Sleeping in an Abandoned Mediterranean Hotel
Don’t let this become a tourist attraction.
“Dude, what the hell happened in here?” my friend Samy asked nervously behind me.
We were trespassing and we knew it.
But it was obvious we weren’t the first to sneak into the abandoned hotel of Gozo. The place was trashed. Like the last reservation made in the hotel was the world’s most notorious rock band. Every floor was completely tattered.
Graffiti tattooed the ruined walls. Bathtubs cracked in half. Bed frames left without the mattresses. Carpet was torn from the floors in the most peculiar ways. It was a halfway-finished demolition.
We had just finished a Gozo coastal walk. The sun was setting and it was getting difficult to see. I didn’t want to step on anything unexpectedly.
The touristy Gozo beach, Ramla Bay, was right outside. We had spent the majority of the day there. Now, we thought we’d be better off setting up our tent there. Instead of inside the abandoned hotel at the top of the hill like we had planned.
I didn’t expect the hotel to be this creepy. I was scared, I’ll admit.
“Let’s head back down to the beach. I don’t want to run into something I don’t want to see,” I said.
“No, man. Are you kidding? We are staying here. Our eyes will start to adjust to the darkness. It will become less scary,” Samy replied as he took the lead through the darkness.
Samy is my best friend. You’ll notice he is in a lot of my stories from my life abroad. From camping in abandoned hotels to exploring forbidden parts of historic neighborhoods in Algeria; we’ve been through it all in our years of friendship.
He was the type who would go along with anything. He didn’t think sleeping in what seemed to be a haunted insane asylum was idiotic.
“We absolutely cannot sleep in here. I won’t close my eyes,” I pleaded.
“Dude, this is the best area to stay in Gozo — trust me on this one. Camping in Gozo is never normal,” he argued.
There was a fine beach only a few hundred feet below. But it was just as illegal to camp on the beach as it was to trespass in the hotel. He was right, we were less likely to get caught hiding in the hotel.
There was a cool cave at the top of the hill across the bay that we were exploring earlier in the day. Calypso’s Cave. Even that would be better to sleep in than the hotel. Though, making the ascent would be difficult in the dark.
We weren’t smart enough to bring flashlights — or water. Like most of Samy and I’s plans, this one was sort of spur-of-the-moment. We came completely unprepared. But we did have five liters of boxed wine. You know, priorities.
It was mid-March and already perfect Mediterranean camping weather.
Samy and I took off from work and split from Malta late one weekday morning. The journey to the sister island of Gozo required only a short thirty-minute ferry ride. But the public bus system made it almost impossible to get to the ferry terminal.
By mid-to-late-afternoon, we had arrived in Gozo. We were ready to start a Gozo coastal walk on one of the best-known Gozo walking trails.
The brief spring season brought unusual color to the usually arid island.
I’ve never felt the Mediterranean air feel so cool. The sea breeze blew like a fan with the smell of the ocean. Just enough to keep us feeling refreshed.
Our walk took us to Ramla Bay — the most popular Gozo beach.
We had a picnic on the beach with pizza and wine at sunset. That’s when Samy spotted the abandoned hotel a local had tipped us off on earlier in the day.
“We’ve all been in that building. I spent my youth there. It’s how we rebelled. But no one dares go in there after dark. The place is too creepy, man,” the guy about our age told us.
The building was in awful condition despite being built only 30 years before. It was a failed experiment to bring tourism to Malta’s sister island. It was in the best area of Gozo, but it was always too difficult to reach the island.
Even in Ramla Bay, the most visited Gozo beach, you never felt suffocated by people. Especially at night, the beach and surrounding area were absent of life. You could hear a pin drop in the abandoned hotel. It only added to the eeriness.
That’s why we fell silent when we heard another voice. It was coming from inside the building, Maybe on the floor below us — where we had to go to exit the hotel.
“Shit, we’re fucked,” I told Samy, “I knew we should have gone to the beach.”
“Shh! It’s coming closer,” Samy hushed me.
There aren’t any homeless on the island of Gozo, and yet, still, I worried we had invaded a homeless community’s place. There was hardly any crime or vilence in Gozo. Of course, though, I worried that whoever it was was armed with knives and drugs.
My mind was racing in fear; I wish I had brought a flashlight at a time like this — or a weapon to protect myself.
The voice had reached the top of the stairs and it was accompanied by another voice. I couldn’t recognize any words.
Now, within twenty feet of us, I could tell they were speaking German tongue.
“We have to do something,” I whispered to Samy.
Samy took a step out into their flashlight beam. I followed.
Immediately, their conversation stopped. They froze in place, flashlight on the two of us, wide-eyed and still.
At first, we froze, too. As if they were police officers and we were running a drug operation out of the abandoned building.
For several seconds, none of us made a sound. We only stared. Profiling each other. Trying to assess the level of danger we were in.
The guys behind the flashlight looked normal. They seemed about our age, clean-cut, and with large hiking backpacks on their backs.
“Hi,” Samy spoke first.
“Hi,” one of them said back to us.
We were ten feet from each other now.
“You guys scared the shit out of us,” I said, “We weren’t expecting anyone to come here.”
“You guys, as well. We thought we were alone — you were so quiet,” the taller one said.
“Well, yeah, usually you’re quiet if you think you’re about to be killed,” Samy said. They let out a laugh of relief. We all did.
Robert and Maurice were hiking across Malta for the past two weeks. They had arrived in Gozo that afternoon. They must’ve run into the same local guy we ran into earlier.
They pitched their tent right next to ours, in an empty room absent of its roof. We were underneath the stars.
The rest of the night was spent engaged in conversation and indulging ourselves in common music interests.
We shared our wine, they shared their beers. We got drunk underneath the full moon. They told stories of their travels and heard more than strangers should.
“We saw you guys up here earlier from the beach,” Robert admitted. “But we thought after about an hour you’d be long gone.”
“I think we were relieved to see that you weren’t the police more-so than anything,” Samy said. Maybe that was the case for him, but I was more relieved they weren’t rampant killers.
In the morning, we hiked a bit together before parting ways. We made plans for later in the week to meet up for a beer in Malta. Robert and Maurice were good guys and ended up making the night more pleasant than I anticipated.
Things to do in Gozo; Places to see in Gozo
Ramla Bay; a place that hosts music festivals, hundreds of people daily, and even the best sunsets in the archipelago of Malta — is also the home of Calypso’s Cave. Calypso’s Cave is one of the largest and coolest caves I’ve ever been in. It requires a short hike (maybe ten to twenty minutes from the Gozo beach) up a hillside, but the trail is well-defined by trail markers — something that isn’t common in Malta. I highly recommend making the climb to Calypso’s Cave if you’re at Ramla Bay.
Malta is a very safe country and Gozo is even safer. Camping is common and there’s no need to worry about your safety. Just use common sense and never become too comfortable with your surroundings. However, I don’t think I will ever sleep in another abandoned hotel with strangers.
A Gozo coastal walk and Camping Gozo island for a night is a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life in Malta. I don’t recommend camping Gozo island in that abandoned hotel above Ramla Bay, but if visiting Malta, you should certainly getting from Malta to Gozo and spending one night (at least) in a tent.
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** This article was originally published at www.adamcheshier.com **