Malta Today

I’ll conclude the Malta posts with some pictures from wandering around the city.

Upper Barrakka Gardens These are the Upper Barrakka Gardens located a few blocks from our hotel.From there, you can get views of Valletta like this.The walls around the city of Valletta are very imposing. This is the elevator to get from sea level up to Upper Barrakka Gardens.

Valletta at NightTriton Fountain at the entry gate to the city.The town walls near the entry gate. We ate at a restaurant on the terrace where the lights are between the walls on the upper right. That terrace was a artillery bastion to protect the city gate in more dangerous times.This building looked more interesting at night than it did in the day.

Harbor Cruise

We took a harbor cruise to see Valletta from the water. Valletta is a peninsula with three small peninsulas (known as the Three Cities) pointing at it on one side The main harbor is between Valletta and the Three Cities. Following are some pictures from the cruise.The sphere is the most modern looking structure in the area. It is a planetarium.There is a lighthouse on each side of the harbor entrance.A whimsical giraffe crane in the port.

Malta Has Steps Also

We saw a lot of long steps in Sicily, but Malta wants to be part of the competition.

Food

The food in Malta is pretty similar to that in Sicily. However, we never saw donkey or horse on the menu here. Instead, virtually every restaurant in Malta had a rabbit dish on the menu – mostly rabbit stew. By the fourth night, Susan decided she had to try the rabbit stew. She loved it!!! Does anyone know a good rabbit restaurant in Wilmington? I had a sample of hers and I was not as enthusiastic. On our last night in Malta, we ate at a pasta restaurant.The concept was that you choose your sauce from a list on a chalkboard and you choose your freshly made pasta from this selection in a case at the back of the restaurant. The person behind the case fills a container with the chosen pasta and passes it to the kitchen to finish the preparation. I had “Norma” pasta, which is popular in both Sicily and Malta with the green spinach pasta. Norma is a special spherical shaped eggplant. Susan had the pasta behind mine with a pesto sauce. They were both delicious!

Next Trip

Our next trip will be to San Miguel, Mexico from December 31 to January 31. I know some of you are San Miguel people. If any of you are going to be in San Miguel during this period, please contact us so we can get together.

Wrap Up

We really liked Malta on our Viking World Cruise and we still like it after this visit. It is still a place we would like to come back to. We were a little concerned about whether we would still like OAT after enjoying the luxury of the Viking cruise. The answer is “Yes!” We thoroughly enjoyed Sicily and part of that enjoyment came from doing things with OAT that would never happen on a cruise.

As always, we want to thank all of you for following our blog. We particularly thank everyone who took the time to comment. Good, bad, or indifferent – we really enjoy hearing from you. Until next time. Safe travels.

Malta A Long, Long Time Ago

History doesn’t get much older than the history of Malta. It is believed that humans first arrived here about 5200 BCE. By the years 3500 – 2600 BCE the Temple Builders of Malta we’re building megalithic structures that are the oldest surviving structures in the world. And we are not talking about one such structure, but six UNESCO recognized sites and several others. This makes the oldest Structure here a thousand years older than the pyramids and 600 years older than Stonehenge. It kind of boggles the mind!

On Sunday we visited two of these structures in Paola, Malta. The first one was the Hypogeum of Hal Saflieni. It is an underground burial chamber built in limestone on three levels more than 5000 years ago. It is estimated that 7000 people could have been buried within its chambers, but no one really knows since most of the bones had disintegrated by the time the site was discovered. The site was discovered in 1902 when digging a cistern for a building above. Visitation to the site is limited to ten people per hour and you have to reserve your spot several months in advance. That explains why we visited at 9 AM on a Sunday morning as it was the only time available during our stay. The presence of humans raises the humidity in a cave which encourages algae growth, which results in deterioration of the cave – particularly to the ochre paintings.This is the only picture I could take as we had to store all cameras and phones in a locker prior to entering the cave. They had to dig the rooms using only stone tools and beaks of a bird. It is believed they took advantage of natural cracks in the rock to dig the rooms. There is also evidence that they used the bird beaks to create holes in the rock to weaken the structure.This figure called The Sleeping Woman was found in one of the rooms. It is only about four inches long and is located in the Archeological Museum. For some pictures from the internet, click here. If that doesn’t work, Google “Hypogeum” and select “images” at the top.

