By Sebastian Modak. Photos: Getty.
The most famous natural landmark in Malta—a limestone arch on the island of Gozo that framed the pristine waters of the Mediterranean beneath it—is no more. On Wednesday morning, after heavy storms, the 'Azure Window' as it was known, went crashing into the sea, leaving behind no trace of its former glory. It was, if the reaction on social media is anything to go by, a national tragedy of sorts, with both the Maltese prime minister and the opposition leader finding common ground in sadness.
A resident of the island, who was at the site of the landmark when it collapsed around 9:40 a.m. local time, told the Times of Malta, "There was a big raging sea beneath the window. Suddenly, the arch collapsed into the sea with a loud whoomph, throwing up a huge spray. By the time the spray had faded, the supporting stack had gone too."
A 2013 study of the arch concluded that erosion was inevitable, but that the 'Dwejra Window,' as it's also known, was not in any immediate danger of collapse. Still, the local government posted signs warning visitors from climbing on the structure and threatened trespassers with fines—something that, as the Times of Malta reported, proved to be an ineffective deterrent.
Besides attracting thousands of Instagram-hungry tourists every year, the 'Azure Window' has also been made famous by its appearance in a number of TV shows and films, including Clash of the Titans, the 2002 re-make of The Count of Monte Cristo, and most famously as the backdrop for the Dothraki wedding in HBO's Game of Thrones.
In a statement, the Gozo Tourism Association said, "The Azure Window’s demise should serve as an eye-opener to all concerned to look after and maintain and protect where possible, the touristic sites this little island has to offer." The association and residents who rely on tourism on the small Maltese island now can only hope that the smaller nearby arch, the Wied il-Mielah, will get its turn in the limelight.
This story originally appeared on Conde Nast Traveler.
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