WELCOME

This blog is dedicated to Malta - my island home. My aim is not to bore you with history but to share my thoughts and a few facts together with a photo or two. For a more in -depth background of the island please go here. The purpose of this blog is not to point out the short-comings of the island. There are plenty that do that already. My wish is to show you the beauty of an island at the cross roads of the Mediterranean, a melting pot of history; a place where fact and fiction are sometimes fused to create unique myths and legends; a country that has been conquered so many times that our culture is a mish mesh of the lands that surround us and of lands far away. I confess that my greatest desire is to make you fall in love with this tiny enchanting island.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Blue and Green

Growing up we learnt this rhyme:

Blue and green should never be seen

Without a colour in between

Salib tal-Gholja, Delimara, Marsaxlokk (110)

But I somehow it seems as if blue and green work well together here. Maybe the limestone wall is acting as the colour ‘in between’. So what do you think? Do you think blue and green look good together?

Location: Marsaxlokk, April 2013

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Garigue in Spring

Garigue: shrubby vegetation of dry Mediterranean regions, consisting of spiny or aromatic dwarf shrubs interspersed with colourful ephemeral species (Collins English Dictionary)

Congreve Memorial and Wied iz-Zurrieq (57)

At first glance it appears to be a barren stretch of land interspersed with rocks and a few shrubs, bent and stunted by fierce winds. But if you look closer and focus on the little things, you will come to realise that the idea that the garigue is barren is just a misconception. On the contrary, it is teeming with life. You just have to  know where to look for it. In Malta the garigue is most common on cliff-tops close to the shore, especially in areas like Dingli Cliffs, Ghar Lapsi, Migra Ferha, l-Ahrax tal-Mellieha and the stretch of land between the Mnajdra and Hagar Qim temples and Wied iz-Zurrieq.

Azure Stonecrop

The small pockets of red-brown soil in between the jagged rocks  are shallow and the only plants that will thrive have short roots and are able to withstand long periods without water under a blazing Mediterranean sun. So the plants that do grow are quite tiny and the best way to appreciate them is to get down on your knees and take a close peek. It is well worth the effort, especially in spring,  when the majority of plants will be in flower.

Maltese Pyramidal Orchid

Ironically, although at first glance the garigue appears to be so barren, plants thrive and flower there year round. The most prevalent shrub of the Maltese garigue is the wonderfully-scented wild thyme but it is also common to find asphodel, fennel and spurges. Less frequently, sea chamomile, different species of tiny orchids and irises are encountered. Some of these plants are endemic to the Maltese islands.

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In the past, large stretches of garigue were destroyed by urban development and the mistaken mentality that these tracts of land are incapable of supporting any useful vegetation. Nowadays most garigue areas are protected and, thankfully, they continue to be a source of delight to all lovers of nature.

Sun Rose

More information about Malta’s garigue may be found on the blogs Maltese Nature and The Malta Photo Blog.

Congreve Memorial and Wied iz-Zurrieq (73)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

St Agatha’s Tower

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St Agatha’s Tower, or as it is more commonly called, the Red Tower is situated on a high ridge that gives anybody in it unobstructed views of the surrounding countryside and, more importantly, the sea.

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Red Tower 099

The tower was built in 1647-1648 during the reign of Grand Master Lascaris as part of the coastal defences of the island and was dedicated to St Agatha – one of the patron saints on Malta. Inside the tower there is a small chapel dedicated to the saint.

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Originally, the tower was probably accessed by a drawbridge. The interior of the tower consists of two vaulted rooms with four corner towers. If the need arose, it was able to house a garrison of about 50 men who had at their disposal five cannons positioned on the roof. The tower was manned by British soldiers during both of the world wars. At the base, the walls of the tower are about four metres thick. It is not known when or why the tower was painted red.

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In recent years the tower has been restored by Din l-Art Helwa (Malta’s Heritage Trust) with the aid of three private companies.

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The Red Tower, Triq tad-Dahar, Mellieha

Opening hours: daily 10.00 – 13.00 hrs; Tuesdays 10.00 – 16.00 hrs

Entrance fee: 2EUR

 

Map picture

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Snapshots of … Traditional Shop-fronts of Valletta

It’s been a long time. But I think it’s finally time to come back here and share more of Malta with you. I’m starting off with something very close to my heart: the traditional shop-fronts of Valletta. They are hard to find these days and some of them are in a less than pristine condition. But that’s what  makes them all the more beautiful and mysterious. They make me wonder just what types of wares used to be sold behind those crumbling wooden shutters.More Valletta 011More Valletta 042Valletta (21)Valletta (78)Valletta (2)

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Valletta (3)

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Valletta & Sliema (8)

So tell me, which are your favourites?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Count Roger of Normandy and the Legend of Migra Ferha

Migra l-Ferha (5)

According to a local legend, Count Roger the Norman landed here in 1091 with an army of men and freed the island from the hated Moors.

