and designer finished. Sleeps 8 people easily. It is situated in the city core in the vicinity of St. George's Square and the market. Parking is no problem and is right outside the house or a few paces away in St. Augustine Square. A good question to pose here is whether one even needs a car in this neighbourhood.

Currently the house is unfurnished, except for a modern fully-equipped kitchen. However new modern furniture is to be installed shortly. Prospective tenants opting for long lets can also choose to bring in their own furniture.

View more videos about Malta and Gozo here:

Victoria TownHouse Video

Sometimes Video does not load. Sorry about that. Pl Come back later.

Victoria is the capital of the Island of Gozo. Also known as Rabat, the name Victoria was given to the town in 1887 in honour of the famous British Queen on her Golden Jubilee celebrations. On that day the town was also raised to the status of a city and became then officially called Citta' Vittoria. Victoria embraces the ancient Citadel and the old city of Rabat which means the suburb in Arabic. This name Rabbatum was first documented in 1455 in a notorial deed of Andrea de Beniamin.

The Citadel is undoubtedly of the greatest historical interest, a fortified town built by the Arabs and a visit here is a must. The fortifications house the Gozo Cathedral, the Law Courts, the Cathedral Museum, the Museum of Archaeology, the Folklore Museum, the Citadel Armoury, the Old Prisons and the Natural Science Museum. From the ramparts one enjoys a superb view of the whole island and as far as Malta.

The city centre, Pjazza Indipendenza commonly known as It-Tokk is dominated by the Banca Giuratale formerly the seat of the municipal Government of Gozo built in the years of our Lord 1733 and 1738. Close to this central square is the Market and a number of shops, restaurants and cafes where visitors to the town can have a snack and a coffee while relaxing in the shade.

Gozo, La Destination Ideale Pour S'installer

(Escusez le francais elementaire, s'il vous plait)

Pourquoi est Gozo idéal pour un courte férié d'hiver ou même le meilleur endroit pour y s'installer ? La Malte, Gozo et Comino se forment l'Archipel maltais a situé directement dans le centre de la Méditerranée, soixante miles navals au-dessous de l'orteil de Sicile.

La Malte est le plus petit membre de l'Union Européenne tant pour la grandeur que la population et il y a beaucoup de personnes dans le monde qui n'en ont jamais encore entendu. La Malte et Gozo n'ont pas de ressources minérales, dans le sens strict du mot, comme le gaz, le pétrole et le minerai de fer, pas même assez d'eau.

Quand les Chevaliers de S. John (bénissent leurs âmes) est d'abord arrivé en Malte dans les années 1530 c'était leur première conclusion décevante, aucune eau. Pourtant, le fait d'avoir nul autre choix ils ont fait la Malte et Gozo leur maison et nous ont quittés leur culture et un héritage riche de bâtiments baroques, églises et auberges.

La nature n'a pas pourtant quitté notre nation complètement indigente de ressources. A’ Malte nous avons une main-d'oeuvre flexible, notre environnement naturel qui inclut la campagne, la mer et le littoral et avant tout notre climat, Méditerranée typique avec ses étés chauds longs et hivers courts légers. Le climat maltais est un capital de valeur effectivement qui si exploité ne d'une manière experte devrait contribuer d'aucune petite façon à l'économie d'Îles.

Je continue à me demander pourquoi nous n'avons pas beaucoup plus de visiteurs d'hiver de nos Îles. L'hiver en Malte n'est pas cruel du tout, pas vraiment froid. Les températures vont rarement au-dessous de 17 ou 16 degrés. Les jours plevieux sont peu et rare. En général juste mettant un chandail est assez pour garder chaud. Nous avons beaucoup de jours de soleil toute l'année autour quand le soleil est vraiment chaud et l'accueil. Et ce qui est plus plaisant qu'un jour ensoleillé beau sous un ciel bleu avec juste une brise fraîche en novembre ou décembre ou même en janvier et février qui doivent être nos mois de chute de pluie principaux. Le temps excellent pour aller pour un marche a la campagne ou va biking le long des petites routes de pays.

