The Most Important Maltese Tourist Site That Doesn’t Exist

The Most Important Maltese Tourist Site That Doesn’t Exist

Behind me used to stand one of the most
important rocks on the entire planet. The Azure Window. The number one tourist site in all of Gozo. But as you can clearly see,
it doesn’t stand there anymore. And some people are having a really
hard time coming to terms with that. In March of 2017, the most popular and highest
rated tourist attraction on the island of Gozo collapsed into the sea. It was a long time coming as well. Nature is nature and after all, and it was
only rocks collapsing into the sea that originally made this thing in the first place. They called it the Azure Window. And it was a limestone pillar
sticking up out of the Mediterranean with this flat table rock
going across back to land. The arch that it made was lovely,
but really the best part I think was that people were able to walk about 20 metres
offshore and look back at the cliffs. In effect, it was a really
beautiful place to be. Hundreds if not thousands of tourists
per day streamed across its back. It drew more people than any other
single location on the island. There are millions of photos of tourists
posing with this rock. For the local people, the loss of the window
hit more than just their wallets, this cliff was a part of the Maltese identity. Especially to the people of Gozo,
this was like Notre Dame burning to dust. This was their one universally known,
internationally-recognized landmark. Hollywood movies were filmed here. Game of Thrones was filmed here. It put Gozo on the map. And when it fell into the sea, it was
more than just national news. The prime minister even said
that it broke his heart. But oddly enough, it’s not even the rock
that originally made this coastline famous. That’s the Fungus Rock which
we’ll cover in another episode. It isn’t even actually
the original Azure Window. The real Azure Window is
the mouth of the cave nearby. It’s a large enough crack in the wall
that you can take a ship through it, but small enough that it still kind of feels
adventurous to do so. The light as you exit that tunnel became
known as the azure window, and a few generations later
when the cliff fell away nearby and created that arch,
people just reapplied the name. But original or not, it was
an incredible tourist draw. A beautiful, easy to obtain photo with enough
nearby that you could waste a full afternoon. And the more tourists that came, the more
it got pitched as the thing to see. Pretty much everyone who has ever come to
visit this island has been to visit that window. So I want to look at what’s
happened since it collapsed. Because to me it says a lot about
how we deal with loss. In my eyes, the collapse of the Azure Window
is a bit like if the Louvre lost the Mona Lisa. Certainly, it’s what everybody
there is going to see. But is it really the best thing there? Is it truly surviving on its own merits or is it just
that the infrastructure pushes you that way? That’s what the brochures say, that’s where
the buses go, that’s where the crowds are. It’s the easiest and cheapest photo to take
that you know your friends at home will recognize. But is it really about the Mona Lisa? So, naturally, after it collapsed it took
a while for people to catch on that it was no longer there. Even two years later there are plenty of tour
agencies promoting photos of the Azure Window. Virtually every website you read
about Gozo recommends it. There are still tourists arriving here daily prepared to
find something that simply doesn’t exist. And what I find interesting is that a lot
of them are leaving one star reviews. Which is a bit funny. Because there is no
Azure Window to review. It’s like attending a funeral only to complain
about the deceased being dead. It just makes no sense. And what’s more, if you were actually
reviewing what was here, it’s definitely better than one star. This is likely the best scuba diving
in the entire Mediterranean, it has a wicked cool cave and
absolutely gorgeous scenery. If this is your idea of a one star,
never go to Moncton, New Brunswick. But of course they’re not actually
reacting to what’s there. They’re reacting to what isn’t. And not every reaction to loss
is the same, of course. Some are less willing to accept
defeat than others. They came here expecting an arch,
and they’re going to get one. Even if it honestly wasn’t even
why they came in the first place. And it’s not like an alternative
isn’t readily available. Since the dawn of the Azure Window, there has
always been a second, equally impressive arch. It’s just that people don’t come here. It isn’t part of the infrastructure. Even though it’s a fifteen minute drive from
the now collapsed Azure Window, you’ll only see a trickle of people arriving. Because this doesn’t have anything for the kids, it
doesn’t have any way to spend the rest of the afternoon. It’s just beautiful. And you’ll find the people that are coming
here are rarely coming here for the beauty. They’re coming to fill a void. If there had never been an Azure Window, I suspect
very few tourists would be coming here today. As beautiful as it is, people tend to go
where they’re told is beautiful. But once certain people were promised a window
that didn’t exist, they had to fill that void. And within two years the Azure Window’s
replacement has gone from a handful of reviews to nearly a hundred. The trickle is starting, and chances are
it will eventually become a flood. It’s a bit like when my uncle’s wife died
and he married a woman who looked really similar and had the same name. There’s clearly something
deeper going on there. And the last group I want to focus on are
those who refuse to accept the loss. They want to build a monument
where the rock once stood. Throw money at the problem and hope
it will make it all okay again. They’ve suggested everything from building
a metal-hulled museum to a projected hologram, returning the rock to its original place through
either modern architecture or technology. Essentially the Tupac Shakur of sea arches. It will never happen, of course, and even
if it did it wouldn’t really please anybody. It’s just a vocalization of sadness
being presented as hope. Another form of coping. If we grieve in stages, then let
this be acceptance. The window is gone. Death will always be a part of life. But it will also always be a
very bitter pill to swallow. When we’re forced into a situation of loss,
we all have our varying ways of dealing with it. Some get angry, and lash out. Others move on and try to fill the void
with a surrogate they’ll never truly love. Some simply refuse to accept it as final. None is more human than the last. The Azure Window still lives. Sure, it hasn’t existed in reality
for over two years, but there are still thousands of tourists
coming to see it every week. It exists in our minds. In the infrastructure. It’s a memory that we are just
not letting go of. And that’s the reality of loss. We may live in a beautiful world,
but we’re never going to see it until we put down that brochure. This is Rare Earth. If I fall from here, I want you to tell my wife
to marry someone worse.

