Friday, 31 May 2013

Malta, Mdina by Bus, Day 11, May 31st

 After going to the market to pick up fresh produce and a sea bass for dinner, we bought a one-day bus pass for 2.8 Euros each (ride anywhere all day as many times as you want) and headed to Mdina, the old capital of Malta.  It is a medieval walled town centred on a hill in the centre of the island.  It has just over three hundred inhabitants.  It was stunningly beautiful. I hope I have captured some of its charm in my photographs. Its first inhabitants were the Phoenicians in 700BC. We got there at noon and had a fabulous lunch within its walls before exploring the many narrow streets and we were awestruck by the views.  We could see St. Paul’s Cathedral which is right by our apartment.

We were back in Valletta by five and decided to take the bus to Sliema to stock up on groceries and then headed home.  We came to the realization that the low prices we were paying for wine and beer was paying for our food … and we are eating really well.  Isn’t that crazy?

                                                                  A courtyard in Mdina

                                                                      A great door

                                                              One of the narrow streets

                                            Easterly view from the top of the fortification wall

                                                      Beautiful deep red bougainvillea

                                                                    I love this shot

                                             We ran into these dried up Knights of St. John

                                                                     My darling girl

                             A restaurant on the fortification wall with a great view of the east coast

                                                                    A tiny window

                                                                      Someone's door

                                                              Another great old door

                                                            Jill getting away from me

                                                             A ficus tree with a twist

                                                                 Another great sunset

                                                  Jill dwarfed by her favourite flowering vine

                                                                  The outer wall of Mdina

Malta, All-Day Cruise around Malta, Day 10, May 30th

We were picked up before 9 and got home at 7:30. What a day.  We sailed all around Malta and Comino, with a two-hour stop at Comino’s Blue Lagoon, in a teak and mahogany Turkish Gullet. It was 32 m long and 9 m wide. We motored under diesel power with 78 other folks from all over the world.  The Blue Lagoon was stunningly beautiful with its white sand bottom and stark landscape. The shear tall cliffs (the Dingli Cliffs) on the west side of Malta seemed endless and breathtakingly beautiful in their ruggedness. Due to the prevailing Mistral Wind, the last half-hour of our cruise was very rough with 2-3 meter swells which made us want to cheer as we passed the breakwall into the tranquil Grand Harbour for a relaxed slow cruise around its shore.  As I have mentioned, this is where my father was stationed on a torpedo boat, one of eight graciously supplied by the U.S. to the Yugoslav Navy.  We saw the hospital where he stayed when he broke his leg and Fort Ricasoli where his boat was docked.  Yes, to see this part of my family’s history was one of the reasons for this fabulous trip to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary (June 30th).  I know he will cry when he see the pictures.  He is now 91.

We were exhausted as we walked back from the bus station and decided on an early night.

o                                                                        Our boat

                                                                    Elephant Rock
                                                    Stark yet beautiful lanscape on Comino
                                                         Lovers in a dangerous time
                                                             The Blue Lagoon, Comino

                                                         Beautiful thistles on Comino
Our boat anchored

                                                   Cliffs on the west coast of Malta
                                                                 The Dingli Cliffs

                                                                        Fort Ricasoli
                                                         The former miltary Hospiital
                                                    Fort Ricasoli from the Grand Harbour

Another beautiful sunset

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Malta - Historic Sites, Day 9, May 29th

This was another early morning to catch the bus to Paola where we had tickets to tour the Hal Salieni Hypogeum.  We hiked to the bus terminal and found how easy it was to catch a bus.  It cost us 2.60 Euros each for a one day pass, a bargain.  We arrived in lots of time so we were able to first visit the Tarxien Temples, a short walk away.  They were built around 3600BC with additions added from 3000BC to 2500BC.  The site was mind blowing.  We then walked to the Hypogeum (underground cavity) for our 11am one-hour tour, which we booked online two months ago. Tours are sold out until July 1st.  The site is very sensitive to carbon dioxide so only 80 people are allowed through each day in 8 groups of 10. The site was discovered in 1902 when the house owner was building a cistern.  The complex is grouped in three levels: first level (3600-3300BC), the middle level (3300BC-3000BC), and the lower level (3000BC-2400BC) which was 10.6 meters below ground.  The upper level had a hall and burial chambers, the middle level had the main hall and was carved to imitate the inside of above-ground temples, while the lower chambers were used to deposit burial remains.  In 1000 years, seven thousand people were buried here.  It was an amazing site, especially when you consider that the tools used to carve out these rooms were made of stone, flint and antlers.  
                                                                Tarxien Temples

                                  A farmer complained about hitting bog rocks in his field in 1913

                                                      Their tools were rock and flint

                                                              Precision fit, wow!

                         This doorway, sides and bottom are cut from one piece. Set phasers on cut.

                                How could they have lifted these huge one piece rocks in 3600BC?

                                                                          An alter

                                                        Decorated burial box for ashes
                               How could they cut rocks so straight 5,000 years ago? Ancient aliens?

                                                         Rooms in the Hypogeum

                      A room in the Hypogeum made to look like the inside of an above ground temple

                                                       Another room in the hypogeum

                                                    The head of a rock sledge hammer

                                       A two-man tool and below how it would have been used

141 steps in Valletta