Et Gozo est spécial, la plus petite Île de soeur de la Malte juste 8 kilomètres de distance par le Bac. C'est cette petite étendue de mer qui donne son attrait à Gozo et son caractère spécial. C'est plus robuste que la Malte, plus verte et plus primitive sous certains aspects - - comme vous arrivent en voiture dans un des plus petits villages à 8.30 le matin et vous ne voyez pas celui vivre l'âme dans l'opposé carré principal l'église de paroisse. Pas un son n'importe où. Et cela un jour parfait, non pluvieux ou venteux du tout. Où d'autre dans le monde vous peut s'attendre toujours trouver de tels environs pacifiques et silencieux!

Aussitôt que l'on met les pieds sur Gozo, on est immédiatement conscient de la gentillesse des habitants. Quelqu'un peut vous le dire. L'atmosphère propre qui prévaut et l'air vivifiant frais doivent devoir tout d'abord à l'absence complète de fumer des cheminées d'usine et deuxièmement à la petite grandeur de l'île. Gozo est seulement 9 miles par 5 et une brise faible peut balayer l'île d'un bout à l'autre ainsi dégager l'atmosphère et renouveler constamment l'écoulement d'air.

À mon opinion, les conditions météorologiques excellentes d'hiver ensemble avec l'atmosphère vivifiante fraîche entourant l'île, font Gozo la destination idéale pour ces personnes du troisième âge qui préféreraient qu'un long s'absente à partir des hivers amers froids d'Europe septentrionale et pour beaucoup d'autres qui rêvent d'un séjour dans les environs pacifiques et silencieux.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

More Ancient History

Phoenician History & Culture

Between the period of 1200 B.C. and 900 B.C. there was no major military power in Mesopotamia. Therefore smaller states like Phoenicia and the Hebrew kingdom were able to prosper. These kingdoms especially the Phoenicians started to trade throughout the Mediterranean region.
Phoenicia is the Greek name for the country and people living on the coast of Syria in ancient times at the east end of the Mediterranean Sea. It is believed that economic opportunity and population pressures forced them out into the seas. The Phoenicians colonized many areas
along the Mediterranean Sea. Areas where their colonies have been found are Sardinia, Cyprus, Malta and Carthage, the most important and lasting colony. They were superior by far to all the peoples of that time in seamanship.

Legend has it that an Egyptian pharaoh hired a band of Phoenicians to map and circumnavigate the coast of Africa. They are best remembered for their contributions in the establishment to trade with the many peoples living along the Mediterranean Coast line. The Greeks received their alphabet from them between the 15th and the 10th century B.C. The shape and make of the Maltese Luzzu is said to have been coming down from the time of the Phoenicians and the same can be said of the wooden boat-building craftsmanship still practiced today. Other antiquities attributed to the Phoenicians include carved ivories to be used in furniture, metalwork, and especially glassware.

Tyre was the major region for the purple dye industry, which probably began as early as the 18th century B.C. The dye was carefully extracted, a few drops at a time from the murex, a shell-fish found in the waters of Tyre and Sidon. The process used to extract the fluid was so difficult and so expensive that only the rich could afford to buy the dyed fabric. It is because of this Phoenician fabric that we still use the expression "born in the purple" to mean one who is born rich.
The Mediterranean Sea allowed the Phoenicians to wander, to explore, and to discover. It was their link to a world that awaited their skill and their art. These fine merchants brought their dye, fabric, ceramics, glass, metals, wine, crops, and oil from port to port. They became the world's finest maritime nation. The Phoenicians were not only adventurous merchants but expert sailors and navigators as well. They colonized parts of Cyprus, Rhodes, and the Aegean Islands. Phoenician sailors journeyed east to the Black Sea and west to places such as Corinth, Thebes, Sardinia, Palermo, Marseille, Corsica, and Malta. They were known to have gone as far as Gibraltar and Cadiz in Spain. By about 1000 B.C., they had finally reached the Atlantic Ocean. The Greeks were influenced in their navigation by the Phoenicians, who taught them to sail by the North star. The Greeks have designs on their ships similar to those from Phoenician models.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Map - La carte de Gozo

Click here ... to view a Map of Gozo.

Directions for Use: Centre the Map by using the UP/Down Arrows. You can zoom in and out by using the + and - signs and move around on the Map by holding down the Left Click and moving the mouse. You can also double-click on a village/site to zoom in. Enjoy.

Marsalforn Studio Flat for Long let. Low Rent per month.

