CycleCalCoast

cycleCalCoast

Thinking of a getaway, one with lots of activities, where you'll ride every day? Checkout cycleCalCoast.com. It's a new website for a new civic group that combines local elected officials, travel and bicycle professionals from Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties.…

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Maltese Cycling Adventure on the Island of Gozo

Last December, I had the wonderful opportunity to enjoy a few days on the island nation of Malta.

The Maltese archipelago consists of a number of islands, most notably Malta and Gozo.  Located in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea just south of Sicily and east of Tunisia, Malta’s strategic geographic position has resulted in a fascinating culture richly molded by numerous influences: Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, the Knights Hospitaller, Italians, French, and British.  The imprint of the Knights Hospitaller, who were founded during the Crusades and defended Malta and Christendom from the onslaught of the Ottoman Turks, is especially profound, particularly in the magnificent architecture of the extraordinary capital Valletta.  The Maltese language is Semitic in origin, and the island nation remains devoutly Catholic.

Malta’s spectacular capital established by the Knights Hospitaller, Valletta is a virtual open-air museum and known as “a city built by gentlemen for gentlemen.”

Today, Malta is internationally renowned as a tourist destination, especially for its long Christian legacy (According to the Acts of the Apostles, St. Paul was shipwrecked in Malta on his way to Rome), 9 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, numerous recreational opportunities, historical monuments, beautiful beaches, and the best scuba diving in Europe.  Most remarkably, the entire Maltese archipelago covers just 121 square miles, 1/8 the size of Orange County!

Malta’s second largest island is Gozo, home to 31,000 residents and encompassing 26 square miles – half the size of Newport Beach, but with even more hills.  If you are a fan of Greek mythology, Gozo was once known as Ogygia, the home of the nymph Calypso in Homer’s Odyssey.

In order to fully appreciate this island, I booked an adventure with a cycling operation called “Malta By Bike” that aims to provide unique cycling experiences while focusing on safety and the local culture.  In planning my trip, I was greatly impressed by the hospitality of its founder and owner, Sergio Zammit.  Sergio went above and beyond by responding to all my questions not just about cycling in Malta, but on local accommodations and dining options.  Sergio’s graciousness and generosity were actually quite typical of the wonderful experience I had in Malta.

The Gozo Channel Company provides a 25-minute ferry service between Malta and Gozo

The day began as Sergio’s assistant Stefano picked me up just outside my hotel in Valletta.  Stefano could not pick me up at my hotel, because Valletta is a largely pedestrian-oriented city with few roads accessible to cars.  Stefano came prepared with two mountain bikes hoisted on the back of his car.  We proceeded north towards the ferry terminal at Cirkewwa in the north of Malta, where the ferry took us on a 25-minute crossing to Mgarr in the south of Gozo, featuring great views of the archipelago, including the small  island of Comino, most famous for its incredible “Blue Lagoon.”

Mgarr is Gozo’s largest fishing village.

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