About a ten minute walk from the Hypogeum, is the megalithic temple site of the Tarxien Temples discovered by a farmer plowing his field in 1914. It dates back to 3150 BCE. We were lucky in that the site was free today. We were unlucky in that the site was free today so it was jammed with people. There are three separate but attached temples on the site. There is evidence they were used for animal sacrifice, but there is no evidence of human sacrifice.This gives an idea of the layout of one of the temples. It is unique in that it has three pairs of apses instead of the usual two. The wall made of small pieces of stone is a reconstruction.This shows you the size of the stones they had to cut and move to make the temple. The decorated piece is a replica.These are some of the original decorated stones from the archeological museum.This shows how they moved the stones. They placed the sphere under the block and pulled it over the spheres. As a sphere became uncovered at the rear, they would move it to the front. Sounds like hard work to me! This room has a replica of the Fat Woman statue.The actual one is in the museum.This is another of the so called fat women statues. In reality, there is no indication of the sex of the statue. It is also noteworthy that they do not have heads, but do have a hole where the head should be. It is theorized that different heads could be added depending on the occasion.This statue is known as the Venus of Malta and is considered to be quite remarkable for the way it accurately shows the muscles of the body. It is only a few inches tall.

Well, that is enough of the really old stuff. We leave for home on Monday. We fly to Orlando and overnight there. On Tuesday, we will visit our friends Mary Anne and Steve from the world cruise before flying home later in the day. I will have a final post on more contemporary Malta ASAP.

Mdina and Rabat

Mdina is the former capital of Malta. It was first settled by the Phoenicians in 1000 BCE when they built a protective wall around their city. When the Romans arrived they enlarged the city and gave it the name Melita. It wasn’t until the ninth century when the Arabs arrived that it received the name Mdina, which means “walled city” in Arabic. They built a strong wall and a deep moat between the city of Mdina and its suburbs (rabat in Arabic. On Friday we took a public bus from Valletta to Mdina.There are only two gates to enter Mdina and this is the one most used.The moat is landscaped and well manicured. I never saw a way to get down to the moat.

The Cathedral.I personally preferred this building which was also located on Cathedral Square.

We toured the medieval mansion Palazzo Falcon, the former home of the artist and philanthropist, Olof Gollcher. His numerous collections including silver, rugs, and weapons were on display throughout the mansion. You see his studio and dining room above.

Mdina is a small town filled with narrow, curving lanes where the straight sections are said to be less than the length that an arrow can fly.

We also explored Rabat which had the same wooden window balconies as Valletta, but they tended to be more colorful.In Rabat, we visited Saint Agatha’s (I trust you remember her) church, museum, and catacombs. No pictures were allowed in the catacombs. They were difficult to walk through as they were dark with low ceilings and an uneven foot path. The rich were buried in structures in the middle of a room, the working class were buried in the walls, and the poor were buried in the floor. There were some small frescoes on the walls.And every town has to have a cathedral.

We had a very interesting evening back in Valletta where we attended a concert in the Manoel theater, one of the oldest in Europe. From the outside it looks like any apartment building in town.On the inside, it was a classic, old European theater. The concert was the Versatile Brass in concert with six soloists. The band had at least a dozen brass in addition to the percussion, bass, and guitars. The conductor (who looked like a taller version of Rudy Giuliani) was worth the price of admission as he danced around the whole stage leading the band, interacting with the soloists, leading the audience, and even singing on one song. He had a very expressive face. The music included La Vie en Rose, Frank Sinatra, 70’s disco, and several European songs we had never heard but the audience loved. It ended with a thirty minute non stop rock session with the audience dancing and singing. This music included Sweet Caroline, which we took as an honor to us since we sing it after every Panther victory, and several Queen songs. At the end of the show, we were exhausted!

The four masted sailing ship leaving the Valletta harbor is the Sea Cloud, a hand sailed ship which we sailed on about ten years ago in the Caribbean.

Good Bye Sicily, Hello Malta

We both felt that the Sicily tour exceeded our expectations. All the stops had attractive architecture spanning several cultures. Most of the island was very scenic with plenty of mountain and sea views. We liked the fact that there were no really long bus rides. The two big cities of Palermo and Catania had a lot of people strolling the streets, but they were mostly residents and not tourists. They both had interesting old buildings and numerous sites to visit. We highly recommend Sicily as a good European vacation destination.Catania has a botanical garden featuring plants from around the globe.

