Gozo, Island of Wonders Pt.2

Today we were going into full on exploration mode. After another wonderful breakfast we took the bus over to Victoria also known as Rabat, the capital of Gozo.

The main sight here is the Citadel, it dominates the skyline in Victoria, and it’s just a short walk up from the bus station.

The first fortifications were built here in 1500BC and it’s believed to be the Acropolis of a Roman City called Gaulos. The buildings you see now are from the 15th century.

It once would have served as a defense against pirates, and until 1637 the Gozitan settlers had to stay within the walls at night by law.

A 5 Euro ticket gets you access to the main citadel, a few museums and a prison. It starts with an amazing digital show charting the history of the place.

From there you’re free to wander at your own leisure, the size of the place is amazing and we started by following along the huge outer walls.

From here we climbed up into the depths of the Citadel, and found ourselves in front of the magnificent Cathedral of Gozo. Unfortunately you have to pay to go inside so we just enjoyed the lovely square and baroque architecture.

We checked out some of the museums, they’re only small but the nature museum was pretty interesting, and the prison was cool.

One of the best parts was wandering the little side streets, there were a few nice shops around and the views from the Citadel walkway were unreal. You could see the Gozitan countryside for miles around, and it was such a beautiful day.

Once we had exhausted the sights inside the Citadel, it was time to explore the main town. It’s full of charming alleyways, hidden squares and lots of nice little restaurants and bars.

We tried the local pastizzi, a pastry stuffed with ricotta cheese which was delicious. After this little snack we stopped for lunch on St George’s square.

We shared a traditional platter, filled with everything I love about Mediterranean food. Washed down with a couple of cold beers.

You can also try Capitan Spriss for something more modern and for some good wine and cake.

We headed back towards the bus station through the narrow streets, stoping to admire flowers cascading down the walls and old wooden doorways.

We were heading over to Dwejra bay, but we had 45 minutes to spare so we walked around the Villa Rundle gardens. These were really pretty, and I loved the little art sculptures like the bees and the rainbow.

We noticed a gelato place opposite the bus station and it’s some of the best ice cream either of us had ever had. It was called Vanilla+ and it was soooo creamy and delicious.

We were soon on our way to Dwejra. Once famous for the Azure Window, a natural arch formation that collapsed in 2017.

Despite this I had heard it was a beautiful spot, with a sea tunnel and some amazing rock formations. Sadly the boats that take you through the tunnel weren’t running that day, but we had great fun exploring the crazy landscape.

The cliffs and rock pools are fun to wander around, and in Summer you can get a better chance to swim apparently. The Azure Window restaurant is also a good place to grab lunch or even just a beer.

The bus journey there is also amazing, you can spot Ta’pinu, the oldest church on the island, legend says that after it was ordered to be demolished, the first hammer blow to it broke the workers arm, so they left it standing!

We also passed golden fields of corn, and even the ruins of an aqueduct! If we’d had more time or a car we definitely would have stopped to explore these places.

After a long day we decided to cook for ourselves to save some money, so we stopped at the Arkadia foodstore. There was so much amazing stuff here, we had to hold back from buying too much!

Finally we arrived home, after eating a lovely little meal we took our wine down to the terrace lookout and watched the sun set on another amazing day in Gozo.

Tromso and the Northern Lights

I chose to visit Tromsรธ as I’d heard that there was an almost 100% chance of seeing the Northern Lights! It was a bit of a birthday treat to myself and I was also travelling around Norway a little bit. I arrived from Oslo by plane. The flight was incredible going over the fjords and snow capped mountains.

Tromso is located in Norway up in the Arctic circle, it has the worlds northernmost university, brewery and cathedral. It’s famous as a bit of a party town due to the large student numbers it has. For two months in the summer, there are 24 hours of daylight, and for two months in winter there is so sun, but there is some light in the day, called the blue twilight.

The main airport is located on the opposite side of the island to the main little town, it was a gloriously sunny day when I landed, and I decided to walk over the hills to Tromso rather than get a bus, as I had the whole afternoon to wander. Using google maps to track my way, at first I regretted my decision a little as I walked through residential areas, but soon I was walking through beautiful countryside.

