I did get to the Maltese Home Cooking restaurant one evening at 5:30—-the earliest they open. The rabbit with sauce was excellent, but the rest of the meal was pretty much ice berg lettuce and French Fries—-not so ‘home made,’ I’m thinking. On the way back to my hostel after dark, the bay looked pretty.
The next morning I took the bus to Valletta (very easy to do) to visit the National Art Museum. Their Star was Mattia Preti, who did lots of the decorating in the Cathedral, too. The building was beautiful, also, but the lighting left something to be desired. Maybe cataract surgery will help!
When I came out of the museum, there was a British Military Drill going on. What a holdover from the past!
The next day I again went to Valletta to see the interior of St. John’s Co-Cathedral. (Co- because there is another one at Mdina) I’ve seen a lot of churches in my life, but never have I seen one this elaborate! There was gold on the gold. Each ‘language’ (country) had a side chapel. Most of them had paintings done by Mattia Preti, who also was in charge of all of the decorating of the
Even the marble floors were gorgeous.
Here’s a picture of how it normally looks from the exterior when it’s not all scaffolded—-quite a plain Jane.
But the interior is jaw-dropping! Most of this was done in the 1600s. The price of the ticket included an audio tour.
And the Rains Came! Sunday I took a bus to Marsaxlokk to see the Sunday Fish Market. Not only fish, but if you could wear it, cook in it, eat it, or listen to it, it was in this market! (I’ll have to admit to buying a tablecloth.) Rain was predicted and it was dripping a bit when I left but it got no worse while I
perused the market. There were lots of boats bobbing in the water that I assume had just returned with their catches.
It was fun seeing the variety of seafood that had just been caught. Most of the seafood eaten in Malta comes through here. And many families were making a Sunday outing of it.
However, just as I was about ready to return and had gotten on the bus, the skies opened up. Something tells me this island really isn’t equipped to handle this kind of rain. Back in Valletta on one low spot-street, cars were plowing through water above their hubcaps. Clearly the storm sewer system wasn’t handling all the water.
When I got back to the Valletta bus station and had to change buses, that’s when I really got wet, including water running over my shoes. But once on the last local bus, it quit raining and by the time I got off, all was fine. Except that I was soaking wet.
I went to have linner even though it was only 12:30—-a little early for me. I had some really good lentil soup (warmed me up) and then some lamb, with potatoes and grilled veggies that was VERY good. That particular restaurant is a sleeper. It just doesn’t look like it’s going to have good food, but it does. I’ve had two meals there, and both were excellent. Then back to the Corner Hostel—-what a nice place to stay, although the roommate that I had for two days
Monday looked a little iffy about the rain, but I left on a bus for Mdina (Arabic for ‘walled city,’) which took me through the center of the island. Goodness, It remained strictly urban until we were almost there.
They must import most of their food.
Mdina is a fairyland of beige stone and narrow streets. It has
the Co-Cathedral to St. John’s in Valletta—this one in honor of St. Paul.
They believe that the Bible story about St. Paul being shipwrecked on an island happened here at Malta. They show that in a fresco above the altar.
, the tombs of marble in the floor are even more e
laborate than St. John’s, and maybe more ominous!
There was a Cathedral Museum, too, which had a big collection of Albrecht Durer etchings. Not my cup of tea, but they are
I did visit the Museum of Natural History, but didn’t find it very interesting. Two that I would like to have seen weren’t open on Monday.
I did see St. Agatha’s Chapel from 1410. An interesting note on that—-it served as a home for two refugee families during World War II.
I caught my bus to return to Sliema, then ducked into not-my-favorite-restaurant—-the good ones aren’t open on Monday. But what I had was fine, and it’s not going to be my last meal! I did stop at the grocery store to buy some eggs. Now I can have eggs for breakfast, which I make at the hostel. They provide coffee, butter, jam, and I provide the bread for toast, eggs and fruit. I miss my good Italian cappuccino and croissant that I always had in Sardinia.
There is another person in the hostel, a young man from Munich here for a week of a finance seminar—-not bad duty! And the staff are good company. There are two young women that rotate, with which I enjoy interacting.
Well, no rain on Tuesday so my extensive busing was fine. It took two buses to get there and two to get back—-the ‘there’ being two wonderful old temples on the southern coast. These temples, Hagar Qim and Mnajdra are from 4000 BCE. They only discovered them in the 1800s as they had become covered with sand. They’re kind of ‘stonehengie’ with huge stones that one wonders how they could handle way back then. They’re not sure that they really were used as temples, but they’re calling these two things ‘altars’ as a likely use.