Is-Sancir & Migra Ferha (24)

This is supposedly the exact spot where the hoof of the Count’s horse touched the ground as soon as he disembarked from his ship. Legends – you just have to love them.

Is-Sancir & Migra Ferha (28)

Of course, no commander worth his salt would anchor his ships beneath such inhospitable cliffs and then lead an army of men and horses up the steep slopes. So although we know that Count Roger did come to Malta in 1091 he must have landed in a much safer place. The story goes that the locals greeted him with the shouts of Kyrie Eleison, that he freed all the Christian slaves from the clutches of the Moors and sent them (the Moors) packing and that everyone was so grateful to him that they adopted the colours of his coat-of-arms as our national flag.

Migra l-Ferha (19)

The truth is that the Moors stayed here until 1123 and paid Count Roger a yearly tribute and our national flag came into being much later (although no one knows precisely when).

You will find a brief history of this period here.

Migra l-Ferha (23)

This should give you a better perspective of how far down the ‘hoof mark’ is and - yes, those men are fishing.

Is-Sancir & Migra Ferha (23)

(These photos were taken on two different days in March – one that was rather stormy and the other on a sunny day).

Location: Migra Ferha, March 2014

Monday, March 24, 2014

Ta’ Qali Farmer’s Market

By the looks of it, I have neglected this blog for quite some time. The thing is, what I write here is usually factual and I seem to prefer a more narrative, personal approach. Maybe one day I will find the right balance.

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Mdina Ditch 006

For today, I just wanted to share some photos of local produce at the  main Farmer’s Market that is held in Ta’ Qali. It is the best place to buy fruit and vegetables – which is what the majority of stalls sell. Interspersed amongst them are a few flower and meat sellers.

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Mdina Ditch 005

I would love to see some more variety – maybe a few stalls selling home-baked goods or jams and there is definitely a need for a couple of booths selling bread. But all in all, it is a pleasant shopping experience and it is nice to be able to walk around and then go back to purchase the freshest and best-looking wares.

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Mdina Ditch 004

Nature’s palette is so vibrant, isn’t it?

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Ta’ Qali Farmer’s Market

Opening hours: Tuesdays 16.00 – 19.00 and Saturdays 09.00 – 17.00

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Yellow House, Birgu

The Inquisitor's Palace (12)

I still remember the time when the exterior of most town-houses would be painted in all sorts of different colours. Nowadays, the trend is to peel off the paint and expose the limestone blocks out of which our houses are built. Since I am not a student of architecture, I won’t go into the merits, or otherwise, of this practice. But let’s just say that in the blazing heat  of the mid-day summer sun, the pastel and rainbow hues were easier on the eyes than stark-white. I am glad to see that the practice of painting the facades of houses has not completely died out. This lemony, hue reminiscent of sorbet, brightens up the whole street.

Location: Birgu, June 2013

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Churchill’s Cigar and Eisenhower’s Walking Stick

These are just two of the many artifacts that may be seen at the National War Museum in Valletta. Through its collection of personal memorabilia, original footage, digital displays and numerous photographic panels, the museum aims at highlighting the role that Malta played during the two World Wars with special focus on the second world war. Perhaps the most poignant items on display are the fuselage of the Gloster Gladiator “Faith” and remnants from the ships that formed part of Operation Pedestal – the convoy that saved Malta in 1942. The museum honours the fallen, salutes the heroes and provides a glimpse at what daily life in Malta was like during World War 2.

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The National War Museum, Old Drill Hall, Lower Fort St Elmo, Spur Street, Valletta VLT 1741
Tel: +356 21 222 430

Opening hours: 

Monday to Sunday: 09.00 - 17.00hrs
Last admission at 16.30hrs
Closed on 24, 25 & 31 December, 1 January & Good Friday

 

Notwithstanding the high level of the exhibits, it is difficult to understand the complexity of this particular period in the island’s history just be visiting the museum. For those interested in learning more, here are a few recommendations:

More Places To Visit

- Lascaris War Rooms: an underground complex of tunnels and chambers that housed the War Headquarters and from where the defence of Malta was conducted during WW2.

- Malta at War  Museum: apart from the exhibits and the screening of an original wartime documentary ‘Malta G.C’, a visit to a war-time air-raid shelter is included.

Documentaries

On Discovery Channel: Heroes of Hell Island – The Men Who Saved Malta

A  National Geographic Production: World War 2: Battle for Malta

 

 

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