I haven’t mentioned the food of Sicily. The food is similar to the rest of Italy with pasta and pizza at virtually every restaurant. The typical meal consisted of a variety of appetizers served family style. There were typically six to ten appetizers which usually included olives and some sort of eggplant. The second course would be some sort of pasta. The portion of pasta was relatively small. The third course was the main course was either meat or fish. And of course every meal included a dessert, a glass of wine, and water. Needless to say we were never hungry. Donkey and horse were common on restaurant menus. While I had some donkey as one of the appetizers, I never knowingly had horse.For our farewell dinner, Laura had a tiramisu made featuring the group picture from our Fiat 500 ride including us and the drivers. The picture part was edible and it was a little unsettling eating a picture of your new found friends for desert.

On a totally unrelated topic, Susan’s San Miguel sandals were quite a hit with the women on the trip. As a result, I think at least two of them are going to order shoes on line.

On Wednesday, we flew Ryan Air from Catania to Malta. Ryan is a discount carrier similar to Spirit Airlines. I will have to say that I was pretty impressed with them. Boarding was chaotic, but once the last passenger was on the plane, they immediately closed the door; and once the last passenger was seated, they immediately pushed away from the gate for an exactly on time departure. What was more impressive to me was that the luggage was on the carousel by the time we got there. I also had more knee room than on Spirit.

We first visited Valletta, Malta on the Viking World Cruise and decided we had to come back and see it in more detail. After one day walking around Valletta, we decided that the four days we have on this trip is not enough. I am thinking an Airbnb for a week or two and Susan is talking about moving here.Maybe it’s because this is the view from the rooftop of our guesthouse and the temperature is in the mid 70’s with a comfortable breeze. The blue sky helps also.This is a typical Valletta street scene. The streets are narrow, there are hills involved, and all the buildings have wooden windows that extend out from the exterior wall instead of balconies.

We visited the Knights hospital from the 16th century.This is the ward for the wealthy, it is over 500 feet long, but we can only see half because of the curtain at the mid point. Note all the doors in the walls.There was a bed for one patient between the doors and the doors lead to a private bathroom for each patient. The toilets were Asian style or basically a hole in the floor. There was a ventilation system in the bathroom that led to an adjacent courtyard filled with orange trees. Thus the ward smelled like orange blossoms. Salt and honey were used to treat wounds and turpentine was part of the treatment for bullet wounds. The bathroom doors were covered with tapestries and the beds were color coded by disease of the patient. And by the way, this hospital only accepted male patients.This is the ward for the poor people located right below the other ward and showing its full length.In this case, there is still one bed between the two doors, but the bed holds four people who must each share the adjacent bathroom behind the door. There were two nurses per bed both upstairs and downstairs. Both wards are used for parties today. The lower floor recently was used for a 900 person wedding for an Indian couple.

We also visited the Church of Saint Paul’s Shipwreck. In 60 CE, Saint Paul’s ship wrecked in Malta and he brought Christianity to the island. The church was very plain on the outside, but the interior dating from the 16th century was spectacular.The church had a number of these double domes in the ceiling and each one was different. The smaller interior dome has windows in it, so it washes out in the picture.Part of the entry to the harbor. It was a wonderful first day followed by a delicious seafood dinner.

The Ideal Sicilian Hill Town?

Our Tuesday began with a visit to the World War II museum in Catania. While I am not generally a big fan of war museums, this one was well done and had some interesting features. You enter the museum in a room replicating a town plaza in the time of Mussolini complete with fascist flags and slogans. When a siren sounds, you are ushered into a mock shelter. As you sit there in near darkness, the room shakes, sirens sound, and you hear planes overhead and bombshells dropping outside. It reminded me of what it must be like at home to sit through a hurricane with storm shutters covering all your windows. You emerge from another door to the shelter to find the same plaza in ruins. While that was certainly the most dramatic exhibit, there were plenty more that showed uniforms and weapons and other information about the Allied liberation of Sicily.

Our primary destination for the day was Taormina, a hilltop town about an hour north of Catania, Several people had told us it was their favorite destination in Sicily. When I read what Rick Steves had to say the night before, he described it as too touristy and not his favorite. While it is certainly in a beautiful location, we would have to agree with Rick.On the way there, I was on the right side of the bus to get a shot of Mount Etna.Taormina has one main street about a mile long filled with tourist shops with a gate at each end.It has the required churches.It has lots of attractive balconies.It even has overlooks onto the Mediterranean Sea which many cities don’t have.This is a shop featuring marzipan made to look like different fruits. It is also famous for granita, something like a slushee or what Susan calls Italian ice. I tried a raspberry lemon granita for desert and found it very refreshing.