The two temples are about a half km apart, Mnajdra down at the water’s edge, Hagar Qim up higher on a rise. They have put a protective covering (like an awning) over each of them
which I appreciate needs to be done, but it does spoil the effect. This is the site where they discovered many of the ‘fat ladies’ with the thunder thighs and one that they are calling the ‘Venus de Malta.’ I guess you do have to take into consideration that she is 6000 years old!
The entrance to Mnajdra looked similar, and I kind of rushed through that as I wanted to catch the next bus since they only ran hourly.
I did have to wait a little while for the bus to take me back to Sliema. On the bus I had a very pleasant
conversation with a Maltese woman. I had a little trouble understanding her as I think English was not her first language. And on the way back, too, everywhere I looked I saw beautiful churches in small towns. There is one church after another on the horizon—-all big, all rich. I think the St. John’s Knights were muy rico hereabouts.
My Maltese friend pointed out the new American Embassy, which I quickly photoed.
Soon I was back in Sliema having linner. Then a nice visit with three young men that are staying in this hostel—-the German who is at the seminar and two Frenchmen.
Wednesday was a beautiful day with 74 degrees and only a few poofy white clouds. I went to Valletta to do a walking tour laid out in the LP guidebook. Valletta is one big museum (kind of like Florence, Italy) and has the crowds to match. Even though there aren’t many people in Malta at this time of year as it’s too cool for the beaches, there are still lots of tourists in Valletta.
I saw many interesting buildings, including the Palazzo where Napoleon spent six days in 1798 when he was on his way to Egypt. He conquered Malta, left a 4,000 man garrison here, and went on his way. When the soldiers began looting the churches, the people rose up and killed them all. So that only lasted less than two years.
They’re very big on St. Paul, here. They do believe, as mentioned before, that the Biblical shipwreck happened here in Malta. So I visited the St. Paul Shipwreck Church where I saw a wristbone of St. Paul’s as well as half of the column on which he was beheaded. (The other half is in Rome) You see a silver head on the column. There is also a statue of him that is carried through the streets on his day, which is Feb. 10th.
Even with all these crowds and all the historical sites, there
are normal people carrying on normal lives here. This lady was calling her cat.
I carried on with my walk and went down to the harbor. Given all the huge happenings here, it was pretty calm today. In 1565 the Ottoman Turks, under Suleyman the Magnificent, invaded Malta, as they had already pushed the Knights of St. John’s out of their former headquarters, the island of Rhodes. They mounted a siege that lasted from May until September of 1565, but the Knights prevailed and the Turks finally had to leave because winter was coming making for dangerous sailing. Still, Malta suffered severe losses of lives and property.
I spent some time touring a 16th C house of one of the Knights, which was called Casa Rocca Piccola. The property was sold in the 17th. century to another family whose 9th generation still owns it today, and lives in it. They have opened part of the house to tourists. In the ‘30s the family built a bomb shelter which was used during
World War II. There were underground tunnelsconnecting many of the buildings and churches so people could find secure shelters during bombing raids. However within the last 15 years they had to close up these entrances as criminals were robbing houses, gaining entrance in this way.
Today I took a couple of buses to see the Tarxien Temples, which are some old, old stones right within Valletta suburbs. Sitting on the bus behind me was a young couple from Russia that were looking for the Tarxien Temples, too. We set forth together to try to find
them, and did, but unfortunately they were under reconstruction and so were closed. We got a tiny look at them through the fence, though.
Next door was a cemetery which we looked in on, too. Then we set about trying to find the Hypogeum, a subterranean necropolis dated to 3600 BCE. For this one needs a ticket because of the CO2 exhaled by visitors, the numbers are strictly controlled so as not to damage the site. We did learn how to pursue getting a ticket. We parted and I went back to Valletta to see some other sites, and to see about getting a ticket to the Hypogeum. When I got to the Palace of Fine Arts, as instructed, they only had single tickets available for the next day, so two couples in line ahead of me didn’t take them. Lucky me! So I will see this unusual site tomorrow at noon, if all goes well.
After that, I did go around to the Manoel Theatre, opened by the Knights of St. John in 1732. Some boxes, partially hidden from view of other patrons were used by the Knights, who were not supposed to engage in earthly pleasures like theatre, and who attended the shows by sneaking in from the basement a couple of minutes after the performance had started and sneaking out just before they ended. There were a number of costumes on display, and
we got a look at how it would have been to be in a box seat, when it was important ‘to be seen.’
There were mirrors in the boxes to help the ladies look their best, when they
were ‘being seen.’
After that, I spent a little time in a Piazza in Valletta before taking the bus back to the hostel, where I now have two roommates!
Hopefully I shall see the Hypogeum tomorrow, and pursue other sites after that.