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Mgarr is known as the gateway to Gozo. The harbour is dominated by a neo-gothic monument, the Lourdes Church built in 1888. Some years earlier, a visitor to the area remarked that the rocks of the hill where the church now stands, resembled those of the Grotto of Massabielle in Lourdes, France. A statue of Our Lady of Lourdes soon appeared in the rocks. Soon after WW2 ended a marble altar was added to the imposing church. From here there are commanding views of the harbour. To the left of the church is Fort Chambrai, designed by military engineer de Tigne in 1723. Work was started only in 1749 by the Knight de Chambrai, who was later to become Commander of the Galleys and then Governor of Gozo. This was the last fortification built by the Knights, and the only active service it saw was during the resistance to the French occupation of the islands in 1798. Fort Chambrai never became a city. Today Mgarr is a busy harbour and ferry port. It retains a charming picture postcard image, with its colourful boats and bustling restaurants. The yacht marina is within walking distance from the ferry.

Gozo

Gozo, meaning “joy” in Castilian, is the second largest Island of the Maltese archipelago, with a population of approximately 30,000.

Though separated from mainland Malta by a 5km stretch of sea, Gozo is distinctly different from Malta. The Island is a third the size of Malta, more rural and simple, its culture and way of life rooted in fishing, as well as in primitive pastoral and agricultural activity.

Exuding a relaxed pace of life, Gozo is the ideal secluded safe haven and at just 25 minutes or so by ferry from Malta, the hop can easily be made for even the shortest stay.

Life in Gozo was harsh for well over two millennia, as the Islands were left exposed to any passing raiders, much more so than Malta with its natural harbours and defences.

Throughout the Middle Ages and into the rule of the Knights, Barbary corsairs and Saracens raided the island at intervals. In 1551, the Saracens carried out a devastating raid, taking almost the entire population away into slavery.

The Island never really recovered from this and remained under populated for centuries until the arrival of the Knights saw the medieval Citadel (in Victoria, or Rabat) refortified and the Gozitans began to venture down to the rest of the Island.

Gozo and its inhabitants have their own distinct character and identity, with noticeably different lifestyles, accents and dialect. Gozitans are known for their friendliness and welcome to visitors, going out of their way to indicate a direction or help a visitor find their destination.
Festas and carnival times in Gozo also have a different feel to those on Malta. The village of Nadur celebrates carnival with a black sense of humour, quite unlike its more joyful counterparts elsewhere.
The real beauty of Gozo, apart from its stunning seascape and interior, lies in the villages. (Source: visitmalta)

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Additional Photos by George Rumpler (Budapestman) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 8900 W: 3 N: 20435] (82620)
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