Category Archives: Malta

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.