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“Revel in romance, natural beauty, and Greek mythology at Calypso’s Cave in Malta”
Of the many millions that have visited Malta, few have likely missed a visit to Calypso’s Cave on Gozo, Malta’s second-largest island and a 67-square-kilometre Mediterranean jewel. Enclosed by two hills and on the western side of the bay, the cave takes its name from the nymph Calypso in Homer’s famous The Odyssey. It’s a natural wonder that not only appeals to travellers looking for what is arguably Gozo’s best beach but also to those who want to add a splash of history, romance and Greek mythology to their journey.
Calypso’s Cave overlooking splendid Ramla Bay
The Love Story
Anybody who was anybody in the Mediterranean has had some kind of foothold on Malta, stretching back to the Phoenicians, the Romans, the Moors and Ottomans, the Knights, and later the French, the British, and even NATO. There is however one outstanding absence from the list – Ancient Greece. What a surprise then to observe that Greek poet Homer set one of his most prominent tales, The Odyssey, in the hills of Gozo, overlooking these same red and golden sands of Ramla Bay.
In Homer’s classic poem, Gozo is known as the island of Ogygia, a minute island on which Queen Calypso resides in a hillside cave overlooking a bay of blue sea and golden sands. Meanwhile, in faraway Troy, the Greek hero Ulysses, having taken part in the siege of the city, now longed to return to his wife Penelope, his children, and particularly his son Telamon.
However, as was often their wont, the Gods played mischief with humanity and made Ulysses’ return journey difficult, placing obstacles in his path, such as violent storms, winds, and thunderbolts that pulled him further from his home in Ithaca. Ulysses managed to survive these trials and landed on a sun-laden golden shore, where he slept for hours.
Ancient Greek hero Ulysses
He awoke to the sound of music in the hills at the mouth of a large cave, where he saw girls dancing merrily around a huge fire. Now refreshed but driven by hunger, Ulysses approached the cave where he encountered the most beautiful woman he had ever set eyes on. Inside the cave, he was allowed to bathe, was provided with princely clothing, and was plied with food and drink. The enchantress told Ulysses her name was Calypso, the Queen of Ogygia and the Goddess of Love.
Ulysses recounted his Troy adventures and explained his desire to return to Ithaca, and his loving wife and son. However, Calypso had other plans as she had instantly fallen in love with Ulysses and promised to make him King of Ogygia, to bring him wealth, and to grant him eternal youth and happiness. The Greek hero, however, pleaded to be given a ship to return home. Bitterly disappointed and deeply jealous of Ulysses’ enduring love for Penelope, Calypso plotted to ensure no vessels were ever available in the vicinity and kept him as her love slave for seven years.
Ulysses’ focus on Penelope endured and he prayed daily to the uppermost God of Gods, Zeus, who finally pitied him by sending his winged messenger, Hermes, to the island, where Calypso was ordered to release Ulysses and provide him with a vessel. The ship was piled with riches and food, and Calypso even summoned the westerly wind to blow the ship steadily to Ithaca.
In a sad final scene, with tears in her eyes, Calypso sang her lover to final departure as he sailed toward his beloved Penelope and his family.
The chances of poet Homer having actually visited Malta or Gozo are remote, maybe even far-fetched. However, his description of the geographical location and the terrain are accurate. Besides, what a romantic story to revel in while standing on the cave’s promontory overlooking magnificent Ramla Bay and its golden sands. One can almost sense the presence of Calypso and hear the sad strings of her lyre as Ulysses’ ship finally disappeared over the horizon.
Sunset at Calypso’s Cave
BeSeeingYou In: Gozo
Getting there: Calypso’s Cave is located on a grassy hillside near the village of Xagħra on the islands north coast.
Good to Know: Unfortunately, the entrance to Calypso’s Cave is closed as a result of geological movement. However, fans of Greek mythology can still appreciate this site from an adjacent viewing platform.
Where to stay: The luxurious Kempinski San Lawrenz is located near a dramatic stretch of Gozitan coastline and surrounded by semi-tropical gardens Calypso would probably have loved.
Author bio: Albert Fenech