For long time haven’t I been impressed so much by a country like Malta: of it’s history, remarkable landscape or the food and vine.
My heart was broken when I needed to come back…
I landed around midnight and took a taxi to my hotel, completely forgetting that Malta was part of British Empire and that drivers are on the right side. Also, the famous red telephone cabins are around the city of Valletta as a reminder of British presence.
The wind was in my hair and the heavy smell of the Mediterranean in my nose. I was hearing the sea a and people’s rumors from the bars. I couldn’t be more happy: from the cold cold Brussels to the summer in December in Malta!
First thing I did the next day, is the coffee on the terrace of my hotel in Sliema. It is the neighborhood famous by nightlife and its restaurants and long riviera next to which one can dine or just do jogging. My coffee had a view on famous Valletta- the capital of Malta. So I advanced along the riviera.
I started from the beginning. Malta was part of 7 empires so far: Greeks, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Ottomans, Normans, Knights of Malta, Napoleon and British Empire.
From the prehistoric sites, I visited Ħaġar Qim Temple. Literally translated from maltese, it means Standing/Worshipping Stones. It is a megalithic temple complex found older then the Stonehenge (3600-3200 BC). It is the religious sites as well, as the light of the sun in the solstice falls directly on the main hall of the temple.Since 1992 is part of the UNESCO Heritage since it is “unique architectural masterpiece” as it is hard to answer how the ancient people ere able to move the stones. The art of the ancient people was also recognized. Around 30 female statuettes of varying shapes were discovered known as Venus of Malta and The sleeping Lady. The statues are placed in Museum of Archeology of Malta which I visited as well. 🙂
The word Malta derives from the greeks name for honey: melita. Greeks and Romans were especially amazed by the islands of Malta and Gozo and its archipelago.
Phoenicians arrived as traders but did not stay long. What they left is the culture of ancient salt making. Numerous sites show how this white gold was important trade good in its times.
After the Punic wars, the Phoenicians were conquered and the Roman Empire arrived. Malta seems to have prospered under the Romans. The Islands begin to be mentioned in written records as strategically important island.
The biggest legend of Malta comes from times of Romans: the Shipwreck. It is the story about Apostle Paul bringing the Christianity to Malta and Europe. Paul was being taken to Rome to be tried as a political rebel, but the ship carrying him and some 274 others was caught in a violent storm. The site of the wreck is traditionally known as St. Paul’s Island and the cave where he took refuge, is now known as St. Paul’s Grotto.
With the fall of Roman Empire, Malta became involved in the Muslim–Byzantine Wars, and the conquest of Malta is followed by the Muslim invaders. The Muslims introduced new irrigation, some fruits and cotton and the Arabic language that is part of the nowadays modern Maltese language.
Following the Crusades, Malta was the so-called the nurse of the Meditarranean. So Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, gave the islands to the Knights Hospitaller. They built famous hospital and developed the medicine treatments. I.e. the food and medicaments were given to the patient on the silver plate so the disease doesn’t spread.
These knights, a military religious order now known as the Knights of Malta, were fighting against Ottoman Empire. The biggest battle is the Great Siege of Malta where the fortifications played crucial role in defending the island. Fort St Elmo was after that improved when the Pope sent his best architecture to develop the fortifications for defense of Christianity of Malta. Soon the Maltese Cross was officially adopted by the Order of the Knights Hospitallers of St. John. Today Fort St Elmo welcomes tourists to give them great view on Malta’s bays and villages and to enter the National War Museum/The Military History Museum.
From that time is the Co’cathedral of St John dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. In the 17th century, its interior was redecorated in the Baroque style. so it is considered to be one of the finest examples of high Baroque architecture in Europe and one of the world’s great cathedrals. The entire interior of church is covered with paintings like famous Caravaggio’s Beheading of St John or statues. The floor is covered with marble tablets which are actually the graves of the Knights. Note the Maltese cross on the arches too.
On my way to visit the famous fishing village Marsaxlokk with its famous colourful boats, I noticed many agricultural landscapes like vineyards and orange gardens. Eating an octopus and later some traditional cake and drinking local rose vine, I was still under lots of impression of Malta.
At the end of my stay, I just decided to wonder around the Valletta, buy souvenirs, eat local and enjoy the sun and sea. Yes Malta, I will come back!
And I did! In less than a year, I came back and partied a bit more, spent the time in museums a bit less, but I made it! 😀
I spent 4 and half days in St Jullien, in some hotel just at the Paceville – the famous district with bars and good restaurants (although we didn’t try any of the food in Panceville restaurant).
Paceville is a street with clubs and go-go dancers, hookers on top of the street, policemen and cars parked on the bottom and on every corner you have written signs: 72 shots for 12 EUR (red bull and bacardi vodka).
From the museums part, we visited again the Fort Saint Elmo since from there the view on seaside is the most beautiful, as the knights needed to have a very strategic sight on enemie’s arrival before the famous battle in 1565 against Ottoman Empire.
Inside the fort is a museum describing the history of Malta through its empires from neolitics towards Greeks, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Ottomans, Normans, Knights of Malta, Napoleon and British Empire until modern and independent Malta as of 1957.
I was impressed how Malta was important through the centuries. During the Criema war in 19th century and later in World War I and II it was a base for war prisioners and war hospital.
We visited the The Knights Hospitallers which is now a beautiful 18th century building used for the knigts ceremonies but long time ago below in the basements it was a hospital and shelter.
Interesting thing to mention that in Malta were filmed some episodes of Game of Thrones. Recognize the item below?
Walking through the city, we discovered so manz beautiful buildings and streets that we could nt stop admiring the city:
I have to mention the food and vine as we were dining around in restaurants and ate local dishes like rabbit stew and octopus.
If you will ever end up at some restaurant in center of Valletta in some small street where it is written on board rabbit stew Jamie Oliver – please bear in mind this restaurant is a rip off, food is bad, dishes are small, prices are doubled and Jamie Oliver never visited this place. In fact, Jamie Oliver doesn’t even like rabbit. (that information costed us 108 EUR). lol
At the main square we had a bottle of vine. As Malta will be 2018 European Capital of Culture, we decided to go for official vine with sword on the label. But there is a story:
Grand Master Jean Parison de la Vallette recieved the sword with its guilded and diamond-studded hilt from King Philippe ll of Spain following the 1565 Great Siege victory. In 1798 Napoleon Bonaparte took the sword after capturing the island. It remains in Paris, Louvre and on this label of this wine bottle, declared the wine of Malta’s European Capital of Culture 2018.
PS You can see the statue of Queen Victoria in the back, as Malta used to be part of British Empire.