But the main attraction in Taormina is the Greek-Roman Theater. The Theater is located at a high point in town and has magnificent views of Mount Etna, the Mediterranean, and the surrounding mountains.This shot shows the town of Taormina. If you look at the mountain above the left brick wall, you will see a valley that looks like a “u”. If you squint and look closely at the mountain top to the left of that valley, you will see some trees and buildings.This is a close up of those trees and buildings. Talk about living on the edge!Some more shots from the theater. We think we would like to live in the house in the center of the spit of land in the middle picture,This is the view from the cheap seats of the theater. On a clearer day you could see Mount Etna. The wooden stage and the plastic seats at the bottom are added because they have concerts here in the summer. Their season is over now and they are going to be removed next week and reinstalled at the beginning of the season next year.The stage area. While there is a lot to like about Taormina, we agree that it is too crowded and touristy. And we were there after the peak of the tourist season.

Tomorrow we leave Sicily and head to Malta for five nights on our own.

A Walk on Mount Etna

On Monday, four wheel drive vehicles picked us up at the hotel and drove us half way up the 10,000 foot high Mount Etna. When we left, the top of Etna was clearly visible and you could see smoke and steam arising from at least one of the four summit craters. Unfortunately, I was on the wrong side of the vehicle to get the picture. By the time we got to a place where I could take a picture, the summit was in the clouds. Our guide said this was the normal pattern.There are thirteen towns built on the slopes of Mount Etna that circle the base of the mountain. We only drove through a couple of them before turning to go up the mountain. One of them had been damaged by an earthquake last Christmas and still had significant visible damage. This church had vertical cracks on both sides of the door and both sides of the clock.

These birch trees, one of the five most endangered trees in the world are found on the slopes of Etna. They are distinguished by growing in clumps, though they will sometimes grow as single trees as shown on the left of the bottom photo.

Our hiking destination was this cinder cone at an elevation of 5000 feet. There were not many people there when we arrived; but when we were leaving, they were arriving by the bus load. The cone looks much higher in the picture than it really is.

Some views along the walk.Proof we made it to the top.This is the hole from which the lava emerged. There are numerous lava eruptions that have occurred at lower elevations. For reasons unclear to me, it is not possible for a second eruption at these holes; so we were in no danger. Mount Etna is the most active volcano in Europe.

We drove on a paved road to get to our hike. After we all returned to our vehicles without falling, we did a little four wheel driving on a dirt path until we reached another paved road.Clearly, falling that road sign is not going to do us any good. If we turned the other way, we encountered this:Seventeen years ago, a lava flow had blocked the road up the mountain, and a new cement road had to be built nearby.

Unfortunately, I forgot the name of these cool looking mushrooms. The top one was spotted about fifty feet off the road by a driver while navigating a rock covered, narrow dirt road filled with numerous holes. The bottom picture shows one of the same mushrooms after it has opened. They are edible.

In the evening we visited Palazzo Biscari which has about 700 rooms. The tour is led by its occupant, Prince Ruggero Moncada who tells numerous stories about his family. Unfortunately, I had great trouble understanding him; so I am unable to tell you anything about him.The rooms we visited were sparsely finished and in need of refurbishing, but they had been quite impressive at one time.We passed by the university on the way back to our hotel.

Catania

Catania is the second largest city in Sicily and is our home until the end of the OAT trip.This was the view from the street in front of our hotel this morning. The mountain you see faintly in the background is Mount Etna, and what looks like a cloud over the building on the left is steam from the summit of the mountain. On Monday we are taking four wheel drive vehicles part way up the mountain.

Catania is home to the third largest Roman amphitheater in Italy after the Coliseum in Rome and Verona. The only part of the amphitheater remaining is the basement of a small section. The rest of the basement is buried under adjoining buildings. The complete amphitheater was three stories above this basement and could seat 15,000 people.

There seemed to be a church on every corner.

Many window balconies have some sort of decoration. This window is unusual in its use of tee shirts and kitchen utensils.

This corner had a building of similar color and design on each corner. One of the four buildings had the following unusual statue on the wall:It is unclear if the statue is of Greek or Roman origin.

The umbrellas make a colorful street covering.

This is the Catania Cathedral dedicated to the patron saint of Catania, Saint Agatha. According to legend, Agatha made a vow of virginity at the age of 15 and pledged her devotion to the church. When in accordance with her beliefs she rejected the advances of a “low born” suitor and reaffirmed her commitment to the church, she was thrown in jail, tortured, and her breasts were cut off. While her wounds were healed, she ultimately died in prison. I tell you all this because of the surprise Laura had for us at the end of our walking tour.These breast shaped pastries made from sweet cheese and marzipan are a popular treat in Catania and are named after Saint Agatha. Susan thought they were too sweet. I had no such problem.

