Wow. That is the word we came up with to describe our visit to Malta. This island has history dating back to 3500 BC. Almost always ruled by other countries, they finally gained independence in 1964.
Our tour guide was Brigitte (a freelance tourist guide, you can contact us for details), full of local knowledge and lots of energy. During the day it rained off and on, thankfully mostly only when we were moving from place to place. It didn’t deter us from having a great day.
The tour director was terrific. She was born and grew up in Malta and she had 2 daughters (19 and 16). Her knowledge of the Island was truly amazing. She is a passionate speaker and deeply religious.
The tour left the ship port at 10:15am. We visited the main city of Valletta and many villages. We didn’t get all the names however. The churches are truly amazing, each village has its own. WW II bombing raids caused a lot of damage throughout the island, however the historic buildings were all rebuilt. The people are extremely proud of these buildings and a lot of money is put into keeping them in excellent condition.
We went to one church and saw the statue of “Christ the Redeemer” truly a piece of art and speaking of art. Many of the paintings in all the churches were painted and donated to the various churches by local artists. Malta will be the city of Europe in 2018 and the amount of construction going on is unprecedented, it’s figured that between €80 and €100 million Euros will be spent on upgrading and rebuilding the historic sites to its original finery. Valetta was governed by the Knights of St. John for almost 200 years and the influence is very evident. Fortification of the city is seen everywhere. In many cases there were 3 walls to break through. During one siege the French locked themselves in behind these walls and the Maltese who built them to keep out others found themselves on the outside. However 2 years later the French gave up because they were dying of starvation, resorting to eating rats.
M’Dina is a restored fortress, well worth a visit. We had a quick lunch and then went for a long walk through the walled city. Some people still live there, they are the only ones allowed to drive in via car.
The last photo above is of the Church of St Mary in Mosta (viewed from Mdina). This church was bombed in 1942 while there were 400 people inside. The bomb went through the cupola but did not explode. Years later one of the bombers visited the church to apologize but instead it turned into a festival. The bomb casing is still in the church.
A visit to the colourful fishing village Marsaxlokk resulted in some fine photos as well as our first bottles of Malta wine.
Along the way we visit the Blue Grotto. An incredible view from land but to really appreciate this you need to arrive in a boat. The nearby island was used by the British for bombing practice.
Napoleon governed the island for many years but his interest lay in wars and was granted permission by the Queen to go on ships and she sent other Governors to rule the Island. The British fought the French and ruled finally leaving the island in 1979. The Island was granted its independence in 1965 and has been self-governed since that time. The island is truly beautiful with white stone on the outside of each building a directive of living on the island is that the façade of all buildings must have this particular stone. The inside of the building can be decorated to one’s liking. Housing costs are relatively inexpensive – 1 such house (1000 sq feet) can be purchased for €150,000.
We purchased 2 bottles of Malta wine which we will savour during our sea days on our way to Dubai. This island is on our short list of places to spend a month or so.