Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Ta'Kola Windmill, Gozo, Malta

The Ta'Kola Windmill was built in 1725 and is currently under restoration, so we didn't recognize it immediately. Normally the sails are up if not turning. Since we visited in the winter of 2014, it was a good time to do some restoration work. Hopefully it will be back to its full appearance by the time you read this.

Ta'Kola Windmill being restored

The interior still has the forge and tools used by the caretaker as well as living quarters upstairs for his family.

The last mill worker, Guzeppi Grech, who left in 1987


Maintaining a windmill requires a variety of skills like carpentry, smithing, and stone dressing. The mill's forge was used to build the tools needed. It also provided alternate work (like sharpening metal tools or making horseshoes) for the miller when the wind was either too fast or too slow to do milling.

J at the forge

Coal for the forge

Locks made at the mill

In the back are some store rooms with displays on local agriculture and some of the weighing equipment used at the mill.

Scales and weights

Upstairs is the living quarters. The first room is the dining room with typical furniture.

Dining/living room

The miller's dishes

Next to the dining room is the kitchen with the usual assortment of pots and pans and daily use items.


Just beyond the kitchen is a small bedroom that was also used for weaving.

The loom

A simple bed

The main bedroom is behind, with a larger bed and a small hammock that would have been for the baby.

Master bedroom

Dresser with devotional items

Further upstairs is the milling equipment, which was not on display due to the restoration.

The mill was a fun visit for the kids and the adults. The admission for this includes entry into the Ggantija Temples, which are a short walk away.

A millstone left outside

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Book Review: Bill, the Galactic Hero on the Planet of Zombie Vampires by Harry Harrison and Jack C. Haldeman II

Bill, the Galactic Hero on the Planet of Zombie Vampires by Harry Harrison and Jack C. Haldeman II

Bill, the Galactic Hero, is a human space trooper who has three arms, some tusks, and is regrowing his right foot. His new assignment is as Military Policeman to the starship Bounty, which is taking a bunch of prisoners to the front line of the Chinger war. The ship is a bit older and doesn't have a proper drive system, which means the trip will take months and months. Luckily, everyone will have served their term and be put to fighting when the trip is over. Unluckily, the only other non-prisoners on the ship are Captain Blight, First Mate Christianson, and science officer (and also android) Caine, so the prisoners make up the rest of the crew. More unluckily, Captain Blight has an obsession with okra and has devoted most of the ship's resources to growing it on board. So much is grown that it is the sole food for the crew. If that wasn't enough to cause a mutiny on the Bounty (and don't think that joke doesn't come up again and again), the ship crashes on a planet with an abandoned communication facility. Well, not quite abandoned. The dried-out husks of the former facility staff are there along with a lot of literally blood-thirsty aliens who start out as cute little ducklings. Soon enough they'll be giant acid-spewing monsters hungry for the Bounty's crew.

The novel is a light-weight comedy version of the Alien movies. The crew has to explore the facility and get some supplies to repair the ship, all the while avoiding the monsters. The jokes are a mish-mash of pop culture puns (the Caine Mutiny gets mentioned and the three clones are called Larry, Moe, and Curly) and general silliness. I didn't find it very funny but it made me smile a few times. There is none of the horror from the Alien movies. While the characters are scared, the situations are never that suspenseful and nothing is described in any sort of detail.

I have to say the "zombie vampires" were a bit of a let-down for me. It reminds me of the movie Mystery Men, where the villain is named Casanova Frankenstein. That's a great name for a villain but they did nothing with it, i.e. there was nothing particularly Casanova or Frankenstein about the character. The aliens do suck blood and eventually turn people into mummies, but mummies aren't zombies or vampires.They should have called this book "Bill, the Galactic Hero on the Planet of Alien Franchise Ripoffs."

I will not be seeking out any more of this series.

Ggantija Temples, Gozo, Malta

The Ggantija Temples on Gozo are among the most ancient buildings still extant in the world. Built around 3600-3000 B.C., they predate the Egyptian Pyramids and Stonehenge by a thousand years. The temples are called "ggantija" or "giant" because folklore tells that a female giant brought the stones to construct them. The outer stones are up to five meters in length and weigh 40 to 50 tons.

Ggantija Temples

Side view

The other side

View from the back

There are two temples, both surrounded by the outer wall. The south temple is the older and larger (and better preserved). They were working on the entrance when we visited.

Temple supporters

The entrance to the South Temple

The doorway of the entrance has several large holes, presumably for doors or screens. The temple has five chambers or apses where services were held. Many animal bones were found in the area, indicating the offering of livestock. To whom or for what purpose is unknown.

Holes in the doorway

Front chamber

Altars or tables?

A small fire pit

The main apse paved with flagstones in 37th century B.C.!

Another chamber

The view from the temples is quite impressive, including the massive domed church in Xewkija.

View of Gozo

View of Xewkija and its church

The north temple is smaller and has similar features--the doorway holes, large chambers, etc. Unfortunately it has a bit of graffiti too.

Doorway with holes


Stone walls

Modern graffiti

L, happily, was not scared here, in spite of the ancient practices that may have gone on.

L's okay, really!

Up the hill is a museum that has some items from the temples. The museum is also the entrance to the site.

L anxious to get in!

Remnants of stone statue

Artist's conception of a complete statue

Small human and animal figures

Vase base

Etching of birds

Female human skull

There is little evidence of the culture of the builders of the temples. The Maltese Temple Culture abruptly ended just before 2500 B.C. The Bronze Age inhabitant that came after used the site for cremations. Debris and dirt eventually covered it up, leaving a mound with a stone wall. In 1820, British Lt. Col. John Otto Bayer began excavating the site. It was a long process. Not until 1949 was the site opened to the public. It is surely worth visiting.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Ferry to Gozo from Malta

We took a ferry from Malta to Gozo (the second largest island in the Malta archipelago). The trip is pretty short (less than half an hour) and not too expensive--they only charge for the return from Gozo back to Malta. The ferry runs pretty regularly and efficiently. Our arrival at the dock was perfectly timed. We drove straight onto the boat. A quick walk up two flights of stairs led us to the cafe and the outside decks for a last view of Malta.


Out to sea

The ferry goes past the third island of the Malta chain, Comino, which has almost no population and no cars. According to the guide book, there's only one north-south road on the island.


After a cuppa tea and some chatting, we were soon arriving at the port of Mgarr on Gozo.

First view of Gozo

The town blends in well

The Mediterranean water is amazingly blue.

Awesome waters

On the way back, we weren't so lucky, having to wait half an hour at the dock for the boat to arrive. As the boat docked, the back end of it lifted up to reveal the car decks inside. It was almost like the trunk of a car opening.

Ferry boat or Transformer?

The ride back was uneventful.

Can't get enough blue water!

More from Gozo this week!