A popular activity on Sunday morning is playing cards in the shade of the bridge.

Grand Circle, the owner of OAT has a charitable foundation that helps people in the countries they visit. Ten dollars from every traveler goes to support the foundation and on most trips you visit something sponsored by the foundation. Today we visited a family that operates a foster home for children. It is run by six family members and they presently have ten children in their care. Most of the children are Italian but several are Nigerian girls who were victims of human trafficking. They keep their address secret for fear that the Nigerian girls could be in danger. The children above are practicing their grape stomping.Simone, in the red shirt and her husband, are the leaders of the foster home. She said their life is chaotic every morning when they try to get the children off to school, but they clearly love all the children in their care. The government is supposed to provide financial support, but is 1.5 years behind in payments. In order to provide needed funds, they raise grapes and make their own wine, have a restaurant for friends and family they trust on Sundays, and serve lunch to OAT groups. One of the Nigerian girls told us her story of arriving in Sicily eight months pregnant at the age of 15.This young lady is from New York State and is in Sicily on a Fulbright Scholarship to stay at the foster home and to document the work they are doing there. She had been out picking grapes before we met her.

Our second surprise of the day was a discussion and demonstration of traditional Sicilian music in a nearby park. The instruments were a Sicilian bagpipe, a mouth harp, and several types of flutes.

Of course, the worlds problems still have to be solved, so Hugh, Dallas, and Bruce were doing their part before we left for the walking tour this morning.

Take a Walk Through Ortigia

Ortigia is an island that is the historic center of Siracusa.The bus took us to a large parking lot with the most buses we had seen the whole trip. The parking lot had about a half dozen vendors equipped with these wheeled carts so they could easily and quickly move to whatever bus was in the process of loading or unloading passengers.

The Temple of Apollo is the remains of the first Doric stone temple in Sicily dating back to 580 BCE. The columns are shorter and closer together than more modern Greek Temples. Also, the columns are each made from a single piece of stone. As time went by, the Greeks found it easier to make the columns by stacking drums and learned to make the columns taller and spaced further apart.

We are getting used to walking through charming, narrow alleys. I am not sure why the family in the top picture had books outside their window. The rain had not helped the books!

The Fish House Gallery has fish mobiles hanging over the street to advertise their store.

This building was once a Synagogue located in the Jewish section of the city. The area was never a ghetto where Jews were forced to live, but was an area where they chose to live. It is now an active, open air church; but it is used only in the summertime since it has no roof.

This picture shows the Baroque front of the Siracusa Cathedral. The church has a long history as revealed by studying its architecture. The building was originally a Greek temple built in 480 BCE with 6 columns in the front and back and 14 on each side. In 535 CE, the Byzantines took over Sicily and converted the temple into a church. They created solid walls by simply filling in the space between the columns. In 827, the Arabs from North Africa captured Sicily and converted the church into a Mosque.In the late 11th century, the Normans conquered Sicily, raised the roof of the building, and turned it back into a church. The building was severely damaged in the quake of 1693. The facade was rebuilt in the Baroque style we see today.

We presumed this groom was in the military, but he is a policeman wearing his formal uniform.

This is officially called the Fountain of Arethusa. It is the freshwater spring that the Greeks discovered when they first arrived at Sicily. With a natural harbor, and easily defended island, and abundant water, it was an ideal place to settle. The large plant growing in the spring is papyrus.

The market was filled with spices and olives. I am not sure what the red things are. If someone can read the sign, let me know. Google Translate wasn’t able to help me. We are in Catania for the next four nights.

Seeing Modica in Catarina

On Thursday afternoon, we left Ragusa to visit the nearby hill town of Modica. OAT had arranged for us to tour the town in vintage Fiat 500 cars. Our car was a 1972 model who the owner lovingly called Catarina. In its 47 years, Catarina has traveled about 450,000 miles and has never been in an accident. It is on its third engine which gets about 40 miles per gallon. The owner said he is not a mechanic, but built the engine himself from an instruction book. It is apparently easy to get parts and find mechanics who can work on these vintage cars. Susan is pictured with one of Catarina’s friends.. There were seven in our fleet.

