May 19, 2019 - Sea Cloud
Talk about starting a voyage with a wow! Sea Cloud slipped the mooring lines in the pink glow of sunrise and sailed out of the magnificent, fortified Grand Harbour of the island of Malta. Despite the early hour, the decks were abuzz with excited travelers and clicks of rapidly firing camera shutters. The Grand Harbour is a 4-km-long inlet that sits between the walled city of Valetta and the older towns of Birgu (Vittoriosa) and Senglea. Each is fronted by massive Renaissance fortifications from which the Knights of St John, the Hospitallers, bravely defended the island from the Ottomans during the Great Siege of 1565.
Once beyond the shelter of the breakwaters and Fort St. Elmo, we headed into a stiff northwest wind for three hours before turning south and setting sail, heading east at close to 7 knots toward our afternoon destination of Gozo, the second-most populated island of the Maltese archipelago.
We tendered ashore to take a guided tour of the megalithic temples of Ggantija and the small but informative site museum. Built in 3600 BC, the weathered stone temple is the oldest example of monumental architecture in Europe and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. We started in the South Temple that consists of five apse-shaped rooms connected by a central corridor. This is the larger and older of the two temples on the site. The adjacent North Temple has four apses. Both temples front an oval-shaped courtyard and both are surrounded by and incorporated within a single, thick wall of massive limestone blocks. Though rough and pitted now, archaeologists have found evidence that both the inner and outer walls of the temples were plastered and smooth.
After an hour on site, we walked a block uphill through the surrounding village to visit the beautifully restored 18th-century Ta Kola windmill that is the only surviving mill of the five built on the island by the Knights of St. John. The complex also incorporates an ethnographic museum filled with blacksmith tools and farm implements. The return trip to the docks at Mgarr took us past fields filled with ripened, late-winter wheat and others newly planted with summer tomatoes. We had a first photo stop in Nadur and a second one above the south cliffs of the island to look down on Sea Cloud anchored in the narrow channel that separates Gozo from the tiny island of Comino. The winds had dropped considerably while we were ashore, and we were ferried back to the ship by Zodiac for a welcome reception. Champagne, oysters, and a sunset in the company of new and old friends—it doesn’t get any better.
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