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Why Gozo? In Conversation with World Travellers Joanne and Bernie Furshpan

Why Gozo? In Conversation with World Travellers Joanne and Bernie Furshpan

Joanne and Bernie Furshpan visit tal-mixta cave in gozo

Joanne and Bernie Furshpan, are frequent visitors to the island of Gozo.   They live in New York, where Joanne, who grew up in Xewkija, has lived most of her adult life.  Bernie, whose family originally hails from Israel, describes himself as a Renaissance man, who sees the commonality in all of life’s experiences. Clearly, a people person, he loves working with people, whether he’s involved in marketing, working as a doctor or when indulging in stand-up comedy or producing shows. 

Always side by side, their passion for travelling as a couple is apparent from their social media posts covering their travel adventures.  Bernie has travelled the world, and everywhere he goes he absorbs everything that the local community has to offer. His love for planet Earth and humanity is evident as he describes the joy of discovering the varied landscapes of the world and the need not to take it for granted.   On the other hand, Joanne was afraid of flying, but Bernie’s enthusiasm for travel dissipated her fear and she has never looked back. 

Today, travel for Bernie and Joanne is about experiencing the local vibe of the countries they visit – mingling with the people, learning about the cultures and what they offer.   In Bernie’s words, they are still children at heart intent on a voyage of discovery. 

VisitGozo caught up with them via an online chat,  as they make plans for their next visit to the island of Gozo.

xewkija church

What is your connection with the island of Gozo?

Joanne:  I was born and raised in Malta and at 19 years I left all the family and returned 18 years later. Now I visit Malta and Gozo twice a year.  Obviously for me, it’s always special because it is about being with my family.

Bernie: I love the island and visiting Joanne’s homeland is wonderful because the people are so warm, so giving and so generous. I acknowledged a welcome that comes from the soul right away.  The Maltese have a similar personality to the Israelis and I felt part of the family, even before we got married.

How many times have you been on the island and why do you keep coming back?

Joanne:  We’ve visited every year since we’ve been together – at least 12 times.  We were in Gozo in Dezember and we will be there again this year.

Bernie: If she says let’s go to Malta tomorrow, I’ll just pack my bags and go, I have no problem with that at all!

Which are your favourite spots and things to do while in Gozo?

Joanne:   Without a doubt, going to Dwejra and watching the sunset is my favourite. The beautiful sunset warms your heart and nature is amazing. My other favourite thing to do is go on top of the Rotunda Church and take in the majestic view of Gozo, Malta and Comino from a bird’s eye view.  I grew up in the village of Xewkija and I like to visit my old childhood grocery stores. There’s one right up the street from my parent’s home, and the store is the size of a bedroom!  It has a little bit of everything and I love looking at the things there. Even the fishnet curtain takes me back in the years.  I also love to visit the bakeries, where I get to enjoy the traditional ‘ftira’ and ‘pastizzi’. When I brought my kids for the first time to Gozo, they were impressed by the number of so many beaches on the island and the variety of the beaches blew them away. In America,  all beaches are the same – sand and water.  In Gozo,  the beaches are all different – some with rocks, some with sand, some with pebbles and some with cliffs and the water is so blue and clear.

Bernie: I enjoy the fact that most of the villages are by the coast. The most  awesome experience is coming down from Nadur to Ramla and it’s always a ‘Wow’. I also love taking in the view from Tal-Mixta Cave. I enjoy the natural places and hiking along the cliffs. I also do enjoy the food and dining at the restaurants by the water in places like Marsalforn and Xlendi. Another favourite place is Lunzjata Valley and the medieval coastal towers. I have travelled a lot and these towers are rare and unique. Gozo’s special history is different from the rest of the world.  Ġgantija makes the island exceptional because you’re coming face to face with one of the first civilisations.   

Joanne:    This year I visited the restored Xewkija windmill. My father accompanied me to the windmdill, where he recounted family stories, reminiscing about living inside the windmill, which has been in our family for generations.

Bernie: I also love going to Victoria because I enjoy sitting at a cafe.  As we sit there,  I feel like I’m in either Paris or some other European city…  In truth, the ‘big city’ in Gozo is smaller than the little village here on Long Island! Everything is so adorable because it’s all ‘compressed’. You even have a McDonald’s there, and you can also do shopping!

Joanne and Bernie Furshpan in Xlendi

Have you been here in different seasons and which is your favourite?

Joanne:  My favourite is Easter time –  springtime. Gozo is at its most beautiful when it has rained and everything is green, the flowers are blooming and the weather is perfect. There’s no humidity and it’s not hot.  The in-between seasons, spring and fall, are the best. 

Bernie:  For me, it is also springtime, and my second favourite season is Festa time.  It’s when Gozo’s tiny villages bring out their Saints and celebrate life with their community with big parties, food and fireworks.  I just love that each little village has their own big exciting  party. 

Food is part of the travel experience … Do you have anything to comment about the local fare and dishes?

Joanne: I always come prepared to taste the traditional meals like rabbit stew, which even though can be cooked at home in the States, does not taste the same.   Obviously, I also enjoy the bread and the pizza and Twistees (of which I always take back a stash to the US with me)!

Bernie:  I became a vegan a couple of years ago, but in Gozo, there’s no shortage of vegan options.  Even the stores have many products.   There are fresh vegetables and terrific salads that I can eat.  When I was not a vegan,  I could not wait to relish the Gozitan bread and ftiras.

What would say to potential travellers who are thinking of visiting the island? In particular, do you think this island has appeal to the American tourist?

Bernie:    If you visit a big place, it takes days and weeks to travel and see, and you start realising that you’re seeing the same thing.  Gozo is a very small island, that you can see over several days and get so much out of it without having to go from one hotel to another. 

I think the biggest appeal is that you can stay at the same hotel for the entire trip and you don’t have to pack your bags to go to another hotel and ultimately see the same kind of cliffs, the same kind of mountains and eat the same kind of food. 

In Gozo, it’s all in one place. You can relax and enjoy your vacation and make the whole island a resort for you. The entire island becomes a resort and you’re in one location. You just venture out every day to a different corner and you’ll find a variety of different things. This is the appeal  – a small island that offers you so much to do!  Everything about this island is like a complete trip.  It’s like a seven-course meal on a tiny little island.

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