Following is a video which illustrates rather nicely what it is like riding in a tiny Fiat 500 through the very narrow streets of Modica. We went on streets so narrow the driver said only a Fiat 500 could squeeze through. I Have never added a video to a blog before, so I hope someone will let me know if it works for them.

http://ourwideworld.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/img_0137.mov

Our first stop in Modica was the Cathedral of San Pietro, which marks the dividing line between the lower town and the upper town.Our next stop was at an overlook at the top of the upper town.Along the narrow streets we drove by caves in the cliffs occupied primarily by immigrants. The caves have their openings enclosed by cement and conventional doors. One of these doors was open and the caves appeared to be about the size of a large bathroom.We also visited the Cathedral of San Giorgio in the upper town. It was designed by the same architect as the Ragusa cathedral.We finally got to what Modica is most famous for: chocolate. They do not add any fat or milk to their chocolate, but they make it in flavors such as orange, cinnamon, and spicy pepper. They had samples of each flavor for us to try. The chocolate had a very different texture from our chocolate which I found very appealing. Rick Steves says since there is no fat added, it is practically a health food. Works for me!!! Following our chocolate tasting, we had dinner in a nearby restaurant.

Friday, we had the traditional OAT experience, “A Day in the Life”, where we spend the day seeing how a local family lives.Today we visited the family of Enrique who owns and manages Gli Aromi in a rural area about 45 minutes from Ragusa. Aromi is Italian for herbs and his business consists of selling herb plants in Sicily and Italy, selling packaged herbs around the world, and using his herb farm for destination weddings, outdoor concerts, and anything else he can come up with. He was the one who approached OAT to visit his farm. He started out by Googling best tour companies in Sicily. OAT visited his farm four times before sending the first group there last month.

His wife, Rita, is on the right. She was born in Brooklyn and came to his farm to get some coriander. They fell in love and were married last year. She was a chef in a Michelin recommended restaurant, but quit to help with event hosting on the farm. His sister-in-law, on the left, is his bookkeeper.This is the amphitheater he made for musical events. They had five events in the last year from a classical music concert to a black and white movie with two violinists playing the movie score. The amphitheater overlooks the Mediterranean and the sunset. You have to admire his determination to make a living out of this. His next plan is to build some apartment units on the property. He said that the internet is what enables him to make a living by giving him a way to promote and sell his different products.This is an Asian flower he had growing in one of his greenhouses.This man is starting new lavender plants from cuttings.Rita is showing us how to make fried sage leaves. They were part of our lunch and were quite good. Susan is thinking of making fried spinach leaves.Another unusual treat was fried eggs prepared on the barbecue with capers scattered over them. I learned today that a caper is not a berry, but is a flower bud. It was an interesting Day in the Life with a good lunch included.

Ragusa

Ragusa is a charming town clinging to the side of a hill in southeast Sicily. In 1693 an earthquake killed just over half the population and leveled the town. Over the years, the town was rebuilt in the Baroque style that was popular at the time, but most of the people moved up the hill to newer construction better designed to withstand earthquakes. The lower town was rebuilt by the people who couldn’t afford to start over in the upper town. There are two Ragusas today: the more modern Ragusa Superiore on the higher hill and the more historic Ragusa Ibla with narrow winding roads and houses built into the sides of cliffs. Our room in our hotel is one that is built into the side of the cliffs.Our walking tour was through the old town. Our local guide stopped to visit a sculptor and joke teller in his studio.The bread truck arrived in the middle of our visit with the sculptor. Walking is nearly as difficult as San Miguel. The sidewalks are very narrow to nonexistent and a car cannot readily pass if people are in the street.The senior men in the town were busy solving the world’s problems. They were also eager to talk to our tour guide.This is one of the finest Baroque balconies in town.Most of the churches have alters made of marble of different colors.This is the beginning of some 400 steps leading from the old town to the new town.The cathedral dominates the central square in lower Ragusa. The organ has over 3000 pipes, which does not place it among the largest, but there is only one person in town who is able to play it. The windows are interesting because they are not stained glass, but are painted glass.But the highlight of the morning was going to the home of this man, the one man in town who can play the cathedral organ and who earlier in his career coached Maria Callas. He played the piano for us and gave us a tour of his home, which reminded us of the Barnes Museum in Philadelphia. The walls were covered from ceiling to floor with art work, photographs, and other objects. The rooms were filled with antique furniture displaying more collectible items. Following are some pictures of several rooms to give you an idea, but you really need to be in the room surrounded by all this art work to fully appreciate the experience.The second picture from the bottom is a model of the cathedral from many years ago.

On our free time in the afternoon, we walked through the gardens at the foot of town and did a little shopping.The late afternoon and evening experience was another highlight, but I am going to save that for the next blog.

The Travel Blog of Susan and Bruce