First Floor, Self-contained, fully furnished small flat with air-conditioning. Sitting area including computer desk, dining area, small kitchen, small shower/toilet, double bed. A very large spacious balcony. Very quiet area, 3 minutes from beaches. See photos below:

Top Retirement Destination-Gozo

Why is Gozo ideal for a Winter Holiday or even the best place to settle in for good? Malta, Gozo and Comino form the Maltese Archipelago situated right in the centre of the Mediterranean Sea, sixty nautical miles below the toe of Sicily.

Malta is the smallest member of the European Union both in size and population and there are many people in the world who have never yet heard of it. Malta and Gozo do not have any natural resources, in the strict sense of the word, such as gas, oil and iron ore, not even enough water.

When the Knights of St. John (bless their souls) first arrived in Malta in the mid-1500s this was their first disappointing finding, no water. However, having no other choice they made Malta and Gozo their home and left us their culture, customs and a wealthy heritage of baroque buildings, churches and auberges.

Nature however has not left our nation totally destitute of resources. In Malta we have a flexible work force, our natural environment which includes the countryside, the sea and the coastline and above all our climate, typical Mediterranean with its long hot summers and mild short winters. The Maltese climate is a valuable asset indeed which if expertly harnessed should contribute in no small way to the Islands economy.

I keep wondering why we do not have many more Winter visitors to our Islands. Winter in Malta is not cruel at all, not really cold. Temperatures rarely go below 17 or 16 degrees. Rainfall days are few and far between. In general just putting on a sweater is enough to keep warm. We have many sunshine days all the year round when the sun is really warm and welcoming. And what is more pleasant than a beautiful sunny day under a blue sky with just a cool breeze in November or December or even in January and February which are supposed to be our main rainfall months. Excellent weather to go for a country walk or go biking along the country lanes.

And Gozo is special, the smaller sister Island of Malta just 8 kilometers away by Ferry. It is this small stretch of sea that gives Gozo its allure and its special character. It is more rugged than Malta, greener and more primitive in some ways - - such as you arrive by car in one of the smaller villages at 8.30 in the morning and you do not see one living soul in the main square opposite the parish church. Not a sound anywhere. And this on a fine day, not rainy or stormy at all. Where else in the world can you still expect to find such peaceful and quiet surroundings!

As soon as one sets foot on Gozo, one is at once aware of the friendliness of the inhabitants. Anyone can tell you that. The prevalent clean atmosphere and fresh invigorating air must be owing first of all to the complete absence of smoking factory chimneys and secondly to the small size of the island. Gozo is only 9 miles by 5 and a slight breeze can sweep the island from end to end thus clearing the atmosphere and continually renew the flow of air.

In my opinion, the excellent winter weather conditions together with the fresh invigorating atmosphere surrounding the island, make Gozo the ideal destination for those senior citizens who would prefer a long stay away from the cold bitter winters of Northern Europe and for many others who dream of a sojourn in peaceful and quiet surroundings.

I like to write about Gozo my Island Home and about other things as well. My Twitter page is :http://www.twitter.com/joeattard if you'd like to talk about Gozo and Malta or anything else:)


Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Joe_Attard

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Village of Gharb, Gozo

The legend of Zgugina is rooted in the village of Gharb situated on the West side of the Island of Gozo. Above is the picture of Wied il-Mielah (Salt Valley) where the corsairs who stole Zgugina's son Mattew are supposed to have landed.

Village History

During excavation works at 'il-Mixta' of Ghajn Abdul pre-historic pottery was found dating back to Neolithic times. According to Dr Trump this means that people lived here between 3800 - 3630BC. From the excavations made by the department of Museums, results showed that people also used to live in these caves during the Bronze Age between 1630 -800BC.

The Maltese author Antonju Caruana in his book 'Sull'Origine della lingua Maltese' says that remains of the Phoenicians were found in Gharb. According to Can G. Piet Agius de Soldanis 'ix-Xaqqufija' in Gharb is a small place where old Romans used to live. At Gharb there are Byzantine names like 'Kardusa' near San Dimitri. Chev. Vincent Bonello says that it might be possible that around the 7th Century, after being expelled from North Africa, some monks might have built chapels or monasteries in these areas. It could also be possible that the Byzantine inhabited the Islands before the Arabs did. After the Arabs took over these islands Arabic became the official language. Some old people from Gharb more than any other villages in Gozo are still using some of these words today in their day to day language. Words similar to 'Wied id-dluka', Wied ir-Rahab', 'Ghammar' and 'cuplajs', 'srew', 'ghannewwel' and others can still be heard at Gharb.
About 60 years ago the people of Gharb used to wear the 'kabozza' in the cold winter nights. The Arabs introduced 'The Kabozza' in these islands and it was always associated with the village of Gharb. Language scholars often crossed over from Malta to listen to old people from Gharb talking in pure Gozitan dialect.