I stopped for a break to enjoy the stunning views, it was the beginning of April and the snow was still really deep, covering the picnic benches that I could spot. There were even people barbequing up there which was really cool.

I started my descent into the town and was greeted by even better views, going across the water to the hills and mountains in the distance. I was staying at the Tromso Activities Hostel which was cute and friendly enough but for the price you’d expect a little more, but Norway is an expensive place.

I dropped my stuff off as usual, and headed out to wander the streets and get a good bearing, I had found a little burger place called Burgr near the hostel so I went there first for a beer and something to eat. It was a little cheaper than other places in Norway and the veggie option was delicious, I loved the retro gaming decor too.

From here I just wandered down Havnegata street, stopping off to look at the quirky shops and admire the reflections at the marina. I ended up near the Tromso Cathedral which is a cute little church in a pleasant park. I walked back down along Gronnegata, the lovely wooden buildings are so nice and I stopped to pick up some snacks and food to cook back at the hostel.

Knowing I was going to be up half the night, I had a nice evening nap, getting up at around 8pm to prepare. I put on about 6 layers of clothing and 4 paris of socks inside my big boots. I had hat, scarf, gloves, and gopro, I was ready to face the cold! I was doing this on a relative budget so instead of going on a tour, I walked down to the Folkeparken on the southern tip of the island which took about 45 minutes to walk there along the road.

I arrived there and wasn’t alone! There were two other groups with fires sat around chatting, so I found a spot a little way from them and parked up. It was freezing cold but the walk had kept me warm, I had my headphones on and just sat and waited….It reached 11pm and I noticed something in the sky, at first I dismissed it as clouds and my fantasizing.

As I watched this white smear slowly spread across the sky I realised it was happening, I was fulfilling a lifelong bucketlist moment! I was so happy I jumped onto the picnic table I was sat on and started dancing around, I must have looked like a lunatic.

I watched these white smears dance around the sky then disappear, I started thinking was that it? It wasn’t like the pictures I had seen at all, so I sat there until about 1:30am, wondering when I would call it a night and go home. Suddenly the white smears returned!

Turning to greens, swirling and spreading above me. It was the most wonderful theatre production I have ever seen, as it was totally performed by nature itself. This time they lasted for a good 45 minutes, leaving me satisfied and ready to head back, by this point my little toes were freezing!

I slept in the next day and then did some sightseeing around the town, there’s really not much to do or see in Tromso apart from tours out to the countryside. I visited the polar museum which was okay for an hour or so, and crossed the Tromsobrua bridge to take a look at the viking-esque Tromsoysund Menighetshus, the Arctic cathedral.

I decided to hike up to the top of Fjellheisen, a mountain on the mainland. You can also take a cable car up there which I took on the way down. The walk up wasn’t too taxing and the incredible scenery at the top was worth it.

You can enjoy the views from nearby the cable car, but I hiked up to the Pa Toppen, this was pretty difficult in the deep snow but once up there I felt like I was in a completely different world of ice and snow.

I took a little picnic up there with me, so I had my late lunch, sat there and just watched the world go by. It was a great way to relax and enjoy the peacefulness. On the way back I stopped at the Polaria, an arctic aquarium but I wasn’t a fan it was small and a the seal show was sad. You can take a look at an old arctic ship next door called the MS Polstjerna which was cool.

That night I was back on the northern light chase, this time I headed up into the hills to Prestvannet, a big lake that freezes over in Winter. This was another recommended dark spot and it was brilliant! The lights came again, this time a little earlier and lasted for a couple of hours, even as I walked back down into the town you could still see them shimmering up above.

The next day I just hiked around the island, there are lots of ski tracks you can follow, I even saw a seal out in the water. The walks are beautiful through the forests and along the water’s edge with little huts and beaches along the way. So many people are out skiing or barbequing it feels like such a relaxed place. I was off to Bergen next, satisfied that I had witnessed something truly magical.