100 thoughts on “The Most Important Maltese Tourist Site That Doesn’t Exist

  1. A rare man with rare stories on Rare Earth. Its just never only the views, with you its the view behind the view and in some cases several overlapping layered views. Keep telling stories. How about stories about the deadly beauties of Southeast Asia? Those perfect cone volcanoes? Those sulfuric lakes? Those idyllic beaches washed by tsunamis? Picturesque hillsides continually rearranged by earthquakes? You'll find something.

  2. +Rare Earth
    I dig that t-shirt my dude. Akira is a great movie, easily a masterpiece.

  3. 02:55 The Mona Lisa is only famous because it was stolen, plus it's not even the original, Leonardo made another one a few decades earlier which is in England now.

  4. The Mona Lisa wasn't even particularly famous and well regarded until it was stolen and, when people finally noticed the unremarkable painting was gone, put into the papers so everyone could get some mere exposure.
    Now most people who go to the Louvre go in, walk straight to the suddenly-famous painting, look at it for 2 minutes or less, and then leave.

  5. that's a really interesting way to look at it. Dealing with loss is when we have built our own internal mental infrastructure around something and then that thing disappears

  6. If we are close enough to see your expressions, perhaps sunglasses are not quite right. The camera turns them flat black in the white balance and after all, you are a communicator. A hat is healthier for the body too.

  7. Wait, why would anyone care about that? seriously? there's nothing special about it. There's literally thousands of rock formation like that. Hell you even said it in the video that it's not even the real one so there has been more than one just in that small area.

  8. Been to Gozo a few times, never got there before it collapsed, but let me say that there is no lack of fascinating things to do there: the Ggantija Temple is truly astounding, and I really think that, even before the collapse, if your aim in going to Gozo was to see an arch rather than explore some of the most fascinating ruins in Europe, then you were always going to miss out on what this tiny island really has to offer.

  9. Can we look into who was present, and who was absent, from the Gozo Scenic Places Naming Committee when they called one site “The Azure Window” and another site “Fungus Rock”?

  10. One day due to erosion, the Rocher Percé will transform from a famous sea arch to a pair of fangs issuing from the ocean. I wonder if it'll be awesome or lame.

  11. I'm always happy to see people making well documented and well thought out videos about my birth-country Malta! How long do you have here on the island?

  12. I saw it years ago. I still have my picture. What is amazing is, when I saw it, I remember thinking, "ooh, this is NOT going to last, it's just limestone against the sea and the sea ALWAYS wins that matchup"

  13. The original azure window, the cave tunnel to a bay that you can take a boat through, looks way cooler than the arch. Though herds of tourists on boats going through an opening that size woulds be chaos.

  14. fascinated to see the remnants- how the rock altered the sea scape when it tumbled, or if even any of it is really visible. change is fascinating (or heart breaking if economically reliant, the loss of the window is probably like a car-plant closing in ontario) and a part of life, indeed. plus the 'replacement window' already has signs of impending collapse. big ole cracks. next tourist thing? being there for the collapse…

  15. What's the reason for the pronounciation of "azure" in this video? Is that a valid pronounciation for azure in some particular dialect(s)?

  16. Teenage Me was impressed with this rock, when I was there over 20 years ago, but was maybe too preoccupied with other things at the time to really appreciate it :/

  17. Thank you for your videos… Your videos consistently affect me on an emotional level and educate me at the same time… I know there must be a lot of work behind the scenes that we do not know about… I am sorry that I can not contribute with money but I thought I should at least "like & comment" as I have been a subscriber for a while already… Keep it up and Thank you again

  18. the arches provincial park in newfoundland that i visited as a child, one of the arches collapsed. it was hard to believe such immense stone would falter and give way, but it happens.

  19. How did you able to stand so close to the edge of the cliff? I remembered getting stopped by the police when I was trying to look down the cliff ?

  20. People are going to give it one star because they have been lied to. Therefore they want to warn others not to go there expecting to see something that doesn’t exist. I dont blame them and I am Maltese.

  21. Idea: a board game called "The Azure Window."
    The aim of the game is to convince people that your azure window is THE azure window.
    Basically, you take a map of Gozo, and miniature azure window statue thingies. On the first turn, a roll of the dice decides where your statue goes. Once your statue is placed, you read about the location from a booklet (part of the game) and argue from there why you get to win.

  22. Interesting, thoughtful video. I'm a bit surprised that those making money on the stream of tourists have not worked harder to make visiting the second, less known arch, as popular to visit as the the first.

  23. i remember being cynical when the window fell and told my friend "well there goes gozo's tourism potential". The sad thing is Gozo is a very beautiful island, far more beautiful than Malta, especially around where i live. Urbanization has poisoned my country and that urbanization has thankfully escaped Gozo… Not for long, probably. But it's worth enjoying it while it's still there.

  24. Haha yeah, Drove through Moncton a few years back, Stopped to eat breakfast at a diner and just drove out. Not going to even pretend it was a nice town. I'm sure the people are nice, but definitely not a tourist destination. lol.

  25. Sorry my friend…god gave it to us and then he took it away without notice…..that's part of life we have to accept it. Still we have other interesting sites ……

  26. I lived in Malta when it fell, and it was a huge deal. But Gozo is gorgeous even without the Azure Window, I used to love going there and just walking around. There's amazing hiking there and some cool hidden beaches.

  27. Here’s another rock to be sad about: the Old Man of the Mountain profile rock that no longer overlooks Franconia Notch, New Hampshire. The profile still adorns the New Hampshire license plates, and I’m sure there are many one star reviews from tourists who “couldn’t find” the profile rock or who thought “none of those rocks look like faces IMO”.

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