Although during the Great Siege in 1565 Gozo didn't take part, Gharb was more or less involved. Smoke signals used to be sent whenever necessary. Grandmaster La Vallette was happy with the participation of Gozo in the Great Siege. 'Kap il-Malti' had served for a lot of years as watch against attacks from the enemies.
This village is also the home of two very holy people, namely Frenc ta' L-Gharb and Karmni Grima. Both of them were totally devoted to Our Lady of Ta Pinu. In fact Karmni Grima is believed to have seen Our Lady in an appartition while she was tilling her fields near the site where Ta Pinu Sanctuary now stands. Frenc ta' L-Gharb was a herbalist in his own way and many people from all over Gozo used to consult him for he had great insight and healing powers administered through his steadfast faith in Our Lady.

The Gharb Local Council manages a Folklore Museum mostly centred around old-time tools and trades. This is a must see for visitors to Gharb.

This is a typical old homestead in the picturesque and peaceful village of Gharb (known as Garbo prior to the 1930's)

More Recent History

British Rule in Malta

During WW2 Malta played an important role, owing to its proximity to the Axis shipping lanes. The bravery of the Maltese people in their long struggle against enemy attack moved H.M. King George VI to award the George Cross to Malta on 15 April 1942, "to bear witness to a heroism and devotion that will long be famous in history". The George Cross has been an important element in the Maltese Flag ever since.

During the years following the war, Malta had to combat the ravages and destruction that the continued bombings had left in their wake. The Malta Labour Party attempted to bring about the "Integration with Britain" but this failed owing to severe opposition from various factions. Malta was granted independence on September 21, 1964. Under its 1964 constitution, Malta initially retained Queen Elizabeth II as Queen of Malta, with a Governor-General exercising executive authority on her behalf. In 1974 on the 13th December, Malta became a Republic with a President as Head of State, the first being Sir Anthony Mamo. The defence agreement signed soon after independence (and re-negotiated in 1972) expired on March 31,1979 and on that day the British military forces were withdrawn from the Island, with mutual consent and in a very friendly and heart-breaking atmosphere. In fact the Maltese population thronged to the Grand Harbour and waved goodbye with tears in their eyes. Malta adopted an official policy of neutrality in 1980 and, for a brief period was a member of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries.

In 1989, Malta was the venue of an important summit between US President Bush and Soviet leader Gorbachev. On that very stormy and windy day on board a US warship the historic meeting signalled the end of the Cold War. Malta joined the European Union on May 1, 2004 and in 2008 we joined the Eurozone which has proved very beneficial financially.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Another Famous Legend - The Golden Calf

The Golden Calf (L-Ghogol tad-Deheb)

The Hebrews first came to Malta after the fall of Jerusalem. They brought with them their most precious possessions among them the Golden Calf. It is written in the Bible that the Golden Calf was made for the Hebrews by Aronne the brother of Moses. Moses had climbed up Mount Sinai to receive the 10 Commandments from the Lord and during his long absence the people had grown very restless. To quieten them down, all the gold was gathered and melted down to mould the Idol. In Egypt, whence the Hebrews had recently come, the Apis Bull was an object of worship and the Hebrews were reviving his adoration in the wilderness.

Up to the year 1214 there were still 33 Hebrew families living in Malta. Though they were tolerated and allowed to have their own government 'alayma', they were reluctant to abide by the local laws and regulations and as a result they were forced to leave the island in 1494. It is said that prior to their departure they buried the Golden Calf in a field in Gozo. From that day on, many Gozitan folk began a feverish hunt for this precious treasure and eventually, the news spread that a farmer had unearthed the Calf in one of his fields. The king immediately sent for him but the man denied his ever finding the treasure. So he was sent to prison for the rest of his days and the Golden Calf remained a mystery as it still is to this day.

