10 days of rest and recreation - unpacking once and laying back
22.10.2014 30 °C
Monday 13 October, we boarded a Turkish Airlines flight back to Istanbul then on to Malta.
Malta is a southern European island country comprising an archipelago of seven islands in the Mediterranean Sea. It lies 80 km south of Sicily, 284 km east of Tunisia, and 333 km north of Libya. The country covers just over 316 km2, making it one of the world's smallest and most densely populated countries. The capital of Malta is Valletta, which is also, at 0.8 km2, the smallest capital in the European Union. Malta has two official languages: Maltese and English.
Malta's location as a naval base has given it great strategic importance throughout history, and a succession of powers, including the Phoenicians, Romans, Moorish, Normans, Sicilians, Habsburg Spain, Knights of St. John, French and the British, have ruled the islands. Malta gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1964 and became a republic in 1974. Malta was admitted to the United Nations in 1964 and to the European Union in 2004; in 2008, it became part of the Eurozone.
Malta has a long Christian legacy and its Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Malta is sometimes traditionally claimed to be an Apostolic see because, according to the Acts of the Apostles, Paul the Apostle was shipwrecked on Malta. Catholicism is the official religion in Malta.
Malta is a popular tourist destination with its warm climate, numerous recreational areas, and architectural and historical monuments, including nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Hal Saflieni Hypogeum, Valletta, and seven Megalithic Temples, which are some of the oldest free-standing structures in the world.
We were met at the airport by the owners of the apartment we rent, Mr and Mrs Galea. €220 for a three bedroom, two bathroom unit for 10 days was very good value especially as they would pick us up and drop us off at the airport.
On Tuesday 14 October we were bitten by a Holiday Club shark where by we attended an hour presentation (No, they said this wasn't a timeshare....it is a holiday club) but we didn't participate. Just for attending we got bus tickets for the next week. The buses in Malta are numerous, reliable and incredibly well patronised. Not surprising when a weekly ticket costs €6.50. Restaurants are plentiful and offer very good meals at excellent prices. As I type this, I am drinking a 500ml can of excellent Maltese beer, Cisk, at a restaurant that costs just €1.80.
We caught a bus to Valetta and walked down the Main Street, Republic Street. Valetta is a fortified and walled old town. The walls were built by the Grand Master of the Knights of St John after the island was under siege to the Ottomans in 1565.
The walls at the City Gate of Valletta
Gates to the city
Church of St Francis
Poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge worked in this building, The Treasury of the Knights of St John, in 1804 and 1805
Arch leading into the Palace of the President of Malta
On the wall of the Presidential Palace is a copy of the letter from King George V of England awarding Fortress Island of Malta the George Cross for withstanding the siege of Malta by the Germans in 1942 in World War 11.
Square in Republic Street showing the Parliament Building
Narrow steets in the walled city. This is Republic Street looking down towards the tip of the peninsula.
The Church in Mostar, St Francis of Assissi, has the third largest unsupported dome in the world. It was built over an existing church which was then demolished and removed from the interior after completion. During the bombing by the German Luftwaffe in 1942, the dome was hit by a large German bomb which penetrated the dome when the church was full of people taking refuge there. The bomb didn't explode and not a single casualty occurred when the bomb fell through among the people.
The front of the Mosta Church, St Francis of Assissi
The dome of the church
Craft shops in the Nissan huts at the old airfield
Glassblower at work
Glassblower at work
Mdina, the Silent City
Swimming beach off the rocks at Sliema
Mdina the old capital of Malta. Mdina is a medieval walled town situated on a hill in the centre of the island. Punic remains uncovered beyond the city’s walls suggest the importance of the general region to Malta’s Phoenician settlers. Mdina is commonly called the "Silent City" by natives and visitors. The town is still confined within its walls, and has a population of just under three hundred, but it is contiguous with the village of Rabat, which takes its name from the Arabic word for suburb, and has a population of over 11,000.
The city gate to Mdina was constructed in 1724
The walls of the fortified city
Grand Master's Palace converted to a hospital
Signage on the Connaught Hospital
St Paul's Cathedral in St Paul's Square is built on the site where the Roman Governor Publius met St Paul after he was shipwrecked off the coast of Malta.
View from the walls back to Mosta
View from the walls back to Mosta
Narrow streets in the old city
For the weekend we pretty much stayed around our base at Qawra and rested up.
The sun rising at Qawra. I take a short walk down the road to Murphys Irish Pub to use their free internet to download our email and the Courier Mail. This is the view from the end of the street.
Here is a view of the Malta Car Museum from the other end of the street with this beautiful Bugatti on show on the footpath.
We have taken to using the buses here every day to get around. On Monday 20 October we took a different bus to the east coast to a fishing village called Marsaxlokkx
The fishing boats in the harbour of Marsaxlokkx
Tuesday 21 October was an early start with a bus pick up near the front of our place to take us to the ferry terminal to spend the day on Gozo Island.
The island has a population of around 37,000 people (all of Malta combined has 402,000), and its inhabitants are known as Gozitans. It is rich in historic locations such as the Ġgantija temples, which, along with the Megalithic Temples of Malta, are the world's oldest free-standing structures and are also among the world's oldest religious structures.
The island is rural in character and, compared to the main island Malta, less developed.
Beach near the ferry terminal to Gozo
On the ferry - a trip takes 25 minutes
Coming Island sits between Malta and Gozo but only has five inhabitants. This photo was taken of Comino with the Blue Lagoon on the right side of Comino.
The Harbour at Gozo viewed from a hill overlooking the harbour.
Colleen looking back at the harbour.
Azure Window is a remarkable geologic feature of the island; it is a natural stone arch that was formed millions of years ago when a limestone cave collapsed. There are many beaches on the island, as well as seaside resorts that are popular with tourists and locals alike. The most popular are Marsalforn and Xlendi Bay.
Azure Window at the Inland Sea
Beach at Xlendi Bay
After lunch we went into the capital city, Victoria. Colleen climbed up to the Citadel while I had an espresso at a little cafe.
Sign at the Cathedral on the Citadel
The Cathedral dedicated to the Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven
View from the Citadel
One of the old buses still in use on the island
Tomorrow, Thursday 23 October we leave for the airport in Malta at 6.30 am for a flight to Munich, Germany, then after a three hour wait we fly on to Dublin Ireland on a Lufthansa flight.