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Report 2011: Gozo, Calypso’s Isle

By Eleanor from UK, Spring 2012

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Page 11 of 26: Marsalforn and the Salt Pans

photo by MAW

Salt pans

Marsalforn was the principal seaport before Mgarr harbour and all imported foodstuff from Sicily came in here. It was once a peaceful fishing village but is now the main resort with slapdash ribbon development of apartment blocks along the coast. There are high rise buildings everywhere. We avoided the town centre and took the road to the west which runs along the shore a few feet above the sea. It was high tide with a strong wind blowing onto the shore. Waves lapped close to road and Michael asked "are you sure this is right?"

The road swung round a headland with boat houses cut into the cliff face. The road then runs along a wave cut platform at the base of the cliffs. On the next headland are the remains of the 18thC stone built Qolla il-Bajda Battery above.

Beyond are the salt pans cut out of the wave cut platform beside the road. Salt has been produced here since Roman times although the present pans date back to the 19thC and are still in use. Gozo salt is a popular tourist present.

It was interesting to see how the design of the pans changed along the road. The first ones had small stones forming the sides of the pans. Some of the larger and deeper pans were full of water. Further along road, the pans are much more irregular in shape and look a bit like a gigantic crazy pavement. Further along they are beautifully cut rectangles. At the far end of the road many of the pans are very shallow. They are well above the sea and probably not very good for salt extraction.

Malta and Gozo are popular film sets and the day we visited a Russian film crew was busy at work. The locals enjoy their work as extras. A fishing village had been built below the road with wooden huts, gibbet on the entrance gateway with body hanging from it and a realistic wreck. We understand it was a film about a 19thC pioneering Russian-American settlement just north of San Francisco.

We drove to the end of the road where it widens to form a parking area. Tracks lead off from here up to Zebbug and along to Weid il Ghasri.

Zebbug is the long village built on top of a narrow ridge above Marsalaforn. It is a traditional village with a large square with a police station with blue light, red phone box and the church which was locked. Old houses surround the square and there are a lot of new apartment blocks built above the cliff to the northwest. There is only one shop left in Zebbug now as everyone shops in Victoria. It is small and dark selling the usual dry goods along with some fruit and vegetables. A hawkers van still calls.

The Statue of the Risen Christ is a well known landmark on Tal-Merzug Hill between Victoria and Marsalforn. The islanders feared the peak was a volcano and placed a wooden cross on the top of the hill to protect them. This was replaced by a statue in 1904. This is the third statue now made of reinforced concrete to resist the elements.

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