There are some who believe that when the Hebrews were leaving they embarked from Wied-il-Ghasri (Valley of the Grape Crusher)and that they buried the Golden Idol in the vicinity. This valley is a narrow inlet, not unlike a very small fjord facing North with high cliffs on both sides. In the not so distant past, some people were caught smuggling coffee and alcohol. So secluded and out of the way, it is the perfect haven for contrabandists. A small chapel situated on the road to Wied-il-Ghasri dedicated to the Patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Overlooking the creek is the Jordan Lighthouse which dominates the village of Ghasri. This majestic sentinel high up on a hill at the back has been standing since the first years of British occupation, inaugurated in 1853.
Prior to it constuction, a bonfire used to be kept alight at night to warn ships sailing to the North and West of the Island of Gozo.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

I first heard the Legend of Zgugina when I was six or seven

Zgugina, an old lady from Gozo

An old lady called Zgugina lived on the outskirts of the village of Gharb in Gozo. She was so poor that her only possession was her loving son Mattew (Mathew). Gozo is a very small island and her coast is dotted all around with small inlets and bays. Now in those dark and dangerous times the sea between Gozo and Sicily to the North and between Gozo and Tunisia to the South was infested with pirates(furbani). Not far from the farmhouse where Zgugina lived with her son there is an inlet known as Wied il-Mielah (Salt Vallely) and it was not the first time that in the dead of night these wicked sea-dogs landed secretly, pillaged and stole whatever they could find. It so happened that one dark night, some of these men armed to the teeth with knives and swords found their way to the old woman's abode and stole her only dear possession, her son Mattew. They carried him stealthily away and bundled him in one of their boats. His poor mother only missed him when she woke up early in the morning and she knew at once what had happened.

Grief stricken as she was, with tears streaming down her cheeks she did not know how she made her way to the little chapel dedicated to St. Dimitrius. There she knelt, her face to the floor in front of the titular painting of the saint. "St. Dimitrius please bring back my son, please, please. He is my only possession and my only purpose in life. Please, bring him back to me, I know you can. Go on your horse and bring him back. Please save him from the corsairs and I will light some oil for you in thanksgiving every day".

And thereupon, St. Dimitrius taking pity on the faithful heart-broken woman tore himself from the painting and riding his gallant white steed galloped down the aisle, left the church and disappeared in a mysterious cloud of dust. She could not believe her eyes. The horse's hooves made so much noise in the little church and she could see bright sparks flying from under its horse-shoes as they hit the stone flags. But of course it was all a dream for when she looked at the titular painting, St.Dimitrius was still there astride his horse as he had been for as long as she could remember. On the other hand, she felt in her heart that her beloved Saint would not foresake her and so she continued to pray and wring her hands in grief. She would continue praying until St. Dimitrius heard her pleas.

Some moments later another strange thing happened. How was this possible! She could distinctly hear a horse outside neighing, snorting and stamping as if it had just returned from a long hard ride. She turned to gaze at the church door but it was so filled with bright light that the poor woman could see nothing and she had to shield her eyes. Then out of the glare, smiling and with arms outstretched she saw her son Mattew emerging and running towards her. Thank you St. Dimitrius for bringing my son back, the old woman kept saying repeatedly all the while hugging and covering her son with kisses. I knew He would hear me, Zgugina told her son.

When eventually the mother and her son left the chapel they noticed that St. Dimitrius had miraculously left an imprint of a horse-shoe in the soft limestone a few paces away from the chapel as a memento of his favour granted to Zgugina, the old lady from Gozo. The mark of the horse-shoe can still be seen to this day. Folk from Gharb recount that on dark and moonless nights when the sea is calm, a ghostly light can still be seen shimmering in the depths of the sea and they believe that it is Zgugina's light still burning in honour of St. Dimitrius.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Let's Start with a Little Note on History

Malta is home to the oldest freestanding structure in the world, the oldest of which is the megalithic temple il-Ġgantija, in Gozo (Għawdex) dating back to before 3500 BC. This would be one thousand years before the pyramids. The outter walls stand six metres tall. Folklore has it that a female giant called "Sunsuna" carried the rocks on her head from a place in Gozo called Ta' Cenc. She is supposed to have lived on a diet of Broad Beans, called ''Ful'' in Maltese. Another very early temple is that of Ħaġar Qim, which dates from between 3200 and 2500 BC. It stands on a hilltop on the southern edge of the island of Malta and adjacent to this temple lies another remarkable site known as l-Imnajdra.

