The sound is its own brand of crunch: fragments of limestone brick under loafers. The satisfying cacophony of footfalls echoing off of quiet dry walls, somewhere in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea; that's what I remember first about the village of Għarb.
It's the westernmost village on the island of Gozo, a small island which belongs to Malta. 1,500 people live there, most of them English. There are 3 or 4 restaurants, 1 tiny grocery store and 1 staggering church, the Collegiate Basilica of the Visitation.
We stayed in a 300 year-old farmhouse just down the street from the basilica. It was covered in climbing succulent plants and surrounded by rogue poppies. Aside from Adhan (Islamic call to prayer), the farmhouse was quiet during the day. The nighttime air was full of life, though. Feral cats that circled around the farmhouse walls, sentinels or beggars or thugs, cried from dusk until whenever it was that I fell asleep and stopped listening. From my rich history with barn cats, I knew the crying to be fighting and mating.
Every morning I walked out into the courtyard to put my palms on the damp, cool limestone walls. The bricks were cut by generations of Gozitan people in a quarry a few miles away. Gozitans have a hellish history of enslavement and high taxes. The hardships that these people faced at the hands of the Ottomans and the French are still apparent today in the somber, yet content demeanor of the beautiful caramel-skinned villagers.
I ate very well in Għarb. Cured meats, cheeses, olives and giant broad beans were readily available. As were potatoes. Traditional Maltese pizza is cheese pizza with large hunks of potato on it. Perhaps not my favorite dish but still an interesting culinary experience. The most remarkable local product was the wine. All sorts.
Please have a look through these photos of the streets and fields surrounding Għarb. My time here was the pinnacle of my trip to Malta.