Then we know of the Phoenicians who colonized the islands around 700 BC, using our harbours as an outpost from which they expanded their sea exploration and trade in the Mediterranean.

Later after the fall of Tyre, the islands came under the control of Carthage (400 BC), a former Phoenician colony, and then following the defeat of Carthage by the Romans our Islands fell under the rule of Rome (218 BC). The islands prospered under Roman rule, during which time they were considered a Municipium and a Foederata Civitas. Roman remains still exist today, a sign of the close links between the Maltese inhabitants and the people of Rome. The island was a favorite spot among the Roman soldiers as a place in which to retire from active service. In AD 60, the islands were visited by Saint Paul, by God's intervention. Paul is believed to have been shipwrecked on the shores of the aptly-named Saint Paul's Bay (San Pawl il-Baħar. He converted the inhabitants to Christianity and annointed Publius as the first bishop of the Maltese Islands.

After a period of Byzantine rule (fourth to ninth century) and a probable sack by the Vandals, the islands were conquered by the Arabs in AD 870. The Arabs, who generally tolerated the population's Christianity, introduced the cultivation of citrus fruits and cotton, and irrigation systems. Arab influence can be seen most prominently in the modern Maltese language, a Semitic language which also contains significant Romance influences, and is written in a variation of the Latin alphabet.

The period of Arab rule lasted until 1091, when the islands were taken by the Siculo-Normans. For their help in the struggle the Maltese were rewarded by Count Roger who gave them a white and red strip of his own flag. Subsequent rulers included the Angevins and the Aragonese, who reconstituted a County of Malta in 1283.

In 1530 the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V of Spain gave the islands to the Order of Knights Hospitalers of St John of Jerusalem in perpetual lease. The knights, a military religious order now known as the "Knights of Malta", had been driven out of Rhodes by the Ottoman Empire in 1522. in 1565. aided by the Maltese they withstood a full-blown siege by the Ottoman Turks, who at that time were the greatest naval power in the Mediterranean. They later increased the fortifications, particularly in the inner-harbour area, where the new city of Valletta, named after Grand Master Jean de la Valette, was built.

In 1798 the reign of the Knights came to an end when Malta was captured by Napoleon en route to his conquest of Egypt during the French Revolutionary Wars. As a ruse, Napoleon requested safe passage into the harbour to resupply his ships but then turned his guns against his hosts once safely inside Valletta. The Grand Master knew that he could only allow a few ships at a time to enter the harbour, according to the Treaty of Trent but Grand Master Ferdinand von Hompesch capitulated and the Island passed to Napoleon who only stayed in Malta for a few days. He established an administration controlled by his nominees and then sailed for Egypt, leaving a substantial garrison in Malta.

The occupying French forces were very unpopular due particularly to their negative attitude towards religion. Their financial and religious reforms did not go down well with the citizens. The Maltese rebelled against them, and the French were forced behind the fortifications. Great Britain, along with the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, sent munitions and aid to the rebels. Britain sent her navy, which instigated a blockade of the islands. The isolated French forces, under General Vaubois, surrendered in 1800, and the island became a British Dominion, willingly presented to Sir Alexander Ball by the then Maltese leaders.

In 1814, as part of the Treaty of Paris, Malta officially became part of the British Empire, and owing to its central position between Gibraltar and the Suez Canal it was used as a shipping station and fleet headquarters. Malta's geographical position proved to be its main asset during these years, and it was considered to be an important stop for ships on their way to India.

Folklore. What is folklore?

Folklore may be considered to embrace all the habits and customs of any given civilization, all its numerous activities, the quality of the houses people lived in, the dress they wore, the food they ate, their social dealings with one another, their education and religious life, their festivals and amusements, together with beliefs in the afterworld, as well as innumerable other facets of human life.

Maltese folklore is concerned with all this. It explores the history, literature, folktales, old wives tales, legends, children's rhymes and games, traditional herbal medicine, nicknames, birth and death rituals, feasts, long-forgotten murders and old customs from Malta and Gozo.